Tag Archives: SNES Classic

Christians Loved Canada’s Failed Video Game Console

It was October of 2005 in Canada, at the tail end of the original Xbox and Playstation 2’s retail lives. A month before the Xbox 360 was to be released—shipping with flashy titles like the World War II shooter Call of Duty 2—the only home video game console ever to be designed and distributed in Canada, the Game Wave, went to market.

Four years later, in 2009, it was gone.

I came across the Game Wave when I recently visited the home of Syd Bolton, who runs the PC Museum in Brantford, Ontario. Bolton might be best known for his collection of old computers, but he’s really all about video games. Inside his house, he has rooms upon rooms stacked with games. He’s a collector in the truest sense, as some of the things he’s stockpiled aren’t even really valuable: Every original Xbox game ever made, every Wii game ever made, and so on. They’re not classics, but he has them all, and that’s what matters.

Near the end of my visit, Bolton looked at me with a sly grin and said, “Hey, want to see something cool?” Wondering what that could possibly mean to a guy like Bolton, I said yes. What he pulled out was the Game Wave—a glorified silver DVD player that shipped with four remote controls, all snugly nestled inside a soft case emblazoned with the slogan, “Unity Through Play.” Bolton told me that he owns five of these things.

Game Wave was a family-friendly machine, and it was lauded by Christians for its focus on trivia games and competition in good fun. While not explicitly Christian, the Game Wave certainly courted that audience. One of the system’s few games was a Mario Party-esque title featuring characters from the popular Christian media franchise VeggieTales. According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, ZAPiT Games, the Canadian makers of the Game Wave console, partnered with Big Idea (which owns VeggieTales) in 2008 to sponsor a tour called “The God Made You Special, Live! Tour.”

Bolton and I played a trivia game that was, in all honesty, kind of fun. It wasn’t anything special in terms of its focus—mostly questions about history and famous people, etc.—but it did feature some impressive CGI interstitials and historical videos to accompany the questions. Learning and playing!

It’s unclear why the Game Wave never made it, although one can probably speculate that it was simply outclassed by every other video game console on the market. It was essentially a DVD player, after all. There’s also the small detail that one of ZAPiT’s former executives, Toronto-area businessman Hari Venkatacharya, was arrested in 2013 and convicted in 2016 for arranging phony company loans in exchange for hefty fees.

All in all, it’s just one more piece of doomed Canadian tech for us to fawn and puzzle over years after it died.


SNES Pre-order Problems !!!

If you tried to pre-order an SNES Classic today you were only assured of one thing, and it wasn’t an SNES Classic Edition. Chaos was the order of the day, starting early in the morning and continuing through until the afternoon as websites threw up pre-orders at difficult-to-predict times, selling out instantaneously to whoever happened to be on their computers or manning a robot designed to buy immediately. We were promised more consoles would be coming our way than did with the NES Classic Edition, and it’s possible, if not likely, that more consoles did in fact come. But it would seem that, as usual, Nintendo either badly misunderestimated demand, made a calculated move toward scarcity, or did a little of both. Few seem surprised.

The first sign that things were amiss was when pre-orders went mysteriously live at Walmart long ahead of any other retailer. A little while later the big box started quietly canceling orders, later just getting rid of them altogether and chalking things up to a technical error. Not Nintendo’s fault in any way, of course, but a bad omen, generally speaking. And an especially bad omen considering the history of this “classic” line. Nintendo found itself woefully understocked for massive demand last year for the NES Classic, and we can only assume that a mere fraction of the people who wanted to buy one managed to do so. That experience left everyone who wanted to try their luck at acquiring an SNES Classic a little on edge.

Then came a long silence. Pre-orders had gone live in other territories shortly after launch, but the US was curiously left waiting with virtually no information to go on. Eventually, Nintendo made a single, vague announcement: the SNES Classic Edition would be available for pre-order towards the end of the month. It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to be cagey about this sort of thing, but again: precedent. Without a big event or something that could logically serve as launch, anyone who wanted a machine just had to be on notice after the middle of the month.

The day that turned out to be pre-order day started in the dead of night at around 1:00 AM EST, when Best Buy and Amazon both unleashed their stock to the general surprise of the gaming public. It was a boon for anyone who happened to be around and looking at an internet-connected device at the time, but as usual, they sold out within moments. Another round of pre-orders was rumored to hit around 1:00 PM, but only Walmart seemed to pull this off without a snag. Target struggled for a little while before removing the SNES Classic Edition from mine and others carts, GameStop crashed, and despite being listed as an available retailer by Nintendo, Toys R’ Us did not appear to even have an SNES landing page. (Update: Toys R’ Us has announced that it will not be pre-selling the SNES Classic Edtion).

Some of these things clearly don’t rest on Nintendo’s shoulders. Nintendo has no responsibility for the technical operations of either GameStop or Target. But the fact that we’ve seen so many better-coordinated pre-order or product launches certainly speaks to the fact that other manufacturers are keeping tighter controls on their retailers. Witness the Xbox One X, which went on pre-order two days before largely according to schedule and sold out like they were supposed to. Sure, I’ll venture to guess that there were far fewer people going after the Xbox One X, but the basic principles remain the same: a coordinated launch across retailers is in fact possible.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter very much for those on the supply side, which is likely why it happened in the first place. From Nintendo’s perspective, it’s selling all of these units regardless and it would be a mostly unnecessary headache to coordinate some sort of worldwide release. And it may be more or less impossible to meet the colossal demand, even if the SNES Classic Edition seems to be a pretty simple thing to manufacture. From the retailer’s perspective, this is just one of many things it sells on a day-to-day basis, and it may or may not be worth upgrading their server capacity in exchange for the occasional burst in traffic. Target was up and running a few moments later, though GameStop’s website is still down. But for all these parties the end result is the same whether the event is coordinated or not: they sell a bunch of SNES Classic Editions.

Sellouts were bound to happen, if maybe they did not have to happen quite so quickly. We can’t quite know just how limited stock was without poking under the hoods of Walmart and Target. But it would seem that there’s little incentive for this sort of situation not to be a mess. After all, it does little besides drive more hype. But as retailers, Nintendo and scalpers come away happy, it’s a shame that the only people that really lose are the consumers.