Have you heard? It’s the 35-year anniversary of Super Mario Bros. Nintendo commemorated the occasion with, among other things, a special limited-edition Mario pin set. A lot of people wanted it. Unfortunately a lot of them also didn’t get it.
The pin set was announced back at the beginning of September, but didn’t finally go on sale until September 21 of this week. Immediately Nintendo’s store crashed, with people struggling to get the pins into their cart and successfully check out. People landed on error pages. And then when the error pages went away they were greeted by a message saying the pin sets had all sold out. One person on Twitter likened it to a speedrun. “This is some awful RNG,” they wrote.
Of course, what made the entire ordeal so much worse was the involved meta game around being able to qualify for a chance at the pins in the first place. Where the debacles around pre-ordering the PS5 and Xbox Series X were frustrating but straightforward, people who wanted the physical memorabilia—a rarity nowadays following the 2015 closure of Club Nintendo—had to jump through hoops to demonstrate their Mario fandom.
Instead of just selling the pins outright, Nintendo made them free to anyone who completed at least five out of six “missions.” These included things like reading about the history of the Super Mario Bros. series on Nintendo’s website, listening to music from the games, and taking a Mario trivia quiz. One particularly expensive mission was required though: buying Super Mario 3D All-Stars. People who completed enough missions became eligible to order the pins. Buying the game didn’t guarantee people sets though, just the opportunity to order them “while supplies last.” The supplies did not last very long.
There are already dozens of accounts on Ebay trying to sell the pin sets for $100 and higher. It’s unclear how many of those sets are real versus being knock-offs, or if any hardcore Mario fans with extra cash lying around will indulge the scalpers, but in either case it speaks to what a mess the process has been. At one point people believed that as long as they had the code emailed to them by Nintendo saying they were eligible for the pin set they would get one eventually, but that doesn’t seem to be the case either.
The whole thing is reminiscent of Nintendo’s more general attitude toward scarcity, most recently evidenced by the fact that 3D All-Stars itself will only be available to buy until March 31, 2021. It’s hard to believe Nintendo couldn’t just wait to see how many people wanted pins before putting in its manufacturing order, just like it’s hard to believe there’s any good reason for games like 3D All-Stars and Super Mario Bros. 35 to suddenly get vaulted within months of release. Nintendo fans can be ravenous and the company sometimes seems content to play off of that.
Nintendo did not respond to a request by Kotaku for comment.