Nintendo has announced it is discontinuing the NES Classic, a bite-sized version of the Nintendo Entertainment System from the 1980s that became one of the 2016 holiday season's most-wanted and hardest-to-find items.

The Japanese games company said in a statement to gaming site IGN Thursday that "the last shipment … for this year" will be sent out to retailers sometime this month.

A representative from Nintendo of Canada confirmed the cancellation of the NES Classic with CBC News.

"We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize," Nintendo told IGN. "We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product." 

Nintendo also told IGN that the NES Classic "wasn't intended to be an ongoing, long-term product," and that "due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans."

The NES Classic became an instant hit when it launched last fall, pre-loaded with 30 classic games like Super Mario Bros.Mega Man 2 and The Legend of Zelda.

It attracted current and lapsed gamers alike and quickly became next to impossible to find on store shelves. You can still find it on online auction sites like Ebay for two to three times more than its $80 list price ($60 US).

During a February investors call, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said about 1.5 million units were sold worldwide.

Gamers and gaming journalists reacted to the discontinuation news in shock.

Don't count on another version

Travis Sachdeva, a sales associate at Toronto's independent games store A&C Games, said he gets several customers a week still asking about the NES Classic. The store has never received regular retail shipments of the device despite multiple requests.

"To be honest, when they first announced the NES Classic, I was shocked. This is not something they typically do," he says. "Nintendo is notorious for never looking backward."

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Travis Sachdeva, a sales associate at A&C Games in Toronto, was disappointed but not surprised to hear of the NES Classic's cancellation. (Jonathan Ore/CBC)

Sachdeva thinks Nintendo would do well to release a second version of the NES Classic, with 30 more classic games, or even a Super NES Classic that miniaturizes the Nintendo Entertainment System's successor from the '90s.

He doubts the likelihood of either though, predicting that Nintendo will focus on offering digital downloads of retro games on its current system, the Switch.

"You'd probably have a better chance of winning the grand lottery — twice — than them coming out with the NES Classic 2."