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Let's suppose that Nintendo announce tomorrow that they are going to create exact re-releases of the American and European NES, SNES and Nintendo 64 consoles, exactly the same as when they were originally sold, down to the packaging. As in, not even any new labels such as "Anniversary Edition" or anything. It literally is impossible to tell the difference between the new boxes and its contents from when it was originally sold.

They announce a schedule ahead of time so that they start selling these to match the time difference between each console's original release date. At least 100,000 copies of each console.

They do the same thing with the top-250 titles (in terms of commercial success) for each system, at least 100,000 copies for each game. Again, the games are released to match their relative dates when they were originally released.

Even if only collectors and hardcore nostalgics like myself buy these, wouldn't it very much make economic sense? Am I grossly overestimating the "retro market"?

It's impossible to collect/re-experience the games from my childhood today because they are insanely overpriced, or impossible to get hold of. And of course, Nintendo gets zero profits from somebody buying it second-hand (or more like 20th-hand at this point). To me, it appear as if Nintendo is allowing a lot of free money to go to waste.

Note: We are talking about Nintendo doing this properly, the way I describe it. Not some half-hearted nonsense.

I very much like the idea of buying an original Super Mario All-Stars, with "new manual smell", from Nintendo in the year 2021. They'd earn money and I'd get a copy which is impossible to tell apart from a copy I had kept in perfect condition for all these years. And the greedy auction site sellers would be stuck with worthless items.

I'm convinced that these copies would quickly sell out, and they could create more until the demand is finally met. Unless you have already spent decades paying insane prices to collect all the games, I can't see any reason why anyone would have anything against this. In fact, I wish that many other companies did the same thing with other classic products, but they never seem to.

Why not?

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    I'll point out that there are "mini classic" versions of several consoles, including the NES, SNES, Genesis, and PS1. These aren't the original hardware, but provide a reasonably authentic-feeling experience and controllers in the original design. For most casual retrogamers, these solutions are sufficient, and are cheaper and more convenient than buying original hardware and dozens of cartridges. – Nuclear Hoagie Oct 12 at 15:00
  • It is a Big Company... none of them are particularly humanitarian. Or even human. – peterh - Reinstate Monica Oct 12 at 15:30
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    You're overestimating the market. If you, A Begbie, Kyreese, Donkey Kong, Bictor, Lindberg, E. Greenbaum, and Zaiveon B. all bought a copy, there would still be 99,999 left. – Kelvin Sherlock Oct 12 at 21:06
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    I'd say this is an interesting situation. The question doesn't fit here since it is a "What if... ?" question, but the answers are very good at showing the historical development of production. – UncleBod Oct 13 at 4:49
  • retrocomputing.meta.stackexchange.com/q/943/1932 is worth reading at this point. Opinion-based Nintendo questions are a problem right now. – JdeBP Oct 13 at 8:05
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The custom chips in the original consoles were built using NMOS logic. An NMOS (N-channel Metal Oxide Semiconductor) logic gate consists of one or more transistors called NFETs (N-channel Field Effect Transitor) which could pull a signal low when their inputs were high, along with a passive device that would pull a signal high when nothing was pulling it low. For an NMOS logic gate to operate efficiently and reliably, it's important that the strength of the passive pull-up circuits be reasonably well controlled. Too strong, and it will either generate too much heat or else prevent the transistors from reliably pulling their outputs low. Too weak, and it will be unable to reliably pull outputs high.

In the 1970s, NMOS designs started to give way to CMOS designs (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor), which instead of using one kind of transistor, used two types: N channel devices which (as in NMOS) would switch outputs low when their inputs where high, but also P-channel devices which would switch outputs high when their inputs were low. CMOS devices would generally require about twice as many many "active" transistors as NMOS devices to accomplish any particular task, but they offered greatly reduced power consumption/dissipation. Further, they benefited much more from miniaturization. In the early days of NMOS, the smallest passive-pullups that could be manufactured would be large enough to dissipate the heat they generated, but as manufacturing technologies improved, that ceased to be true. While NMOS designs continued to be popular into the 1980s and even the early 1990s, they have by now been totally replaced with CMOS.

It would in theory be possible to use some of the high-quality scans of parts like the NES PPU to make films that could in turn be used to manufacture chips if one had the proper equipment and expertise to tweak the exact chemical mixtures, temperatures, durations of all the various processing steps, etc. necessary to properly balance the strength of the active transistors and passive pull-up devices, but almost everyone who would have had the appropriate expertise will have long since retired, and any equipment such people would have used to fabricate the chips will have long since been replaced. Further, while it's possible this wouldn't pose a problem, many industrial solvents that would have been used in the 1980s and 1990s are no longer legal or available, so even if someone knew all the parameters for the production steps and had the equipment available, the recipe would need to be reworked to use chemicals that are available today.

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  • Hadn't thought about the solvents; would there also be issues with solder (as in you now have to use lead-free solder but I would assume the original NES was using lead) – Foon Oct 12 at 19:26
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    @Foon: Compared with all the other difficulties, lead free solder is probably not a significant issue, compared with the fact that NMOS devices are sensitive to potential manufacturing variations that today's production plants facilities are equipped to control. – supercat Oct 12 at 19:51
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Cost

While the actual design work is already done, it is quite possible that much of the production-related equipment - e.g., molds for cases and controllers - is long gone. If so, that would all need to be built again, at significant cost. 100,000 may sound like a lot, but spreading costs of that equipment over 100,000 consoles is very different from spreading it over millions of the original run.

Based on supercat's answer, some of the chips themselves would have to be recreated - either converted to newer (but equivalent) technology, or entire production lines rebuilt to produce older technology. Either solution would have significant costs associated with it.

Sales

I suspect you may be projecting much higher sales than they would realistically have, particularly for the games (as opposed to the game consoles). Yes, this would appeal to collectors (a small group) and those who are really nostalgic (a somewhat larger group). But for a lot of people, that just isn't worth much. Some of them might be willing to pay a smaller amount for "old style" controllers + "official" emulator + downloadable games to play everything on their modern computer. But to buy a whole system? Not so much. Not when you can play modern games with much higher quality graphics and other features for a fraction of the price.

Looking at a similar item: Do you think it would make sense for Apple to bring back the "classic" Apple II because of the nostalgia of all the now middle-aged people who grew up learning to program on one? Not too many people would jump at the chance to spend money on a 64K 6502 floppy disk machine, even if it only cost $100. Not when they can get a smartphone with a 64-bit processor, many Gigabytes of RAM and flash storage, dual cameras, touchscreen, etc. for < $100, and which can play games equivalent to (or better than) the NES, and even make phone calls.

Technical Problems

First one that comes to mind is video output. Consoles from that era typically output either via an RF modulator or composite video connections. RF modulation isn't even an option any more - that is for old analog TVs, not the current (and only option for many years) digital TVs. Even composite video may not work so well for a lot of people - I suspect many modern TVs only have HDMI input.

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    To add weight to your suspicion: our three-year old Samsung has no composite or other analogue input. It’s HDMI-only. – Tommy Oct 12 at 15:15

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