Like most of you, I wanted the Super Nintendo Classic the second I saw it. Like most of you, I already owned most of the games that were preloaded on it in some other form, making the purchase redundant and evidence I was too lazy to just fish an old console out of a box in the closet. But the original Super NES makes a fuzzy old picture on a modern TV, and the HDMI picture emitted by the SNES Classic was as sharp as you could get. (You can mod a Super NES to display an HD signal, but $80 doesn't begin to cover the cost of that procedure.) Plus, StarFox 2. I could also potentially hack the console to include the extra games it didn't come with. I could even upload my saves from the original carts into the Classic, thereby thoroughly replacing my original SNES.
And like most of you, I tried and failed to pin down the half-a-second preorder window all major shopping websites offered. It was wait outside a department store in the cold all night, or nothing.
All signs pointed to a repeat of the NES Classic from one year ago, which was sold in ridiculously small quantities and was retired about four months after it premiered. Nintendo had made it clear the SNES Classic would be produced in greater numbers, but it'd also be a limited-time product. It all pointed to things getting ugly. I was anticipating stories of fist fights, muggings and thievery at many Wal-Mart and Target locations the day of release. Fortunately about two weeks before the thing was due to come out, Nintendo relented and changed their minds, declaring the SNES Classic would remain on the market (and that the NES Classic would be reprinted). Plus, MANY MANY machines would be shipped to stores the day of launch, Scout's Honor.
As a late riser, getting up early enough was a chore on its own, and I didn't want to experience a sleepless night if I didn't have to. With ample stock, I decided, I didn't need to wait in the line. I could just arrive early in the morning, get in and get out. That was how I got the Switch the day of release, and I didn't see another one of those on a store shelf for months. My Target opened at 7 in the morning. I got there at 7:15. There were no SNES Classics at all.
I was informed they had gotten
70 of them, and all of them went to the people in line. Yet
despite this just happening 15 minutes ago, there was barely
anybody present in the entire store. Doing
the math, if you divide 70 by 15 you get roughly four and a half
units per minute, and knowing how slow Target cashiers are even
with just one item, the likelihood of their cashing through the
entire stock in that period of time was extremely low...UNLESS
shenanigans. I saw no one there still waiting to buy.
Losing hours of sleep for a singular purpose that ends up yielding nothing tends to make for a grumpy morning. Venting on an online forum, I was offered the theory that Target employees saw the long line and opened early to get it out of the way. Well....okay, that was possible, but believing I was literally cheated somehow felt better. But I was about to feel worse.
I thought the news coverage would be less than favorable, but it was full of headlines like "The SNES Classic Launch Seems To Be Going OK." I booted up Nowinstock.net, a webpage a lot of Nintendo fanboys had been using during the preorder debacle. Nowinstock tracked the status of demanded items in real time and alerted you instantly when that item was for sale somewhere. I expected a lot of complaints and experiences like mine, and possibly tips on where I could still find one. Instead, just about everyone there was expressing relief over getting a unit and marveling on how "easy" it was.
Everyone had an SNES Classic EXCEPT ME.
I posted, "I still can't find one." I
got back, "What are you, a hermit crab?"
"They were SO EASY TO GET!" jeered someone else. "If you don't have one, it means you DIDN'T TRY."
As for tips, there were repeated posts about missing the stores, but scoring a unit from "the Treasure Truck." It was mentioned over and over. The "Treasure Truck"? At first I figured it was some kind of meme I wasn't in on, or the name of a store that wasn't native to my region, but there were other comments expressing rage at the Treasure Truck for "delaying their Amazon preorders." It turned out Amazon.com had picked that day to try out a new sales gimmick, and the item they had chosen to use it for was the SNES Classic. Giant trucks, they said, were sitting idle in parking lots across the country and they were full of SNESes -- units that weren't being shipped to those who'd managed to book a preorder on the website and were now receiving delay notices instead. It was possible there was a truck in my city RIGHT NOW where I could find an SNES Classic...but I had no idea where it could be, and Portland is large. I also didn't have a car; it'd be a crapshoot.
Suddenly during dinner, a Treasure Truck appeared on the local news. Anchor Steve Dunn announced "Amazon rolled out their Treasure Truck downtown! Those who visited the Truck today got the opportunity to purchase one of this fall's hottest new electronic gadgets!" He didn't mention where exactly the Truck was idling, but I recognized the buildings in the background, and I knew how to get there.
Dunn was anchoring back when the orignal Super Nintendo came out, and he oddly didn't seem to remember it, referring to the SNES Classic as a singular video game. But he also added this: "The game costs 80 dollars and is in such high demand that it's currently going on eBay for EIGHT HUNDRED dollars." He fiddled with the for-cosmetic-display papers on his desk and said, "Eight hundred dollars! I'd throw that on eBay fast." Like the scalper problem wasn't bad enough without our media figures encouraging it.
When all was said and done and
the sun set on September 29, 2017, over 3,000 SNES Classics were
being simultaneously hocked on eBay, and the sheer oversaturation
forced a lot of sellers to dial down their original $800 sticker
Dunn spoke of the Treasure Truck in the past tense, and I had my doubts it was still in operation past 5 PM. And even if it was, there was no way there'd still be SNES Classics in stock. Not if it'd been idle since morning. But there were still people posting on Nowinstock saying "JUST got it from the Treasure Truck! Yippee!" I Googled some information about the truck of legend....it was supposed to remain parked and open until 8 PM or until supplies ran out, whichever came first.
It was worth a shot. And it was 5:45 -- I could still make it. I ran outside, hopped on one of those public bicycles you only find in left-leaning cities, and zoomed downtown toward the parking lot on First and Pine. As I approached the destination from two blocks away I caught a flash of light between the buildings, which seemed to indicate the Treasure Truck was still a thing. I slowed the bike down, and...what a thing.
The Amazon Treasure Truck was
exactly the kind of truck you would expect an SNES Classic to
come from. It was a giant, glowing, blaring, gaudy carnival
attraction, flashing with lights on every corner. A circular LED
display in the center cycled through bright images of the SNES
while dual speakers blared out classic Nintendo tunes. As if to
say "too much is never enough," a bubble machine sat
below the van, blowing out a stream of perpetual bubbles that
constantly filled the area.
I approached what looked like a sales counter and casually said to the lady behind it, "They're probably sold out, right?" She said back "No, they aren't!" and pointed to the large table covered by a canopy on the far end. It was covered with glossy bags sporting the Treasure Truck logo, each neatly filled with one SNES Classic machine. There had to be over two dozen!
"I'LL TAKE ONE!"
"Do you have the Amazon app?"
"No, but I brought money--"
"You need the Amazon App to buy a Super Nintendo Classic."
"I can only buy it here with the app?"
"That is correct. But I'll show you where to download it. Do you have your phone?"
I got back on the bike and
pedaled uphill toward the apartment, and my phone inside the
apartment, as fast as my legs would will it. For those who have
never tried to ride a public bike before, there is usually
something wrong with them, and in this case it was some kind of
faulty chain that made pedaling choppy and created a
CLANGELACLANGELACLANG noise whenever it had to go uphill. I was
probably attracting unwanted attention, but when I had the SNES
Classic, who'd be laughing then?
I grabbed the phone off the sofa and pivoted back toward the door, but then had a thought. Shouldn't I download this app I need WHILE I'm riding back? Then it would already be on the phone by the time I got there. ....But did the lady mean the Amazon app, or an app specifically for the Treasure Truck? I had no idea. And I had no time to waste thinking on it further. "I'll just download it THERE; I'm out of time," I thought, and ran down toward the bike.
I made the round trip and got back with one hour left to spare. I approached the cashier lady once more, very out of breath, pulled my phone out of my pocket and said "HERE, SEE? I HAVE IT!"
"Okay, good! Once you have it downloaded I'll show you what to do."
There were still at least 20 SNES Classics in bags on that table. It was incredible. Maybe the requirement to use an app was turning people away, but it was still maddening that this event could go on all day, get evening news coverage and still retain stock with one hour to go before closing time.
The correct app turned out to be the plain Amazon one. My brief search had actually turned up an app called "Treasure Truck," but it didn't look quite right. It appeared my hunch was correct. Unfortunately downloading the Amazon app took longer than whatever length of time that freeware casual game with the coincidental name would have taken. Five minutes later the app was installed.
"All right, finally!" Then I suddenly had a thought. "Do I need to use my Amazon account with this?"
It had been months since I'd needed to know what my password was. I had no idea how to access my account from this phone.
At this point, it was
unbelievable how badly one man could botch up something so
simple. At multiple points throughout this day I had been yards
from SNES Classics by the truckload, sometimes literally, and yet
through my own clumsy ineptitude I'd ruined my shot every time. I
could hear the entire comment section of Nowinstock.net laughing
at me from here. And the cashier lady and her friend had now
suddenly donned witch costumes like out of A Christmas Story
and were mocking me in sing-song: "YOU'LLLL SHOOT YOUR EYE
OUT! YOU'LLLL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT! AHAHAHAHAHAAA!"
Actually, they weren't doing that. The counter lady must have noticed the expression on my face and quickly suggested, "Hey, do you have more than one E-mail? You can use the second E-mail to make another Amazon account."
Thanks to her quick thinking, that is exactly what I did. And after so many barriers in my way, I was now finally looking at the app page I needed to buy the SNES Classic that, by now, I certainly felt I earned.
"Umm." I gestured
toward the bags of SNESCs visible on the table.
"Oh, remember what I said? You have to buy them with the app. All those Super NESes have already been claimed by people using the app."
"Then....what was the point of all this--"
"Look, sometimes people cancel their orders! I'VE SEEN IT HAPPEN!" she stated with determination. "If you keep refreshing that page you'll eventually get to buy one."
With just one hour to go, that didn't feel likely. But I'd come too far to turn back now, and this pathetic maneuver was my only hope. What else was there to do? I kept tapping the screen with my finger every two seconds and stood around.
At least there was a lot to look at. The parking lot was dotted with standees of Nintendo characters and Super NES art -- Mario, Link, Yoshi and Samus were all accounted for, and Mario came in several variations like Cape Mario and Kart Mario. The bubble machine was still going even this late at night, and the SNES-era video game soundtrack coming from the speakers was nice to have in the background. I wished trucks like this existed every day.
As I stood there repeatedly
tapping my screen while the sky grew darker, I had to watch
people come and go, claiming the bags on the table. Couples,
singles, and families with children passed by, all of them
happily clutching their bags and reaching for their phones to pay
the cashier. Occasionally someone would stop by who had heard
some crazy rumor that would help him (and me) were it true.
"Hey, I heard that if there are still SNES Classics on that
table by the time you have to close, YOU HAVE TO SELL THEM TO
"Actually, we have to return any overstock directly to Nintendo. Sorry," the lady said. The man cursed his luck and walked away.
A half-hour to go. There were now less than a dozen bags on the table. I was feeling like calling it a night, but decided to keep pecking at the screen a few more minutes just to be safe. Suddenly and without warning, the "SOLD OUT" vanished from the banner image and the orange "I WANT THIS" button was no longer greyed out (or light-oranged out). She wasn't crazy! IT HAPPENED!
I quickly hit the orange button and the screen reloaded. Instead of a different screen, the same page appeared -- only now it said SOLD OUT again. NYARGH!
I had no choice but to continue tapping. Eventually the sky was dark, the bags were in single digits and the Treasure Truck had ten minutes until closing time. But I continued -- it was all I could do. A man who I assume was the director of the entire event stepped out of the van and came right up to me, after presumably worrying about my continued presence posing a threat to the Meritocracy myth.
"Look, I feel for you, I
really do, but...." He spread his arm toward the table,
where all the bags were now gone. "The truth is, we have a
couple more still in the van. They're claimed too, but even if
nobody shows up to get them, we have to send them back to
Nintendo -- there's no getting around it. Now if someone were to
"You think somebody's going to drive back here and hand their bag back to you?"
"Well, that's your best shot. You're welcome to keep trying, but....I'm just saying."
"Yeah, I get it," I said, putting my phone back into my pocket. I got back on the bike and started the trip back uphill. CLANGELACLANGELACLANGELANGELACLANGELACLANG
That evening, everyone across America except me had a blast reliving their childhoods in crisp HD. Some of them might've even had loved ones to share it with. I had nothing, but the one thing nobody could ever say was that I hadn't tried. Okay, the clowns in the comment thread would gladly continue to make that claim, but it only proved their ignorance. I was wiped out and SNES-less, but there was one thing I definitely no longer was....a hermit crab.
I had to make do with the consolation prizes plucked for free from the sales counter: a 3DS ad and a fake Nintendo Power Super Mario World cover. The cover was an exclusive giveaway at PAX West and I would have normally had to go all the way to Seattle to get one, but they must've had extras. It could be rare; maybe worth something. Hey you, reading this -- care for a trade? You know what I want in return.
UPDATE: About a week and a half later, rumors began to spread online about a surprise overnight restock at Target stores in the Northwest. Photos of receipts started circulating around Twitter and fans around the country started calling their local branches asking whether or not it was true. At the exact same time, I happened to be obliviously inside a Target looking for new pairs of socks.
And there it was.
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