Nintnedo's Amiibo Shortage Problem

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Sometimes we forget the world of retail is a massive beast, and is dependent on many players getting everything right to deliver goods to consumers. We have a tendency to over-simplify things and boil them down to a point where we can easily say Company X is good, and Company Y is bad. This way of thinking is often all we can do as amateur commentators, but there are instances where we can dive deeper and really understand why something is happening.

Case in point: the scarcity of Nintendo’s Amiibos at just about any retailer.

Amiibo inventory has been abysmal basically across the board. I’ve seen numerous people lament that Nintendo can’t even get their shit together when they have a product people want to buy. This is obviously a problem for Nintendo, as they would like to be selling a Amiibo to every man, woman, and child who wants one. They need the money! So why aren’t they? Let’s dive a just a little deeper.

I was talking to a Nintendo representative who knows a thing or two about the company’s distribution, and their message was basically that the port delays on the west coast are completely crippling their distribution. Supposedly, they have many thousands of figures just sitting on ships or in cargo containers at the ports. It wasn’t a failure of Nintendo to make enough Amiibos, it was a failure of the distribution channel to get them all the way from Nintendo’s factories to store shelves. In fact, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata confirmed this was a problem back in February.

For a number of months, the port delays have had a major impact on many US retailers. This has caused for Amiibo instock issues, but it has also lead to many other inventory opportunites across home, electonics, toys, clothing, and basically all other retail catagories. If you’ve been in stores recently and wondered why there were more empty spaces on shelves than normal, the port delays are likely the issue. You may not have noticed much of a difference, but speaking as someone who is in the retail world, this has had a huge impact on how my day-to-day work is done.

Here’s a Wall Street Journal report on how other companies are being affected:

Softline Home Fashions, a major importer of fabric for curtains and other home decorations, has about $800,000 of goods waiting to be unloaded for retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.,J.C. Penney Co. and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.

“We’re in trouble right now with some of our customers,” said Softline President Jason Carr. “It’s a major headache.” Softline is worried about a shipment of drapes bound for Wal-Mart that is stuck in a ship idling along with 35 others outside the port at Long Beach, Calif.

Now, one could argue that Nintendo should have foreseen these complications and found alternative methods of getting their product to stores. You could also argue that retialers should have done something to expidite the flow of inventory through the ports. You could place the blame at the feet of the port authority for not keeping their workforce happy and working.

It’s incredibly frustrating to be waving your money at a company saying “here’s my money, why won’t you let me give you my money?!?!” I totally get it and it does suck. At the same time, I think it’s important that we know where to direct our anger when things like this happen. It’s almost never as straighforward who is to blame.