How Virtual Console Could Make The Switch A Must-Own

Nintendo has yet to say anything about how the Switch will approach classic games, which means there's still hope that they won't screw it up. Very slight hope. But we'll take what we can get.

Historically, Nintendo's Virtual Console — a service for buying and playing games from older platforms — has been disappointing. On Wii, 3DS and Wii U, the games were expensive, the selection was erratic and, worst of all, there was no way to tie your purchases to a single account: If you wanted Earthbound on both your 3DS and your Wii U, you'd have to buy it twice. Based on this pattern, it's easy to be pessimistic about Switch.

But given the popularity of the NES Classic, which Nintendo apparently didn't expect (Reggie Fils-Aime: "We thought that the consumer that already had a Wii or a Wii U and had purchased those games once or twice already, we didn't think that they'd buy the NES Classic."), one might think that the company now sees the value in classic games. As they should.

A great Virtual Console could turn the Nintendo Switch from "wait and see" to "must-buy", provided they follow at least a couple of these steps:

1) A unified account system: If Nintendo can't get this right on the fourth try, they're really hopeless. Switch needs to tie your digital purchases to an account so you can A) recover them if you lose your system, and B) transfer them to all future Nintendo hardware. Full stop.

2) Free versions of games we already own: It might be a logistical challenge for the Switch to recognise our 3DS and Wii U purchases, but if Nintendo can find some way to pull it off, they will earn a great deal of goodwill from all of their hardcore fans. Switch owners should be able to download free versions of any Virtual Console games they own on previous Nintendo systems.

3) A "launch day" VC package: The Switch launch lineup is pretty bare, and outside of Zelda, there isn't much to get excited about... Yet there could be. Imagine if Nintendo put out a "Switch launch" package of old classics like Super Mario World, Final Fantasy 6 and Link to the Past, then sold it as a limited-time bundle for people who buy a Switch in the first six months or so. Suddenly, that barebones launch lineup looks a lot more exciting.

4) A Wii U Ambassador program: Anyone who bought a Wii U is most likely feeling a little betrayed, and if there's anything that can make up for Nintendo giving up on their last system so quickly, it's free games. Why not give a handful of classics to anyone who owns a Wii U?

5) A Netflix-style subscription package: This is an easy winner. Charge people a monthly $20-25 subscription for unlimited access to hundreds of NES, SNES, N64 and GameCube games. The games automatically lock whenever your subscription ends. Just a win-win.

6) No more dripfeed: For years it was exciting that Nintendo put out new batch of Virtual Console games every week, until we all realised we'd have to go through the same exact process from scratch on Wii U. Not again. Never again.

There's still time, Nintendo. Please don't screw this one up.


    You've got one problem with that wish list: Nintendo.

    How much work is it though to convert and test a game for a Virtual Console release? I can't imagine it costs them nothing to do, or takes no time?

      Considering they are literally doing a rom dump... takes zero time and zero effort.

        Is that really all they do?
        Wouldn't they have to first write an emulator, and then check that the ROM works with it, make it work with the graphics and sound on the system, the differing controllers, test the game to ensure it doesn't crash/hang/leave a loophole into the security of the system etc?

          When you consider that the community ports emulators to newly hacked systems very quickly and they run almost entirely without issue, I cant see how this could be difficult for Nintendo who actually have all the documentation on how the original console functioned.

          In regards to the system security, most companies sandbox these things so that they cant interact with anything outside of their sandbox such as the system OS.

          Last edited 21/01/17 4:34 pm

      Ever made an emulator for a system? And them had to get a game working 100% on that emulator with zero bugs?
      And then done that for 100s of games?
      With the Wii U they realised nobody bought it for VC, so they decided not to throw good money after bad there.
      As for the list, based on what Nintendo have said, number 1 seems definite, 2 is wait and see and the rest is pretty much don't hold your breath.

    Honestly, I have never been so bipolar about a purchase in my life. I have fleeting moments of excitement, but then extended periods of dread at the thought of how much money I am gambling on a system we really know very little about, especially in regards to ability to at least try and compete with current systems.

    Specs mean little to me, but when developers are coming out literally laughing at the thought of their titles running on the system, I become concerned that we are going to be stuck with another first-party-only console.

      It's not really a direct competition though, it's bridging the gap between TV gaming and mobile gaming, creating a new segment. Microsofts mobile gaming is all about Windows, and chewing the life out of your laptop or tablet battery. Sony have the Vita, if they're even caring about it anymore. Nintendo are banking on combining Gameboy customers spending more money, and people who want to play the same game mobile/ tv while continuing and not having different versions.

        I totally get that. But if nobody other than Nintendo want to develop for it, then their intentions for it are moot.

        It is the opposite with the Vita. Sony have left it for dead but third party games keep coming at a steady rate. I have more Vita games than I can play. I am not currently seeing that as an issue with the Switch.

        Edit: spelling

        Last edited 21/01/17 1:26 pm

          Precisely why I won't be buying this system. Made that mistake with the WiiU.

    This is why you get a raspberry pi. With that said, I can guess at why they take forever with releasing virtual console games - Probably so they can look as hard as humanly possible to make sure there is no way for hackers to abuse any glitches in the game to custom load their own software onto the console.

    Ummmm. But this is just a wish list???

    Waiting to see what they actually come out with.

    There's a rumour that they're going to have Gamecube games on the Virtual Console. Although there's no ports on the system for Gamecube controllers, you never know, they may just release wireless ones.

    How awesome would it be if they announced that Mario Sunshine, Zelda: Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Kart Double Dash and Eternal Darkness would be available on launch day.

      The biggest issue is what they would charge.

        I would be cool with paying say $20-$30 per title.

          People like you are the reason these companies try to be greedy. Max should be 5 dollars a game for older game titles as they are just roms and are not on physical media.

            So every digital only release should be $5 should it, just because it's not on physical media. Fucking sick of entitled gamers that think we should get everything for a pittance. You know what, if people don't like my opinion that's their fuckin' problem. I'm out.

              This is supply and demand at work. Consumer tries to pay as little as possible, supplier tries to charge as much as possible. It's not entitlement, it's just business. As magical as the big N's first party titles can be, they are still a publicly traded corporation answering to stockholders. speaking of which now wouldn't be the worst time to buy some ntdoy.

            I'm kinda with Evil Monkey. I purchased Super Mario Brothers 3 on the 3DS for $6.50 and have had people give me crap for paying so much. Tell you now, I have got a lot more play time out of that than I did out of StarFox64 3D (Should give me crap for buying it /spit)

            Just quickly looking at the eshop, and the highest they are asking for a VC title is 13 bucks, and that gets you Earthbound (Amazing game), or the remade Pokemon Yellow. Super Mario World is $10.50 (Ok sure - You need a New 3DS for the SNES VC titles, but this system is sweet (Built in CPP, and for the first time ever, I'm using the 3D))

            I've always considered Nintendos pricing on VC titles on the 3DS to be reasonable

            Mind you, doesn't mean Nintendo doesn't piss me off. The fact Super Mario Land 3D hasn't had a price drop since launch really grinds my gears

              $6.50 is fine but he is willing to pay $30 for an older game? Sure if we look at it from a business point of view then they want to make as much as they can. But how many people can justify dropping $30 into a game that old when you could pick up more then 2-4 titles for cheaper extending the amount of content you would get.

              Lets say 5 people out of every 1000 people who own a switch buy the game that is $150 now if the price was less lets say at $10 which is fair i guess then 15 people will buy it to make the same amount. but they are more likely to have more then 15 buyers per 1000 as $10 is less of a risk then $30.

      I guess the main problem would be that the Switch triggers aren't analogue, so games like Mario Sunshine would be a bit difficult to play unless they come up with some alternate control scheme for the water pressure.

      Or they could release Gamecube style joy-cons.

        Wireless Gamecube controllers would probably be the best option. Either that or maybe we can use the 4 port Gamecube Adapter for Wii U.

        It's all just speculation at this point though. Gamecube games haven't even been confirmed yet, though most rumours about the Switch have proved to be true.

        Did not know this.

        So the joy cons can play rock paper scissors and do ice cube tricks like a trip to Thailand but no pressure sensitive triggers?

        Last edited 22/01/17 8:56 am

    As someone who doesn't mobile game because battery life being pummelled annoys the hell out of me, if the virtual console games used significantly less battery it would definitely appeal to me. However if the emulation ended up using similar amount of battery to modern games I'd be less interested again.

    Another thing that really irritates me though is New Nintendo? Time to re-purchase all your virtual console games. AGAIN. With absolutely no benefit or remastering. Extremely irritating on N64 games where Mario 64 looks and plays terribly on my Wii-U, the only advantage over my N64 is HDMI.

    Last edited 21/01/17 12:14 pm

      Funny, because I like the fact that my older consoles don't use one of my hdmi ports.

        I've got heaps on my surround sound, although as more new devices come out I'll start running out of 4k HDCP 2.2 ports.

          Should be ok, I am pretty sure the Switch will launch as mono av.

    I really wish they would do some of the things on this list, but I suspect they won't. They could have used the VC to help sell the Wii U, but they didn't do anything then either.

    Maybe if Switch sales drop off after launch, they'll realise that using the VC effectively has to be part of a competitive offering.

    I'd much rather just pick up a jxd or gpd android handheld and be able to emulate everything up to dreamcast era for faaaaaaaar cheaper.

    Nintendo will never price or package virtual console games in a way that makes them worth buying.

    Last edited 21/01/17 2:10 pm

    A Netflix-style subscription package
    Pretty sure I read the other day that their PS plus equivalent will give access to one or two VC games per month, with the roster changing, rather than accumulating? Don't think I'm imagining that... But it doesn't sound like generous sharing of their back catalogue is part of their plans...

      That's correct. Their online subscription service will give you free access to one or two games a month for that month only.

    Yep. Got a bunch of Wii VC titles that never made it to WiiU that I can only play on my Wii U by running Wii emulation mode. And I've got a whole bunch of VC titles on my 3DS and WiiU.

    Offering me the opportunity to play those titles on Switch for no charge, or a small "library transition" fee - would be great - and a big incentive for me to early adopt Switch. But will it happen? Previous experience says "probably not".

    3 generations of digital console gaming, and Microsoft is far and away looking after my previous gen digital purchases best ( free, better performing emulated versions) - but even with over 300 BC titles available on XBO - that's only a fraction (not that I have close to all of those 300 titles) of my 360 digital library - but a far, far greater percentage than what Sony and Nintendo offer for previous gen consumers making the upgrade.

    I've got enough digital "Piles of shame/unplayed titles" across 3 generations (and Steam) to look to accumulate more, while needing to keep multiple consoles active. But.. And that's a big ole but - if Nintendo make a serious effort to reward their loyal customers (which I consider myself to be) - it would go a long way to restore that good will with me and 12 million other consumers who bought the Wii U (and an external HDD) to pay decent money for old games. The lack of clarity over mass storage options on Switch isn't a good first sign though...

    I don't get it..

    If the best thing about a new console is a collection of ancient 8-bit games then there is something seriously wrong!

    I'm pretty sure no one bought the PS4 hoping they could play PS1 games on it...

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