"Dropping the Headphone Jack On the Game Boy Advance SP"
April 17, 2017 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Last week, Nintendo discontinued the incredibly popular NES Classic, for some reason. This is far from the first questionable business decision they’ve made and it definitely won’t be the last. Find out which one of these decisions you are in this quiz, courtesy of Kotaku.

NeoGaf thread • Previously.
posted by porn in the woods (52 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're tired of trying to give Nintendo your money and them refusing to take it, check out RetroPie which turns a Raspberry Pi into an emulation box
posted by thecjm at 11:31 AM on April 17 [12 favorites]


Just in case anyone from Nintendo is lurking out there, reading this thread, a polite reminder that it's been several years since a new Animal Crossing game on a Nintendo platform, and making the large demographic of players wait several more years would be an extremely questionable business decision...
posted by Wordshore at 11:44 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


The thing was cracked wide open as soon as it came out and I see on people on the local Craigslist selling hacked versions with "700 games!!!" or whatever.

Nintendo has a long history of failing to keep up with hackers, then freaking out. They also have a long history of offering an underwhelming experience with Virtual Console.... so while the reasoning is unknown, the action is not surprising.
posted by selfnoise at 11:46 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Well... There's Happy Home Designer? I mean, that's technically an animal crossing game.

There's a phone game coming up as well but given Nintendo's bizarre attitude about the first two mobile games they released, I can't begin to predict what it'll be like.
posted by selfnoise at 11:53 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I wish I could play Duck Hunt without a CRT.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:57 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


It's odd that there was no explanation, but I'm not sure it's so inscrutable. My theory is that they were expecting a hack (all their systems from the Wii on have been notoriously hackable) but not to the extent the hacking has progressed. First, the hack opened up the system to NES ROMs, but you were limited to a few dozen on top of the included titles. Then they figured out how to increase that to several dozen, then 600+ and effectively limitless / the entire NES library. Then they figured out how to include other emulators, opening up the NES Classic system to Gameboy, GBA, Genesis, Super Nintendo, etc. Essentially making it a $50 open emulation box. And there's no online capability, so they couldn't patch a fix. Maybe they simply concluded that it wasn't worth the likelihood of anyone wanting > $50 worth of Virtual Console retro titles to just decide to buy one of these cute, inexpensive things instead and have their full run of entire console libraries.

My prediction: this first production was considered a limited trial run. The next iteration will come in time for the holidays, fix the hack exploit, come with some improvements and added games (a longer cable for the controllers would be nice), and include online updating of the firmware to fix future exploits. Meanwhile the legend and desirability of the system will keep growing, they'll ramp up production considerably, and it'll be another major Christmas hit.

While this is going on, everyone's counting the days for the Nintendo Switch to get hacked. Interestingly, some people in the hacking community don't think it's a great idea to do so. Each Nintendo console from the Wii on has been so easily hackable that developers lose interest. It's a major weak point of their consoles compared to Sony's and Microsoft's. They might need to handle this if the Switch is going to bring developers on board and do well. And lots of Switch owners want a great library and successful system; no one wants this to be Nintendo's last hurrah in the console space.

(The Switch is really, really good, by the way. I love this console more than any other in over a decade.)
posted by naju at 11:59 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


making the large demographic of players wait several more years

I'm waiting for Nintendo to remember that Metroid is a thing.
posted by xedrik at 11:59 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


I'm guessing this will last until one of the 3/4 franchises their userbase actually care and buy their systems for is expected to fail deadlines and they'd need something to pad their quarterly earnings. Either that, or Half Life 3 SNES Classic confirmed
posted by lmfsilva at 12:01 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I just set up a retropie! It's amazing.

I did it because I couldn't get a NES Classic. It seems like the retropie forums have been blowing up ever since the Classic came out, filled with people like me because Nintendo created a demand and then refused to satisfy it.

I mean, if they hadn't released the Classic, I never would have done a retropie. Neither would have a ton of other people. But Nintendo made me suddenly want something very badly, then they refused to sell it to me, and so I just made the thing I wanted anyway.

This seems like a terrible way to do business.
posted by juice boo at 12:06 PM on April 17 [10 favorites]


You think you've been waiting long? Pour out a glass for us F-Zero fans.

(I'm not sure what's worse: when the last game in a series was brilliant like GX, or putrid like Other M)
posted by selfnoise at 12:10 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


What's inscrutable to me is that time they named their flagship console the Nintendo Piss. What was happening in the marketing department?
posted by adept256 at 12:10 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Just in case anyone from Nintendo is lurking out there, reading this thread, a polite reminder that it's been several years since a new Animal Crossing game on a Nintendo platform, and making the large demographic of players wait several more years would be an extremely questionable business decision...

Psst... check out Stardew Valley it is as good if not better and briefly ruined my life
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:23 PM on April 17 [11 favorites]


Well, there is the simple explanation.

This was an ad for the switch which had the benefit of emptying a couple warehouses of obsolete cellphone components.
posted by pan at 12:29 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


Well separate from the hacking issue Nintendo has never made a huge profit on consoles - the money is in selling games. And how many games did they project to sell for the Classic?

That's why it got killed.
posted by GuyZero at 12:33 PM on April 17


But Nintendo made me suddenly want something very badly, then they refused to sell it to me,

yeah, fuck Porsche.

Wait, Nintendo?
posted by GuyZero at 12:34 PM on April 17


showbiz_liz: "Psst... check out Stardew Valley it is as good if not better and briefly ruined my life"

I want more furniture! Stardew Valley is amazing and has kept me up many nights but I desire a humongous catalog of STUFF. If a new AC game isn't announced for the Switch at E3 this year I will be super upset.
posted by erratic meatsack at 12:35 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


The money in these is in re-selling them on Craigslist, from what I've seen. Maybe Nintendo is just selling the last 100,000 of them on Craigslist, one by one, for $200 each.
posted by Slinga at 12:47 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


I want more furniture! Stardew Valley is amazing and has kept me up many nights but I desire a humongous catalog of STUFF.

Ahhhh same, I decided to convert my farm into a B&B and then realized I'd have to make fake beds out of the tables with tablecloths because there aren't any extra beds at all. And I want shelves you can actually display things on!
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:49 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


The thing was cracked wide open as soon as it came out and I see on people on the local Craigslist selling hacked versions with "700 games!!!" or whatever.

I seriously doubt it is because of hacking, more like it is a distraction for people who would otherwise be Switch customers. I think Nintendo cares far more about selling expensive games, licenses, and stuff (like NES games?) in the e-store than they do about an emulator with a couple of dozen ROMs.

But for realz, all you nerds need to get on Retropie. It is the best thing ever, it plays a lot more than NES, and it's cheap. There are even bluetooth SNES/NES controllers that are practically identical to the originals. If you are capable of arranging a transaction on craigslist you are probably capable of setting up a Retropie.
posted by bradbane at 1:15 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


I wanted so badly to get one of these for my brother so we could play NES together. No way am I paying three hundred dollars for one though.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:48 PM on April 17


I only personally know 1 (ONE!) person who got one of these in Seattle.

I am a NES collector, have an Everdrive N8, and I still would have happily paid full retail $60 for one. But not one dollar more.

I even had loads of accesories queued up in my Amazon cart waiting for the day I got one. Time to delete.
posted by Sprocket at 1:58 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


> I wish I could play Duck Hunt without a CRT.

Though it's not quite the same, strictly speaking you can.
posted by farlukar at 2:07 PM on April 17


And how many games did they project to sell for the Classic? That's why it got killed.

I'm agreeing with pan here. There was talk elsewhere about the rationale behind the Mini, one HN user summed it up pretty well:
"There had been some speculation on Reddit that it was a run of near-obsolete hardware proposed by one of their partners. Some teardown (I can't find a source now) found out that it was shipping with already EOL'ed components that weren't available for back-order from the fabs."
To which another responded:
"While not an exact example, it matches GameBoy creator Gunpei Yokoi's concept of "Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology." The idea is that you find widely understood tech, which is inexpensive due to its widespread use in other areas, and find a way to use it in making games. Everything from using calculator LED displays for the Game & Watch to using an accelerometer in a Wii Remote follows that principle.
Sourcing a bunch of inexpensive parts and throwing together something like the NES Classic Edition to fill the gap in an otherwise Nintendo-less holiday season seems to fit that mantra."
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:10 PM on April 17 [9 favorites]


Yeah I just set up a RetroPie - not because of this, it was just something I've been meaning to do for a while. It's brilliant. Today I'm trying 'hard mode' and attempting to get NeoGeo and arcade ROMs working.

But Nintendo made me suddenly want something very badly, then they refused to sell it to me, and so I just made the thing I wanted anyway.

Nintendo's half-baked penny-pinching attitude to classic games is what turned me off Nintendo and I continue to be surprised they have such a loyal, rabid fan base. My main reason for getting a Wii was the promise of all the retro games that would be available.

Of course the store turned out to be an utter pile of trash, barely any emulated games were made available, they were massively overpriced (as the era of mobile games for a buck or two came about, charging AU$15 each for ancient 8-bit games was ridiculous), and of course quite quickly the store died with no new content at all.

I found the same rubbish repeated when my son talked us into getting him a 3DS.

Despite everyone raving about it now, I will take a lot of convincing before I think about touching a Switch.
posted by Jimbob at 2:14 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


The RetroPie seems great for those who are interested, but there's something simple and cool about the NES Classic that goes beyond mere 'emulator box'. It's a cute little collectible NES, which is appealing in itself before you even get to the playability; the controllers look and feel exactly like original NES controllers; whether you hack it or not, it makes the most sense as a dedicated NES console, and limitations are good instead of having so many retro emulation options that you end up playing Chrono Trigger yet again and ignoring the entire NES library. The UI is friendly and visually appealing, with jaunty chiptune music, so importantly it feels like a quality Nintendo experience. And loading/saving states is easy, but just unusual enough (you hit the reset button on the console) that you only do it if you have to, not spamming it every 5 seconds to brute-force hard levels. It had me playing and loving the NES classics like nothing since the original NES console of my childhood. And yes, I've hacked it to include 500 games, but now I'm thinking of playing around with limitations for it. Like for example, just removing everything except half a dozen games, and playing through those until I finish them. Like back in the old days when you really got to learn a limited library of games inside and out.

I paid $80 for it back in February, and would happily pay as much as $100-120 probably. There's no way anyone should pay $300, but maybe the prices will go down eventually...
posted by naju at 2:27 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


"There had been some speculation on Reddit that it was a run of near-obsolete hardware proposed by one of their partners. Some teardown (I can't find a source now) found out that it was shipping with already EOL'ed components that weren't available for back-order from the fabs."

Definitely a strong theory - certainly there are lots of low to mid-range chipsets floating around these days that have more than enough horsepower to run old NES games.

This teardown says:

Allwinner R16 (4x Cortex A7, Mali400MP2 GPU)

Definitely a contender for getting cleared out.

And the board is like four chips and is the plainest looking thing I've ever seen.
posted by GuyZero at 2:29 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


It's a cute little collectible NES, which is appealing in itself before you even get to the playability

Pretty much why I'd buy one. I've had NES emulators for years on PCs, tablets and phones -- it's having that box is what's appealing.
posted by linux at 2:29 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I managed to score a pair of NES Classics but it wasn't easy. Gave the first one to my girlfriend at Christmas time (Target had pre-orders available for a few hours back in July.) Got a second one on Amazon last month using http://www.nowinstock.net and their email alerts.

It's such a neat little machine once you buy a super-long HDMI and controller extension cables
posted by porn in the woods at 2:40 PM on April 17


Allwinner R16 (4x Cortex A7, Mali400MP2 GPU)

Thanks for finding that teardown, GuyZero. Knowing it's an Allwinner chip doesn't exactly confirm the theory that the CPU was a rare thing going completely obsolete. I mean, there are loads of A7/Mali parts that could have been substituted in place with a board respin. Unless that killed the profit margin on the product.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:40 PM on April 17


If you want a retropie but the only thing holding you back is the look of the NES Classic, well.....

Also, you can buy controllers that have cables longer than my arm. Or don't even have cables at all. It even has a functioning door!
posted by thecjm at 2:40 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


It's possible that they got a bunch of CPUs at a good price but it wasn't ANY number of CPUs at that price. Or they needed the manufacturing capacity for Joycons or any other number of theories.
Maybe Allwinner had some yield problems and all the chips in the Classic have a bad core in them which would make them hard to sell but Nintendo got them for a song and they're find for emulators. Or etc etc etc.
posted by GuyZero at 2:45 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


If you're tired of trying to give Nintendo your money and them refusing to take it, check out RetroPie which turns a Raspberry Pi into an emulation box

There are even kits which for building it into an arcade cabinet, with real arcade controls (wired to a board that mimics a USB keyboard), speakers and a flat-panel LCD. (PiCade is one from the UK with a plywood case, though there's a lighter one with a laser-cut plastic case elsewhere.)
posted by acb at 2:54 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


The thing was cracked wide open as soon as it came out and I see on people on the local Craigslist selling hacked versions with "700 games!!!" or whatever.

Which suggests that they manufactured this non-upgradeable, what-you-get-is-what-it'll-always-be gadget with rewritable Flash ROM, rather than a mask-programmed ROM, which sounds somewhat odd. If it's deliberately not meant to be reprogrammable, fixed ROM would be a lot cheaper in bulk, and would be just as usable, if not more so. (The device is a Linux box, which would presumably have a writable /tmp and /var while it's operating; these could be done on a RAM disk, which would also mean that the possibility of filesystems getting corrupted if power is lost in the middle of a write is completely eliminated.) I wonder why they did it the way they did.
posted by acb at 2:58 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


RetroPie is pretty amazing, although it's still a collection of slightly different emulators tied together with one launcher. I can play Amstrad, Spectrum, C64 and Amiga games pretty much perfectly. Silkworm on the Amiga is still one of my favourite bullet-hell games, and looks and sounds amazing on even a medium-sized TV.

I kinda wanted the mini NES when I heard of it, but the RetroPie box does all I need. Shame there's a wee shite who's trademarked the name in the US and going after the creators …
posted by scruss at 4:45 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I wonder why they did it the way they did.

I do these kinds of systems for a living and I'm boggled as well. It all smells of a quickie design - these parts are literally off a shelf in Shenzen. Do you really need four A7 cores plus a GPU plus a multitasking O/S to emulate a 6502 and a small amount of custom sprite + sound hardware?

Jeri Ellsworth did an entire Commodore64 on a chip years ago. Seems pretty reasonable that Nintendo could have done this entire design on a single part if they were really motivated to do so and sell tens of millions of these things.

If it wasn't a money generator made from throwaway parts, was it an experiment to gauge demand?
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:12 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Jeri Ellsworth did an entire Commodore64 on a chip years ago. Seems pretty reasonable that Nintendo could have done this entire design on a single part if they were really motivated to do so and sell tens of millions of these things.

I love how they epoxy it to hide the chip maker like it's some big important secret.
posted by Talez at 6:48 PM on April 17


I love how they epoxy it to hide the chip maker like it's some big important secret.

It's called chip-on-board manufacturing. The silicon die is glued directly to the PC board and wires are attached, then the whole mess is glued down with epoxy.

Not really because of SEKRETZ, but because it's simpler and cheaper than encasing the die in a a discrete epoxy package with leads. You see it in a lot of cheap high-volume stuff out of China.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:03 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Responding to some upthread stuff:
  • Stardew Valley isn't as similar to Animal Crossing as it seems at first. AC is meant to be played for months and years, and to take place in real time, and some versions even have an interesting "quasi-multiplayer" aspect where multiple human players all affect a single world map. Stardew Valley is much more a Harvest Moon kind of game, essentially single-player, with its own calendar and a world that doesn't change much.
  • For a good emulation box, there's always the Nintendo Wii itself, which is the easiest relatively recent console to hack, not too difficult to do so, has both SD card slots and two USB ports for storage, should be cheap to find at thrift stores or pawn shops by now, uses excellent and expandable wireless controllers, and has stable and mature emulators capable of running NES, SNES, Gameboy+Color+Advance, Genesis and TG-16 games, among others.
posted by JHarris at 7:43 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


Anyway, the word is that the Switch actually runs FreeBSD (or some other variant of BSD, I've misplaced the link from which I heard that) internally, so hacking it might be harder than before. (I say might, who the heck knows with Nintendo.)
posted by JHarris at 7:44 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


For a good emulation box, there's always the Nintendo Wii itself

It's pretty good, yeah. But the upscaling isn't so great and the technology is showing its age (no 1080p might be a dealbreaker for me at this point). This is one of the areas in which the NES Classic excels (the RetroPie as well, I believe).
posted by naju at 8:06 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I feel like there has been a precipitous drop in the quality of headphone jacks and/or plugs in the past decade or so. I can remember during the "walkman" era that headphones tended to break anywhere BUT the jack. But these days every electronic device I own is in this soon-to-die situation where I need to apply pressure to get signal in both ears, and that's a sign that the whole system will die within a year.

I am curious how much of the death of the headphone jack is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Are they using cheaper jacks to justify ditching the things? Or are headphones themselves to blame?

I write this as someone who finds bluetooth unnecessarily terrifying, insecure, and battery-gobbling.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:41 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Anyway, the word is that the Switch actually runs FreeBSD (or some other variant of BSD, I've misplaced the link from which I heard that) internally, so hacking it might be harder than before

How would this make anything more difficult? Isn't BSD popular and well documented? Look at macOS.
posted by Evstar at 6:12 AM on April 18


I dunno. It has one more buzzword, surely it's +1 Better!
posted by JHarris at 11:51 AM on April 18


It's pretty good, yeah. But the upscaling isn't so great and the technology is showing its age (no 1080p might be a dealbreaker for me at this point). This is one of the areas in which the NES Classic excels (the RetroPie as well, I believe).

A Wii is a fantastic and affordable emulation box, but you can't beat the HDMI output on the NES Classic, sure beats plugging in component or composite cables. No need for a big power brick, either; it's powered over USB Micro.

Plus with Retroarch, you can run arcade ROMS. MAME games like Frogger, Dig Dug and Donkey Kong are sensational on the Classic - just wish I could make the screen display a little big bigger.
posted by porn in the woods at 12:09 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


  Are they using cheaper jacks to justify ditching the things?

I'm guessing that the old Walkman jacks were Through-hole, while new ones are surface-mount. SMT is faster, cheaper and doesn't require boards to be drilled, but (unless there's additional bonding involved) the jack is only as strong as the traces it is soldered to.
posted by scruss at 2:06 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


SMT is faster, cheaper and doesn't require boards to be drilled, but (unless there's additional bonding involved) the jack is only as strong as the traces it is soldered to.

I lost two cheap small 2-octave MIDI keyboards to this; after a number of times, the force required to plug in the USB mini-B plug will tear the connector off the circuit board. When I got my third one, the first thing I did was open it up, grab a hot glue gun and cover the entire connector and the region of board around it with a blob of epoxy.
posted by acb at 3:45 PM on April 18


You think you've been waiting long? Pour out a glass for us F-Zero fans.

Somewhere Stanley the Bugman is waiting for the phone to ring.
posted by dances with hamsters at 5:16 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Of course the store turned out to be an utter pile of trash, barely any emulated games were made available, they were massively overpriced (as the era of mobile games for a buck or two came about, charging AU$15 each for ancient 8-bit games was ridiculous), and of course quite quickly the store died with no new content at all.

I don't know about the Australian Wii VC store, but that certainly wasn't the case when it came to the US selection. Some top selection for NES, SNES, Mega Drive, Neo Geo and though the drip feeding was tantalising, I can think of a couple releases like Rondo of Blood or Majora's Mask that turned into events in their own right.

The Wii U and 3ds virtual consoles were disappointing in comparison and the prices are kinda high... although 0.99 for a game also led to the lowest common denominator games that flood mobile. You win some, you lose some.
posted by ersatz at 11:33 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]




whodathunkit.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:34 AM on April 19


I'm looking forward to Stardew Valley on the Switch, because a) portable and b) the developer can't be bothered to use the normal mouse settings, so I can't play while mousing lefty unless I use additional software to remap my mouse buttons, and the hell with that. I was seriously disappointed when I bought the game and found out about that.

It was also seriously disappointing to see that most of the answers for people's Stardew Valley mouse button questions were "you should just mouse with your right hand using default button mapping," because that is some bullshit.
posted by asperity at 9:47 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Stardew Valley is pretty much the perfect use case for a Switch (play on your TV at home, but also take with you everywhere without any fuss, plus it's a good game for short sessions on the bus or wherever for 10-15 minutes). I'm excited for it too.
posted by naju at 10:42 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]


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