Urban Outfitters NES Classic Sale Appears To Have Been Just A Botched Traffic Grab

NES Classic Edition

It is often said around this time of year that this is the season to be jolly, but screw that, I'm a little ticked off at the moment. Check that, I'm a LOT ticked off and I don't know whether to direct my rage at Nintendo, Urban Outfitters, or ultimately myself for getting sucked into this consumer culture that castrates the true spirit of the season. You see, I've been trying and failing to secure an NES Classic Edition console, the equivalent of this year's Tickle Me Elmo or Cabbage Patch doll, and it's maddening. It shouldn't be. After all, the system is rigged for failure, and I know that. But when a company seemingly goes out of its way to mishandle a sale on a high demand product the way Urban Outfitters just did, well, it's reactionary to feel this way. Let me explain.

If you haven't been following the situation with Nintendo and its retro throwback console, welcome back from your coma. While you were passed out, Nintendo brought back a miniature version of its original NES that debuted in the 1980s. It doesn't take cartridges like the original console did back in the day, but it does come pre-loaded with 30 classic games, including gems such as Super Mario Bros 1-3, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Kirby's Adventure, Castlevania, Techmo Bowl, and many others. It's a nostalgic trip back in time and it's only $60! Well, it's supposed to be.

As Nintendo has a habit of doing, it under-produced the console and retailers that carried it sold out of inventory within minutes. Subsequent restocks, rare as they are, sell out in seconds. That was the case when Walmart sold an untold number of units each day on its website precisely at 2PM Pacific (5PM Eastern) from November 14-18, and good luck getting one of the few that trickle into Target in the wee hours of the morning at unpredictable times.

Urban Outfitters NES Tease

This brings us to Urban Outfitters, a hipster clothing and accessory store. It's the last place someone would think to look for an NES Classic Edition console, but it emerged for many as a last hope in securing one before Christmas without paying an inflated price on eBay or Craisglist. Riding the frenzy, Urban Outfitters drummed up excited by announcing on Instagram that it would have NES Classics for sale on December 6.

That caught the Internet's attention, but it was the next post a day before the sale that made it "game on" for everyone trying to get their mitts on an NES Classic. Urban Outfitters posted a picture of the actual console and retail box with the caption, "It's almost time! The NES Classic Edition will be available online tomorrow morning," followed by more text on how to enter a drawing to win one.

This is where things start to go sour. Urban Outfitters has some stock coming in and given the enormous demand for this gadget, it wants to generate some buzz (rightfully so). Fair enough, but the vague time frame of "tomorrow morning" had shoppers staying up until midnight Eastern to see if that's when it would flip the switch. It didn't happen, so many of those same shoppers stayed up another three hours until midnight Pacific (3:00 AM Eastern). Still nothing.


Looking at some of the comments around the web, many people pulled an all-nighter. And why not, especially those on Eastern time who had already stayed up until 3:00 AM. Urban Outfitters could have done them a solid and announced either a specific time or a general time frame. Instead, it created a situation that encouraged sitting up all night mashing refresh. Ugh.

Fast forward to when it did finally go live, Urban Outfitters again drops the ball. After posting to Instagram (and only Instagram) on two separate occasions that the NES Classic would go on sale sometime in the morning of December 6, it announced ON TWITTER (read: not Instagram were people had been following the situation) the moment it went live. Really, Urban Outfitters?

That also happened to be the first time it shared a link to the product page. Prior to that critical moment, users were blindly refreshing separate webpages—Urban Outfitter's Instagram page, the site's home page, the site's technology page, and any other page they thought the console might appear.

When it did finally go live, most people saw this:

Some people never got past that image, which still showed up when refreshing the product page 15 minutes later. Those who did manage to get one step closer to the forbidden fruit saw this:
Count me among those who eventually got that far, but by then, the console had long since sold out. I don't think it lasted a full minute before stock was depleted, though anyone who never got past the initial "available soon" image sat there and wasted more of their time on a product they never really had a shot at getting in the first place.

I know, this is a "first-world problem" and complaining about not getting a highly sought after console is like crying over spilled milk. Suck it up and move on, here's a pacifier for the meantime. I get that. But what irritates me is how Urban Outfitters handled this whole thing. To sum up, it advertised ahead of time on Instagram (twice) that it would have stock of NES Classics but failed to give people a general idea of when (beyond "morning,"), there was no link provided ahead time leaving users refreshing multiple webpages and killing ping for anyone else on their home network (much to my son's chagrin last night), and then posted a live link on Twitter, not Instagram, followed by teasing an "available soon" image long after it had sold out. Well played, Urban Outfitters.

Happy holidays, folks.