As E3 looms near, the house of Mario is expected to be finalising plans for the ‘virtual console’ (Nintendo Classics?) feature on the newly launched Switch. We know its coming; the paid online service is due to launch later this year with a monthly pair of rental retro games. What are the possibilities for this service and which will we likely see?
Without doubt, the most consumer friendly model would be to transfer all existing digital purchases to Switch. Not. Going. To. Happen. Nintendo already set a precedent for this with Wii U, charging to ‘upgrade’ Wii virtual console purchases to Wii U. I have dozens of virtual console purchases across Wii, Wii U and 3DS. It would be a massive incentive to keep consumers in the Nintendo ecosystem if ones shiny, new Switch had all of these games ready to download as soon as you log into your account. There’s a reason people swear by their iPhones or androids; we are invested. Years of apps, games and media tied to our accounts. Reasons for us to carry on with the same family of devices. The lack of this on Nintendo’s part gives consumers an excuse every generation to not buy the latest machine. The ‘Apple’ model is unlikely but would go some way to drawing back in lapsed fans.
On other console families, streaming of AAA data intensive games is a reality. Realistically Nintendo could stream NES, SNES, N64 or even GameCube games wirelessly for a monthly subscription. The obvious downfall of this model would be the Switch’s portability although there are possible workarounds. Steaming may actually be counter effective as the data these games would take to simply download would be minimal. Microsoft are close to launching a similar attractive service one Xbox One; this would again soften the blow of all those existing virtual console purchases out in the ether. This does seem at odds with what we already know but may be a possibility.
Last generation, the ‘HD Collection’ was born. Packages of PS2 era games upscaled for modern consoles. This trend has continued over to this generation. Bundles of games now running at 60fps and has 1080p. Other than Metroid Prime Trilogy, Nintendo has shied away from bundling its games together. Perhaps under the label ‘Nintendo Classics’ we might see some of these appear on Switch. Paying for Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask or Twilight Princess remasters again may feel unfair but as a collection, coughing up again seems an easier pill to swallow. If you compare the value in a collection like Rare Replay to the Wii U’s virtual console, Nintendo’s current model does not fare well in comparison.
21st Century Nintendo
Without a doubt, my favourite option. What if Nintendo updated their retro library? Imagine a classic like Super Mario Bros 3 where you could choose which graphical options you wanted (NES or SNES). Imagine online leaderboards for speed run times or scores. Imagine every game in Nintendo’s library having these options. Give Mario Kart 64 online modes (battle!). Give us all the bells and whistles we expect from 21st Century games. The Wii release of Pokemon Snap included an additional photo share feature not found in the original so we know Nintendo is prepared to to do this to an extent.
20th Century Nintendo
Unfortunately, we as consumers have been part of the problem. How many times have I paid for Ocarina of Time? Once on N64, once on Wii, upgraded it for Wii U and I got the 3D remaster on 3DS. Times have changed though I fear Nintendo may not. It is still a realistic possibility we are expected to pay £5+ for a NES game for Switch – albeit tied to My Nintendo accounts. This is clearly the worst case scenario but, again, a possible one.
Roll on E3…