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Nintendo DOES NOT Need The Virtual Console

VOICE OVER: Ty Richardson WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
Welcome to MojoPlays, and today, we're talking about the reasons why Nintendo DOES NOT Need Virtual Console. Ever since Nintendo began shoveling older titles into their Switch Online membership and tried selling us miniature versions of their famed consoles, there has been some unrest within the Nintendo community. Some folks cry out for the return of one platform from the Wii era, one that allowed us to purchase older titles individually. However, is it really necessary to bring it back? We might want to rethink things here for a second.
Transcript
Script written by Ty Richardson

Nintendo DOES NOT Need Virtual Console


Ever since Nintendo began shoveling older titles into their Switch Online membership and tried selling us miniature versions of their famed consoles, there has been some unrest within the Nintendo community. Some folks cry out for the return of one platform from the Wii era, one that allowed us to purchase older titles individually. However, is it really necessary to bring it back? We might want to rethink things here for a second.

Welcome to MojoPlays, and today, we’re talking about the reasons why Nintendo DOES NOT Need Virtual Console.

Before we begin, we publish new videos all week long. So be sure to subscribe and ring the bell to be notified about our latest videos!

Firstly, we’d like to address that we aren’t knocking the Virtual Console service in any way. Of course this corner of the Wii Shop Channel will always hold a special place in our hearts. Where else were we going to get our nostalgic fixes for the N64 and SNES days? Best part was that you could purchase these classic titles for a fraction of what they cost at their original release, up to nearly $20 depending on which games you were grabbing. The service would prove to be a tremendous success for Nintendo as more than ten million games were downloaded via the service in just its first year! This era of appreciation for the retro will always be a time to fondly look back on. The problem is that when you look at everything back then versus what we have now, it bears questioning whether the Virtual Console really needs to return.

For starters, Virtual Console is, in the grand scheme of things, not a cheap service for the customer. While smaller titles would be priced at no more than ten bucks a pop, more legendary titles, such as those from the N64 era, would be priced close to, if not at, the twenty dollar mark. This gets pricey very quickly, and the pricing alone made it evident that Nintendo and its partners knew which titles would be hot items.

There is definitely an argument here in favor of this more lucrative model. Most folks would cite how their exorbitant spending shows support for specific titles or specific types of games, how it supports the developers even. While the latter is certainly the case, Nintendo has shown time and time again that even when their big hitters sell millions upon millions of copies, the next game is not going to be the same as that big seller. So, it’s easy to say that Nintendo does not necessarily let our wallets speak for us 100% of the time, and therefore, that piece of the argument is more or less minute compared to the bigger picture.

With that in mind, let’s circle back real quick to how pricing can reflect how a company expects a game to perform. How many times did we hurl fifteen to twenty bucks at Nintendo for “Super Mario RPG”, “Yoshi’s Story”, “Star Fox 64”, or “A Link to the Past”? Now, take that number (or possibly lack thereof) and let’s apply this question to some other games. How many times did we hurl fifteen to twenty bucks for “Wrecking Crew”, “Solomon’s Key”, “Urban Champion”, and “Burger Time”? That number isn’t as high as those bigger titles, is it? We aren’t bringing this up to imply those other games are bad, but their cheap prices might suggest where Nintendo and its partners’ heads were at. List the big guys at a solid price to make good money, and list the smaller titles at a lower price in hopes that someone would say, “Eh, it’s only $5 or $10” and buy it regardless of their interest. The problem here is that if most folks are buying that $15, $20 game and not even touching the smaller, cheaper titles, then what’s the point of listing them in the first place?

Listing games separately is a waste of time if your customer is going to keep buying the same four or five games instead of the other ones, even if those are at a cheaper price. This is where Nintendo Switch Online steps up to prove its worth. (And we swear this is not an ad for the service.) That twenty bucks that would have gotten you one really amazing game can now be used instead for not just online functionality, but access to dozens and dozens of classic games from the NES and SNES era. Not only are you getting “Donkey Kong Country”, “Super Mario Bros.”, and “Super Metroid”, but you’re getting all of these other titles you may not have heard of or wouldn’t even give a passing glance to. And if you’re someone who does like to go back and revisit these older games, you’re going to get your money’s worth here. You paid twenty dollars for a year’s worth of access to all of these games! Compared to Virtual Console, Switch Online has a significantly smaller financial barrier. Yes, the catalog is not as stellar as it could be, but if Nintendo chooses to expand their service, don’t just expect titles from systems younger than the NES and SNES - also expect an increase in price. Even if it was doubled to forty bucks per year, you’re still getting more value than you would buying separate games off Virtual Console.

Now, enough about Switch Online and its benefits. If the service never existed, then Nintendo would still have Virtual Console around, right? Mm, not necessarily. Over the last few years, Nintendo has been porting several of its older games over to the Switch, and their success shows. Gaming news outlet Video Games Chronicle published an analysis in May 2021 regarding Nintendo’s best-selling Switch games between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. While VGC was quick to point out how few brand new titles had managed to break the top ten, we noticed something a little peculiar. Of the twenty games that were recorded for their analysis, seven of these titles were either ports, remakes, or remasters of legacy titles. And funny enough, what sits just below “Mario Kart 8: Deluxe” at the number three spot? Why, it’s one controversial title that folks complained about for MONTHS until it was delisted - “Super Mario 3D All-Stars”.

This pack of ports for “Super Mario 64”, “Sunshine”, and “Galaxy” boiled the blood of many folks because of its lackluster quality as well as its limited release window. Well, if these problems were so massive, how did the collection end up selling more than nine million units? Regardless of how this package turned out, everyone knew this was going to make money - you knew it, we knew it, and Nintendo obviously knew it. Why did it sell so many? Because it was “Super Mario 64”, “Sunshine”, and “Galaxy” in one cartridge on a new platform - of course we were all going to buy it, and that six-month window was wide enough for all of us to rush out and buy it!

This is yet another reason why Nintendo does not need to bring back Virtual Console, and it’s because the company knows they can keep making these ports and remasters since they will sell like hotcakes. Be it Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, or Wii U, Nintendo knows titles from those platforms will sell regardless of how long they make it available and what price they set it to. Our wallets and spending habits have certainly told them so! We’ve made it perfectly clear that it doesn’t matter where the games go, how they get there or what condition they’re in, so long as we can chuck money at it! Again, “Super Mario 3D All-Stars” sold more than NINE MILLION copies. “Mario Kart 8: Deluxe”, a $60 Switch port of the 2013 original, sold more units within a year than the Wii U version made in its entire lifetime. Both iterations are the best-selling titles on their respective platforms.

Between Switch Online and their Switch ports, Nintendo has a strategy in place to make sure we keep throwing money their way, and it’s all through bundling, a strategy infamous when discussing cable companies and ISPs. And yet, it’s no different here. When a seller bundles items together, it often signifies that they know one item is not going to sell as well on its own when it could prove successful bundled together with something else. This can create the illusion of value and potentially generate better sales data. Will the bundled item be of the same quality as the other? Maybe, maybe not, but at least we can say it sold well and clear inventory! How did “Wii Sports” become one of the best-selling games of all time? Because it was bundled with the Wii to help Nintendo sell people on the concept of the console, a hurdle frequently mentioned by the late Satoru Iwata. Why did the Switch not come bundled with a game? Because Nintendo noticed how much the Switch impressed the public when it was revealed in October 2016. With so much positive buzz, why not squeeze the lemon more and get people to spend more? The mindset of bundling is evident in these ports as well. How do we justify a sixty-dollar price tag for these games from 2013 and beyond? Easy - we just throw in a few extra characters, a couple of extra side missions, include all the DLC from the original release, perhaps throw in a completely different game that only lasts two or three hours.

If Nintendo stayed the course with Virtual Console for some of these releases and kept things the same, there’s a good chance that they wouldn’t be seeing as much profit as they do now. This digital marketplace, as cool as it was at the time, is now an outdated model for the customer and for Nintendo. With Virtual Console, there’s more maintenance to worry about, more data that can harm a product’s image when it isn’t selling as well as others, and less opportunity to extract more money from nostalgic fans. These days, Nintendo can spend the money saved from NOT operating that part of the storefront and use it to bring back older games with some bonus content included. Suppose Nintendo throws in some form of online functionality, and they’re making sixty or eighty bucks off every one of us. And remember, there aren’t just a few hundred thousand of us Switch owners - there are tens of millions of us! And that’s why Nintendo doesn’t need Virtual Console.
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