The time has come to discuss the Virtual Console, which – in case you have not heard – is a collection of vintage game software offered via Nintendo’s eShop digital storefront on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS consoles. The curious thing about this software collection, which mainly serves as a proper, legal alternative to the sort of illicit use of NES and SNES game ROMs (which has been common for two decades), is that Nintendo cannot seem to commit to this potentially outstanding source of revenue. The vintage games are already finished (I checked), the technology has been developed to play older games on modern hardware (I checked on this, too), and it is largely a matter of covering these official ROM files in some sort of copy protection which could be linked to one’s eShop account. (Ha ha! Linked to one’s eShop account, forsooth!) Here, Nintendo loses no time in diverging from the rational, as the purchased Virtual Console games are linked directly to the physical console that was used to download it; with no hope of transferring the purchase to a different system down the line, or restoring the purchase should the system go missing (stolen 3DS systems containing a large collection of Virtual Console titles make for a very, very bad day).
Nintendo offers a ready explanation, via Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé (speaking to Mashable):
“Certainly the virtual console aspect is going to be part of what we do in terms of making some legacy content available with the Nintendo Switch Online.”
Ok, sounds good. Care to elaborate about the Virtual Console on Switch, Reggie (speaking to Kotaku)?
“We’ve not used the term Virtual Console.”
Brilliant! Well, Reggie Fils-Aimé might be confused, but he is not the only one. Not only is Nintendo being cagey about cancelling their plans to bring VC to the Nintendo Switch (seriously, placing the company name in the official name of the console is inane – Nintendo’s Nintendo Switch? Asinine!) – oh, sorry! I am sure, loyal fans, that they would never consider cancelling Virtual Console for the Android tablet version of the Wii U. That upcoming subscription service that might, possibly, maybe, include some sort of classic game functionality? Probably something else. Without question the Nintendo Switch will include not only a Virtual Console experience on a par with the Wii U, but even better than ever with the long-awaited addition of GameCube support! Keep hoping, Nintendo faithful. For this will probably never happen on N. Switch hardware. Sorry!
Nintendo Switch issues (such as the total lack of any Virtual Console months after launch) aside, the Virtual Console as it exists is certainly not without its problems. I will not waste time complaining about price, because Nintendo has the right to dictate the cost of their exclusive titles, even though I think that revising the pricing could result in a much higher volume of sales for these digital titles. The VC in North America is a shell of its Japanese counterpart, with a sizable disparity in titles when comparing just these two countries. Looking at the Wikipedia page, one is presented with numbers that lead to questions about Nintendo’s commitment to this virtual software business. For example, SNES software titles in Japan number 101, and North America enjoys a slender 51. We fare better with original NES titles, as 94 (of the 148 in Japan) available here. What about TurboGrafx-16? There are 52 of these desirable games in Japan, with just 13 making it to North America (we still do not have Dracula X: Rondo of Blood!). But in fairness, we do have a 21 to 18 lead with Nintendo 64 software. Thanks, Nintendo!
If Nintendo really cared about their loyal fanbase, and (even more important to a big company like this) if they cared about making boatloads of money from these loyal fans, they would release all of their classic games in an affordable, accessible way – which is exactly what the Virtual Console should always have been about. We will keep waiting. I am certain Reggie will fill us in on the good news very soon!