Do you like your games old? Join Nick D. as he takes a look at Nintendo’s Virtual Console as the possible saviour of the Wii U.
I grew up with Nintendo, and I still think they’re a great company. Personally, I think the Wii U is their best designed system since the Super Nintendo, and the 3DS is easily the best handheld ever made. Why am I singing Nintendo’s praises? I just wanted to set the stage before I get into the crux of the article, which is to say that Nintendo has failed miserably with their online service. This isn’t a controversial statement. Most people would agree. But what I’m trying to say is that the Virtual Console could be the solution to most of Nintendo’s current problem with the Wii U if they’d only get with the program.
Nintendo’s Wii U is underpowered hardware, meaning it’s roughly as powerful as the PS3 and Xbox 360 rather than reaching for the more lofty heights of the rest of the current generation systems. Nevertheless, hardware has rarely been cited as a failing of the Wii U, it having been praised generally upon release. The biggest problem has been its software library, a problem that persists even now a year after release. Nintendo has tried to dangle the carrot with its Nintendo Direct service in order to show us games like Bayonetta 2, but most of these games either don’t have a release date or are releasing nearly a year-and-a-half after the console launched. There had to be something Nintendo could have done during this time.
The obvious solution to a software drought from your own first and second party developers is to encourage multiplatform development. If more third party developers supported the Wii U, Nintendo’s own development studios wouldn’t have to bear the entire weight of the console. Nintendo has had a hard time getting multiplatform developers to jump onto its console from as far back as the Nintendo 64. Unfortunately, Nintendo seems unwilling to buck this trend. In a call to investors, Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo, boldly stated that the company would not give financial incentives to third party developers in order to get them on board.
So then, what to do with Nintendo’s drought problem? With new third party development tentatively off the table, it seems obvious that Nintendo needs to push its own content, and lots of it. I don’t think it’s fair to expect Nintendo’s studios to push out content at the fever pace that would be required to keep Wii U adopters as happy as Xbox One or PlayStation 4 adopters, who have already experienced less of a drought than the Wii U. Therefore, as you may have gleaned from the title of this article, it seems the solution to Nintendo’s biggest problem in through its Virtual Console system.
It’s true that Nintendo’s developers shouldn’t be rushed, but Nintendo has the library of five generations of consoles and four generations of handhelds to work with, not to mention consoles owned by Sega and Atari, which Nintendo has been able to delve into. The Virtual Console allows Nintendo to keep a steady stream of content coming even during the most serious droughts.
Invented for the Wii, the Virtual Console was a really unique idea at the time. It’s a service that lets you pay for digital copies of old Nintendo, or even Sega games. Nintendo pushed it hard, for a time, releasing major games in threes every week. Eventually, this number dropped and support for the Virtual Console went down to almost nothing. But the Wii never had a drought problem. The commercial success of the Wii meant that there were always a lineup of developers to get in on the hardware. The quality of these games were often suspect, but the one thing the Wii didn’t lack was volume.
Fast forward a generation, and Nintendo still seems reticent about the Virtual Console, and unable to see that it could act as the solution to the drought that it’s currently in. Week after week, Nintendo fans are left in the dark about what is coming, and the quality of the releases are often insulting. For example, an entire week’s release was Volleyball for the NES. And that wasn’t an unusually slow week. That’s pretty indicative of the kind of games being released.
The worst part about how the Virtual Console is being handled is that anyone with half a brain can see the ideal route to take, yet Nintendo seems to shy away. In order to best combat the software drought, Nintendo needs, at minimum, three Virtual Console releases a week, and at least two of those cannot be filler titles like Volleyball or Golf. If lots of high quality games aren’t released frequently, it’s no better than the situation now. Nintendo is in the unfortunate position where they have let both quality and quantity slide.
The first thing Nintendo should remedy is bringing over all of the titles found on the Wii’s Virtual Console as only a small percentage of these titles are available on the Wii U. I don’t think a blanket release would be effective as the company would still want to trickle out releases to improve sales, but this is a good place to start for releases.
The price of Virtual Console games has often been criticized, and another article may be worth looking at how fair or unfair this is. However, people will pay the $7.99 for Super Nintendo titles. Earthbound’s Virtual Console release was a major success and shows that people will pay a premium for this service. This makes it all the stranger that Nintendo seems unwilling to push the system. The profit margins seem very high, and a higher volume of releases people would actually get excited for would only increase this.
The obvious downside to relying on the Virtual Console is the simple fact that the Virtual Console is not a place for new games. As such, the criticism that Nintendo relies entirely on nostalgia, or its past successes could be claimed. However, this is a preferable criticism to the lacking games one they currently have to deal with. It’s true that many gamers have played these games before, but many haven’t, and the gamers who have are often willing to repurchase classics to play them on newer systems.
The good news surrounding all of this is that as of the writing of this article, Nintendo has showered a little more attention on the service. Last week, Nintendo released its first batch of Game Boy Advance titles on the Wii U’s Virtual Console, launching with Advance Wars, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and Metroid Fusion. These are three top tier games, and, if Nintendo continues with this trend, the Virtual Console may finally get the use it deserves.
Even with the possible resurgence of the Virtual Console due to the release of Game Boy Advance games, the sad truth is that, during its first year, Nintendo needed the Virtual Console to be better than it was. Even if it’s old content, games found on the Virtual Console are still content, and Nintendo needs this more than it has ever in its history as it goes up against the most competitive console generation yet.