Just Because A Game Is Old Doesn't Mean It Must Be Cheap

Image: VG Museum

I’m nuts for Secret of Mana. That blend of Final Fantasy RPG gameplay with Zelda-style action combat was the game that made me a fan of what we used to call “Squaresoft” back in the day.


Today, all Square Enix has to do is put up a website that auto-plays one of the tunes off the game’s ridiculously good soundtrack, and I pull out my wallet for whatever new entry in the series they’re making this time.

This year, it’s Seiken Densetsu Collection for Switch. The first three games in the Mana series, on Nintendo’s new console? Yeah, I’m in. Of course, the level of excitement I’m seeing on the internet about the announcement is rather muted, thanks to the bare-bones special features and the 4800 yen (about $50) price tag.

I think it’s reasonable to look at that feature list and price tag and come to the conclusion that it’s not a great tradeoff for you. Where I disagree is when people take it one step further and suggest that just because a game is “old,” there should always be a low price ceiling on it. That’s not just a position that consumers invented out of thin air, but one that Nintendo instilled with its Virtual Console program over a decade ago. It’s time to shake that off.

If you want to buy the 1972 film The Godfather on Blu-ray, the only way to do it is to purchase the three-film “Coppola Restoration” collection that includes its excellent sequel and its horrible final entry that you will never watch. This costs from $30 to $40. There’s no sense, in the world of films, that because a film is old that it should cost one-tenth the price of a new film.

But when Nintendo first introduced its Virtual Console service with the Wii in 2006, it took this idea and made it a requirement. If your game was originally released on the NES platform, it could only cost $4.99–no more, no less. If a publisher felt that was exactly what its games were worth, then it all worked out. But if not, then the service was forcing them to sell their games for less than they felt they were worth.

Image: VG Museum
Image: VG Museum

This goes both ways. $4.99 was a price ceiling and a price floor. I think Super Mario Bros. 3 is worth more than five bucks. I also think Urban Champion should be 99 cents.

Square Enix has had an on-again, off-again, non-committal relationship with Virtual Console over the years. It didn’t release Final Fantasy on the Wii’s Virtual Console until mid-2009, nearly three years after Wii’s launch. In America, it didn’t release anything on Wii U besides Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Ogre Battle 64. And on New Nintendo 3DS, where other publishers have released their best Super Nintendo games, it’s only released a couple of B-tier titles, and then only in Japan. We can see that the company isn’t fully on board with the service’s ideals. Everybody understands that Nintendo 3DS would have been a perfect place for Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger.


Fortunately, Virtual Console does not seem to be the only pathway by which publishers can release their legacy Nintendo platform content on Switch. They’re not tied to digital-only releases at a set price. They can release bundles, they can release physical cartridges, and, yes, they can raise the price if they want. That same freedom allows other publishers to lower the price.

Nintendo’s original concept that games must be priced on age and not quality didn’t do very many favors for the reputation of classic games, because it helped establish the idea that the value of a game is purely tied to the year in which it was created. If we want to see something along the lines of a “Coppola Restoration” for classic games, they can’t be forced into a bargain price tier.


If you don’t think the content of the Seiken collection justifies the price, vote with your wallet. But these are three absolutely stellar games that I am happy to see remain in print, and if Square Enix won’t re-release them unless they can charge a premium, well, I’d rather have them for a bit too much money than not have them at all.

Features Editor, Kotaku. Japanese curry aficionado. Author of the books Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life and Final Fantasy V from Boss Fight Books.


Something I don’t see anyone mentioning yet is how perfect the Secret of Mana series is for the Switch’s pick up and play at a friend’s house thing they were going for. It and SD3 were the best couch co-op RPGs of all time.

I’ve always been on the side of “things are worth what people are willing to pay for it” type of guy, when it comes to non-essential goods. It kind of frustrates me greatly how Steam’s extreme bargain hunting has bred a new era of gamers that just look at the price tag. There’s this weird notion that all things indie must be $10 at launch only and also at a 20% discount that never actually expires, or people fucking *rage* on the forums for said game.

I have spent 158 hours with Enter the Gungeon. It is without a doubt my most played individual title of last year. I love it. It’s got great mechanics. The devs are active in quashing bugs. The production values are fucking amazing for a game literally 4 guys made. It’s only $15 bucks. And yet people still flooded the Steam forums when it came out whining about how it’s too much.

I say all this to say I agree with Mr. Kohler. Besides, $50 for 3 games isn’t even that bad a deal, especially ones that have aged this well and one of which we have never got localized before. Here’s to hoping it makes it’s way stateside. This would be the reason I decide to get a Switch, if indeed we get it in the West.