On the heels of the phenomenally successful Pokémon Go, Nintendo has announced that it’s going to release a new console, the Nintendo Classic.
The $60 console (you can get a second controller for another $10) will look like the original eight-bit Nintendo Entertainment System and a controller, and it comes loaded with 30 classic Nintendo games—including the Super Mario Bros. games, the Legend of Zelda, Zelda II, and Punch-Out!!.
Suffice it to say we plan to preorder. It’s worth mentioning that no one in our family has ever been a big gamer. As far as I can tell, video games peaked with Super Mario Bros 3.
But since the whole thing costs about $60, it’s a purchase that feels almost so automatic that it’s really not worth worrying about.
The Nintendo Classic: A Lesson in the Changing Standards of Living
What we have here is a video game device with thirty games on it. And the cost (in nominal terms) is not that much more than that of most of the Nintendo cartridges I would have bought as a kid.
I remember at one point reading that the actor Fred Savage had some thirty Nintendo games and being just a little bit jealous. Thirty games! That was incredible! I couldn’t imagine anyone could afford such a thing!
Now, it’s within the reach of the average worker for the price of just a few hours of work. And there are no cartridges to lose. Or break. Or have to blow into when they’re not working right.
Comparing the Standard of Living Over Time
The NES classic illustrates how difficult it is to compare standards of living from one generation to the next. One could perhaps argue that today’s children and adults have lower standards of living than yesterday’s children and adults. But that’s a little bit hard to believe given that we carry around pocket supercomputers when our parents and grandparents didn’t. It’s even harder to believe knowing that one can get the NES classic and extra controller for about (or less than) the effort it would’ve taken to get a single game cartridge 25 years ago.
To get a $150 NES and 30 games at $40 each would have cost $1350 in 1990.
Adjusting for inflation, that would be about $2450 in 2015 dollars. And we can get all that—in a smaller package without a bunch of cartridges to keep up with—for $70. That’s a 97 percent price decrease without adjusting for quality.
Furthermore, Nintendo is going to sell millions of these things, and they are certainly not going to go entirely to the top one percent of the income distribution. These are available at very low prices that put them within reach of households with very modest means.
One of the fun things about being a parent is getting to share the things you love with your children. Obviously, it’s also pretty awesome that they can share their lives with us.
With things like the NES classic, it will be even easier to transport ourselves back to the days when we were trying to figure out exactly when to press the jump button in order to clear this obstacle or that—and it’s going to be awesome to be able to share that excitement with our kids.