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Nintendo Needs to Handle Its Virtual Console Service Better

by Joey Davidson | April 1, 2014April 1, 2014 2:30 pm PST

Now that Nintendo is finally releasing Game Boy Advance games to consumers for purchase, and not through the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program, we here at TechnoBuffalo are looking forward to diving into a nice library of portable classics.

Unfortunately, and this is where the Virtual Console gets problematic, Nintendo’s only releasing Game Boy Advance games on the Wii U. That’s right, portable games are getting Virtual Console treatment on a home console.

The 3DS? Oh, it plays GBA games. We know that because Nintendo released a few to early adopters for free. We loved that notion back then, and it was great that Nintendo shared a few classics with folks who bought into their new handheld early.

Now? Now we have a Virtual Console library that should be available on the go left completely on the Wii U. Not only that, we have a big company with an insane arsenal of classic games that seems to release them in a haphazard way.

Nintendo’s Virtual Console service could be one of the best things in gaming, especially for retro nuts like us. As it is now? We’re not so sure.

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Joey Davidson

I think I knew you were getting a little frustrated by Nintendo’s decision to release GBA games on the Wii U when I first shot you the trailer of the soon-to-be-ported Advance Wars.

You were just like, and I’m sort of ad libbing this here, “This should be portable. Why is this not on the 3DS?”

And I agreed, but, man, I could tell you were bummed.

Ron Duwell

Yeah, the Nintendo 3DS has been my main platform of choice these days, whether it is on a train or in my apartment. I would love the chance to play and store all of my portable Nintendo classics on one handheld device, but as it stands now, I have a shelf crammed full of Game Boy Advance carts which are becoming more and more cumbersome by the day.

I’ve enjoyed transitioning to digital distribution with the Nintendo 3DS knowing that I have my entire collection with me wherever I go and can fire up whenever I please. If Nintendo wants me to fully embrace this idea and leave physical media behind in the dust, I think it would be best if all the systems were accounted for.

And the Game Boy Advance definitely has a few of my all time favorite games in it library.

Joey

Right, and here’s where we really try to break down and understand Nintendo’s logic regarding the platform release decision. Why put these games on the Wii U only?

The Nintendo 3DS is doing exceptionally well for the company, especially in its home nation of Japan. They have a massive catalogue of aging games just sitting in their digital vault. They could be putting those old games on their new platforms, all of their new platforms, and enjoying the cash that comes pouring in.

I get what you’re saying about digital convenience, Ron. But for me, that’s not even the most mind-boggling part of this whole affair.

Nintendo is sitting on money with its library of software. Sitting on it. I get that the Wii U could use some exclusive help, but Nintendo’s best interest right now is completely winning customers over. Roll out as many games as possible on both current platforms. That’s what makes sense to me.

Wii U Virtual Console

Ron

Well, I think that it’s only a matter of time before Nintendo eventually does put these games on the Nintendo 3DS. It would be crazy not to, so it’s exercising a little restraint at the moment and building up hype for digital GBA games.

If it were to release the Virtual Console versions of games on both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS at the same time, I think there is little doubt that gamers would opt for the portable version, unless playing a Game Boy Advance in a blown up resolution on a huge TV is honestly what they want.

The Wii U, with its smaller audience and limited movement, would be smashed to pieces by the Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo knows this, and rather than send these Wii U ports out dead on arrival, it wants to give them a chance to succeed and make a little money before the versions we really want get released.

The silence on potential Nintendo 3DS releases down the road is more of a pacing issue than just limiting to a single audience right now.

Joey

Okay, so let’s roll with that. Let’s assume that Nintendo is putting these Virtual Console games out on the Wii U and not the 3DS specifically because they don’t want to internally deal another blow to their already troubled console.

We’ll consider that theory fact from here on out for the purpose of this discussion.

What about the way they release them, though? The GBA library is off to a really, really good start. We’re getting a ton of high-profile games at the onset of the campaign. They’re giving us a heavy dose of the good stuff, and I hope it continues.

However, look back at the other Virtual Console releases. Let’s consider the Wii. They released one-ish game a week, and their choices ranged from good to terrible with a heavy emphasis on mediocre.

Jump forward to the Wii U. What happened? They released the same games we had access to on the Wii, Ron. They released games on the platform that you could already buy on the platform.

Ron

Well, they released them in a fashion that you didn’t have to pay full price for them. With how Nintendo Network is becoming more connected across the platforms, Nintendo can track which games you purchase and which consoles they are attached to.

Who knows, rather than a deterrence which I assumed in my original theory, it could be actually a way to steer gamers into buying them once again for the Nintendo 3DS.

You already have it for the Wii U? Take your favorite games portable for a fraction of the cost.

I was happy to drop a dollar or two on a few of my Wii Virtual Console games for the Gamepad support, and I was able to filter out all the mediocre and terrible games I didn’t want in the mean time.

It could be seen in the same fashion as that. Buy a whole bunch of games in the initial excitement of Game Boy Advance games finally being made available digitally, save the ones you want on the console you actually want to play them on. It would be a much more gamer friendly approach than asking for a full double dip.

 

Joey

I could deal with that. Though, Sony’s already beating Nintendo in this regard with its Cross-Buy feature. In fact, I’d argue that anything short of Cross-Buy is almost a disservice.

I already own Flower. Bought it on the PS3 back in the day. Back when I didn’t even know the PS Vita and PS4 were going to be a thing that I could play Flower on.

Guess what? They released, the game dropped on each platform and I instantly had access.

CrossBuy Sale PlayStation

I think that if you asked fifth grade me if I’d ever say what I’m about to write, he’d laugh and yell something about his Tamagotchi. Nintendo should be taking a few notes from Sony.

Do you think Nintendo is fumbling their Virtual Console service?

Ron

In comparison to Sony, Nintendo is living in the stone age when it comes to these digital releases. Sony has more frequent sales on classic games, and Sony gives instant access to all available platforms once you buy any game. PlayStation 3, PSP, PS Vita, and potentially PlayStation 4 down the road for many of these classics. Who can say no?

I think it speaks volumes that I can play every Final Fantasy from the original until X-2 on a Vita, and I can’t play a single one on my Nintendo 3DS, despite many of these games originating on a Nintendo platform. In regards to retro gaming, I’m sadly seeing the Nintendo 3DS slipping with the looming capabilities of the Vita.

As for Virtual Console, it has never been the strongest of digital channels, always being inconsistent. Again, the Wii saw releases that ranged from amazing to terrible and nobody was happy 100 percent of the time. With the Wii U, Nintendo is focusing only on the more popular titles, and nobody is happy 100 percent of the time.

I have been satisfied with the Nintendo 3DS’ Virtual Console lineup so far as it has released plenty of portable games, popular and obscure alike, not available on the consoles. The inevitable inconsistency is now cropping up with portable games being released on consoles that initially wanted nothing to do with portable games.

Yes, I would be a lot more hyped for Virtual Console if there was a clear cut message of what Nintendo was trying to do with it, but seven years later, we still don’t have one.

Joey

Wario Land: Shake ItFor me, I think Nintendo is sitting on a gold mine.

If I were in charge of making decisions, which thank goodness I’m not, I’d do things differently. I’d release as much of the Virtual Console library as I could all at once. I’d make it available in two ways, stay with me here.

You could either pay a yearly subscription (like PlayStation Plus) and have access to every VC game on both platforms entirely for free… aside from the monthly premium.

Or, you could pick and choose a la carte and pay a few bucks for each game. That would include, of course, Sony’s now golden Cross-Buy feature.

Instead of dropping software on a weekly basis that gamers might or might not be interested in, just put it all up there for play. Offer really convenient ways to access the games and make things affordable. Paying $50 a year, or whatever, for full access to all of Nintendo’s classics on both the 3DS and Wii U? I would love that.

Love it.

Ron

And I thought I would have a huge backlog of games from the PlayStation Instant Game Collection. Every Nintendo game would crush me like a bug.

For me, and I am a little ashamed to admit this, but I haven’t played all the Virtual Console games I’ve purchased. Some were bought on a whim of “Oh, I liked that game,” and it slowly vanished into the recesses of my playlist. Wasted money, or is the security of knowing a classic favorite is always there when you want it worth the admission price?

I would love to pay $50 for access to every Nintendo game because it would knock out those shotgun purchases. Hypothetically, its a wonderful idea, but there are so many licensing issues with third-party publishers. Large chunks of the Super Nintendo, SEGA Genesis, and other consoles Nintendo has aboard would be missing.

Soul Blazer

If I wanted to play an obscure game like Soul Blazer and went to download it only to realize it wasn’t available, then I might still feel jipped. Stragglers are inevitable, but when asking for a subscription fee, I would want it all, and I do mean “ALL.” Imports, obscure games, golden classics, everything.

Joey

True, though I think Nintendo could make this issue known and openly announce that they’re working to resolve licensing conflicts. Not every game is still available for them to release, and if consumers know that up front then I don’t think the issue will be too glaring.

I think that we both agree that Nintendo could improve here, though it seems like I’m more frustrated with their service than you are. Am I wrong?

Ron

I’m more ambivalent to the Virtual Console. I rarely used it on the Wii despite buying quite a few games. I upgraded once or twice on the Wii U, but I really only take advantage of it on the Nintendo 3DS these days, which is why this Game Boy Advance decision is bumming me out.

It’s there, but I think my PS One nostalgia is winning the battle these days. Sony is making it that much easier to get ahold and play the games, for sometimes a smaller price.

Joey

I think your ambivalence is the worst kind of failure on Nintendo’s part. I don’t think a single line in this entire discussion has left me as disappointed as the one you just wrote. Nintendo’s doing Virtual Console things so awkwardly that you’ve been left ambivalent.

That’s a real shame for them, because I’d be willing to bet that you’re not the only gamer feeling ambivalent.

Well, that ended sharply.

Are you feeling ambivalent about Nintendo’s Virtual Console? Could they win you over easily with a better setup, or has that ship sailed?


Joey Davidson

Joey Davidson leads the gaming department here on TechnoBuffalo. He's been covering games online for more than 10 years, and he's a lover of all...

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