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For a company that despises emulation, Nintendo sure does make it appealing

by Ron Duwell | August 23, 2017August 23, 2017 6:00 am PDT

No company out there rallies and rails upon emulation the way that Nintendo does. Nowhere does one find this better than the company’s own corporate FAQ page, which has a laundry list of arguments against the practice of downloading emulators and ROMs.

How Does Nintendo Feel About the Emergence of Video Game Emulators?

The introduction of emulators created to play illegally copied Nintendo software represents the greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers. As is the case with any business or industry, when its products become available for free, the revenue stream supporting that industry is threatened. Such emulators have the potential to significantly damage a worldwide entertainment software industry which generates over $15 billion annually, and tens of thousands of jobs.

Since the 90s, Nintendo’s strict stance on the practice of emulation has earned it a reputation as being anti-piracy and tough on those who want to play video games that can’t be found relatively cheap prices anymore. Naturally, one would think that if Nintendo wanted to effectively combat such a practice, it would make reasonable attempts to assure gamers that those old games remain in circulation.

And yet, here we are, one day removed from yet another perfect storm of retailer incompetency and Nintendo’s unreliable plans to deliver fans affordable alternatives. Of course, I’m referring to the chaos that ensued when fans tried their darndest to pre-order the Super Nintendo Classic Edtion, which is easily the most popular console in the world to emulate through alternative means.

What should have been a chance to celebrate with easy access to 21 classic games, one of which has never been released in any official capacity, turned into an affair that left fans slighted, frustrated, incensed, and most importantly, still without a Super Nintendo Classic Edition.

Unless gamers were glued to their screens at a random hour of the night, hit refresh on their browsers every five seconds during the minutes they were available, or employed the use of third-party bots to purchase products (something which Nintendo hasn’t spoken out on NEARLY as much as it has on third-party emulation… probably because it doesn’t lose money on these bots), they wasted a day of their lives trying to obtain a silly little gaming console…

And many of them didn’t even get one. Maybe they never will.

The Super Nintendo Classic Edition is easily something that they could just as easily recreate on their own through emulation, but these are loyal fans weren’t talking about here. They don’t want the third-party options, they want the real thing! These are all the very same people who are thrilled and overjoyed to legally purchase this product directly from Nintendo, which is of course exactly what the company has preached for them to do since the dawn of piracy.

And once again, Nintendo let them down.

You get where this is going? Nintendo demonizes emulation at every chance it gets, and yet, it fails to reward those who want to walk the straight line to playing their old favorites. More loyal fans will be chased away into third-party emulation, giving Nintendo that much more ammunition in its self-immolating fight against piracy. This gives rise to more people it can call criminals… mostly because it was Nintendo who pushed them away in the first place.And it continues to play footsie with retailers who let paying customers down, and even more damning, refusing to condemn the practice of scalping.

And it continues to play footsie with retailers who let paying customers down, and even more damning, refusing to condemn the practice of scalping. Yeah, those “pirates” are the real problem here, aren’t they?

If only this was the first instance…

Of course, if this was Nintendo’s first instance of messing up so royally on a grand stage like this, it could be forgiven, but this is hardly the first time that fans have run into such problems. Only last year, the gaming world lost its collective mind because so few could only get ahold of the NES Classic Edition. Only a year ago! And in that time frame, absolutely nothing changed from Nintendo’s efforts. Pre-orders became just as big of a crapshoot, fans went about shopping blind only to lose out to internet bots at the checkout line.

Even after Nintendo promised to do better, provide more consoles, and meet expectations, after round-1, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition does not seem to heading in any different direction. Fans are anxiously reloading landing pages, retailers seemingly have no idea what’s going on, and I already foresee a lot of long-time Nintendo fans walking away from this product thanks to frustration or pure inability to land the product.

Normally, I would love to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt here and admit that this might get better, but I don’t think I can this time around. This has become a destructive pattern, one Nintendo seems unable to break free from.

Beyond the realm of these popular retro consoles, the company has shown an equal inadequacy with other products. amiibo comes to mind first. Back when they first released, confused retailers struggled to get these into the hands of fans, scalpers pounced on them, and nobody became happy with their existence until at least a year after they debuted. Of course, the difference here is that we don’t have a year to pick up the Super Nintendo Classic Edition because Nintendo promised to kill the product before the year was out.

We can’t slow burn this one into our good graces.

On an even larger scale, Nintendo has been unable to properly supply its fans with Nintendo Switch consoles either, the very backbone of its business plan! Shortages continue to dominate shops, fans frequently complain about their inability to buy the console as the MSRP through legitimate sellers, and hundreds of buyers line up outside stores to buy a shipment that could measure in the dozens.

This is not how to properly run a business, and yet, Nintendo still somehow scrapes by thanks to the loyalty it has built up over the year. I’ve always thrown caution to the wind when it comes to accusing Nintendo of purposefully creating shortages on purpose, but after this latest episode, even I’m not sure anymore. How can the company do this time and time again? It can’t make up excuses forever, can it?

In regards emulation, Nintendo is still silent on how it will treat the Virtual Console on the Nintendo Switch. Fans around the world have dropped hundreds or even thousands of dollars into these digital retro games, but Nintendo still refuses to commit to honoring those purchases for another generation. On the flipside, it also refuses to outright say that it won’t.

And absolutely nobody knows at this point! Is Nintendo waiting to pull the carpet out from under our feet when it gets enough consoles into households? Will it magically sprout a plan in the coming months that will set all these frustrations and anxieties to rest, finally allowing us to enjoy our retro gaming without the fear of our collections evaporating into thin air?

An even larger question mark hanging over this situation, will Virtual Console even be worth the admission?! Given all of the shortcomings of the program over the years, it’s perfectly acceptable to believe that Nintendo will deliver a product that is below the standards of third-party emulation.

Oh… that rewind option? That’s cute…

Emulation really doesn’t look so bad after all this

I don’t want to sound too fringe on this. I do recognize the moral gray area of third-party emulation. These are Nintendo’s games, after all, and it has the right to distribute them as it sees fit. I don’t download games that can be bought through Virtual Console, and I generally draw the line on third-person emulation only for games that require fan translations or hundreds of dollars through second-hand markets. I find this has been a fair balance so that Nintendo can get its revenue and I can play games that otherwise would be unavailable to me…

However, Nintendo is making it increasingly difficult to live by such a code.

Loyal fans are willing to pay for such options, be it these retro consoles or Virtual Console, but if we are not provided convenient, acceptable means to do so, then we’ll find other means of playing these games. Simply put, this is the way of the modern world. If Nintendo, still stuck with its draconian and arrogant 90s mentality, can’t meet its loyal fanbase halfway in providing a convenient option for retro games, then it can no longer claim the moral high ground over us while it dangles these products in front of our faces like carrots on a string.

This generation has every right to have lost patience with Nintendo, and actions speak louder than words. Nintendo, you can condemn emulation and offer soulless, corporate apologies for your shortcomings all you want, but until you start to show actual improvement in your ways, the Raspberry Pi 3 looks more and more attractive every day. What’s it going to be?


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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