Micah Garnett’s brother wanted Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo’s excellent fitness-oriented game from last year, as a gift for their upcoming 16th birthday. The problem: Micah’s family had put off buying a copy because in 2020, games don’t usually sell out—except Ring Fit Adventure, that is. It’s sold out everywhere, a combination of holiday shortages and China getting hit with the novel coronavirus early in the year, severely impacting manufacturing.
Once it became clear the game was hard to find, the whole family got involved, including mom and dad. Best Buy? Nope. Wal-Mart? Bzzt. Target? No chance. Amazon? Not unless you want to pay through the nose. The three GameStops nearby? Still no. But Micah’s mom, in particular, wasn’t willing to give up, and was open to drive hundreds of miles to secure it.
But eventually, it became time to begrudgingly settle on a replacement gift. While scouring GameStop for ideas, Micha’s mother walked up to the counter and asked the employee working to search the system again. When they’d asked a week ago, nothing had come up.
“The employee looked her right in the eye and told her that the Fond du Lac store had the only copy in possibly all of Wisconsin,” Micha told VICE Games.
Micha lives in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley, somewhere between Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Madison. It’s a full hour from Fond du Lac. The family asked the store to put the game on hold, drove like mad towards the faraway GameStop, and hoped the employee wasn’t lying.
“We felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way,” said Micha. “This was our Turbo Man. It felt like walking out with a million bucks.”
Ring Fit Adventure normally sells for $80, but it’s impossible to pay that price right now. Amazon resellers are asking for nearly $300. eBay is no better, with prices in the same range. Only a week ago, the price was $200. But every day, the price continues to creep higher, as more American cities are forced into lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, and it remains equally unclear when the world’s manufacturing centers will be fully online.
“The Ring Fit Adventure game is selling out at various retail locations in the Americas,” said Nintendo in a statement to VICE Games. “We are working to provide more units as soon as possible and apologize for any inconvenience.”
With gyms closed, Ring Fit Adventure presents an opportunity to move around and have fun, but with coronavirus’ impact moving from a question of weeks into months, it’s forcing many to wonder “OK, what’s my breaking point? How much am I willing to pay to get this thing?”
When I asked on Twitter, the number varied. $150. $115. $160. The highest I saw was someone mulling the idea of paying $190 because it would show up quickly. That’s a lot, but by the time I got around to sending a private message about it, they’d pulled the trigger.
“I went for it,” they told me.
Several people told me they’d stumbled upon a copy at popular New York game shop J&L Game. The shop has been steadily increasing the price the past few weeks. One person bought it for $115. Another person paid $150. A reader told me an employee at the shop was buying it from “somewhere” that was costing them $120 per copy. Clearly, it wasn’t Nintendo.
“We don't price items based on rarity, we price them based on how much it costs us to bring them into inventory,” a spokesperson said over email last week. “There are actually plenty of them in stock, but distributors control the glut of the product because they see the demand.”
A few days later, J&L Game told me they’d sold out. The last copy had sold for $170. They declined to comment further about price fluctuations and how they procure their inventory.
One person told me that while purchasing a copy at GameStop last month, an employee mentioned a group of people had started driving all over the state of Maryland and “cleared out every GameStop.” I was unable to verify this specific story, but the idea that some folks recognized the value of buying an item in bulk before the rest of the world isn’t unrealistic.
For people who understandably don’t want to spend $300, there are other options on places like eBay, but they’re full of risk. Where there is opportunity, there will be exploitation, and Ring Fit Adventure is no exception. eBay is full of sellers trying to confuse anxious shoppers.
The first listings for a search of “ Ring Fit Adventure” on eBay are curiously cheap—around $50. That’s far less than what Ring Fit Adventure retails for, and it’s not a used copy. One listing available to purchase immediately for $50.99—Nintendo Switch Ring Fit Adventure Fitness Healthy Exercise -Ring-Con+Leg Strap—hides what it’s actually selling at the end: a ring con (a fancy pilates ring with some tech) and leg strap. Except, it’s a knockoff of the accessories required to play Ring Fit Adventure, and doesn’t come with a copy of the game.
Nintendo does not sell Ring Fit Adventure on its own, which means you also need to track down a copy of the game separately.
This process got one reader I talked to in trouble, who misread an eBay listing and thought they’d scored a deal by only paying $50. But it turns out the listing only included the accessories, and they ultimately had to pay $100 from another eBay seller just for the game. Nintendo doesn’t sell the game on its own, putting sellers into a very powerful position.
Because Ring Fit Adventure stock is so low, many of the copies online have been used. It only takes a few minutes to work up a sweat in Ring Fit Adventure, and that sweat is quickly gonna get all over both the ring con and the leg accessory. Coronavirus doesn’t transfer through sweat, but we don’t definitively know how long the virus lingers on various surfaces.
You’d want to clean any used exercise equipment you bought online, but with the added threat of coronavirus, it’s rationale to be extra cautious about what might be lingering.
“Honestly, I was most concerned with the pieces being sweaty since there’s fabric involved,” said one person who bought Ring Fit Adventure used. “I’ve bought used games lots of times before but never controllers, and certainly never wearable controllers!”
Nintendo’s official support page suggests folks hand wash the leg strap in warm water with a “mild detergent,” but two people I spoke to used their washer and dryer and it came out fine.
These are the risks one takes to try and stay in shape while in quarantine. Locked in our houses and apartments, staring at an easily clickable button and trying to rationalize why it’s worth paying hundreds of dollars for something that, in a few months, could be cheaper.
Right now, buying Ring Fit Adventure costs $300. It will cost a lot more a week from now.
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