Switch's Netflix-Like Classic Game Service Is A Rare Example Of Nintendo Listening

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The noun “Nintendo” can also be used as an adjective. When a company makes players download a separate smartphone app for voice chat? That’s Nintendo. Friend codes? Very Nintendo. Not making Metroid Prime 4? SO NINTENDO. But last night, the company behind Switch made a move that was resoundingly un-Nintendo: it actually listened to fans.

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In January, when first detailing how the Switch’s online services will work, Nintendo said it would give out a free classic NES or SNES game every month that would have online play added. When pressed for details, the company explained that each of those games would in fact only remain free for a month. If anyone wanted to keep playing a game after that, Nintendo said, they’d have to buy it.

Fans were frustrated by what they saw as yet another oh-so-Nintendo move. As Kotaku commenter Nicholas Payne wrote: “Yeah, I’ve gotta hope that ‘for a month’ thing is just Nintendo being characteristically bad at explaining things, because if the best they can offer is putting up a single 20-30 year old game a month to try and then give back... yeesh.” Others wrote editorials begging Nintendo to change course. The reactions were unanimously negative.

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Then, Nintendo did something unusual: it listened. Last night’s messaging was typically Nintendo, requiring a Kotaku request for clarification to find out exactly what was happening, but the news was widely cheered. Not only will the Switch’s online service be significantly cheaper than its competitors, at $20/year, it will give subscribers access to a library of classic games, still enhanced with online play. No more monthly releases. You won’t have to worry about time running out. As long as you maintain your subscription, you can play as much as you’d like.

Many questions remain, of course. We don’t know how many games will be available, or how often they’ll be added (or taken away). We don’t know what platforms this service will include—Nintendo says that “at launch the classic game library will include NES games. Super NES games continue to be under consideration, but we have nothing further to announce at this time.” Right now Nintendo has named only three games—Super Mario Bros. 3, Dr. Mario, and Balloon Fight—and it’s safe to assume, based on the company’s history of classic game support, that progress will move slowly.

We also don’t know how the Virtual Console fits into this. Will the Switch’s classic games subscription service function as a companion to buy-once, play-forever classic games, or as a replacement? The usually-reliable sleuths at Eurogamer reported last year that the Switch’s Virtual Console would have GameCube games—if that’s true, how will that fit into all this? In an ideal world, the Virtual Console would have a robust library of purchasable games to supplement this Netflix-like model. Will that happen? Will Nintendo finally realize, after getting caught off guard by the NES Classic’s popularity, that throngs of its fans love old games?

Answers will arrive soon enough. For now, it’s worth taking a second to zoom out and marvel at what happened over the past five months. Nintendo announced a policy, realized that people wouldn’t like it, and swiftly changed course. Could anything be less Nintendo?

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DISCUSSION

kaiiboraka
kaiiboraka

I certainly won’t be the first one to underestimate the power of Nostalgia, but honestly, by this point... after the Wii, 3DS, AND Wii U’s Virtual Consoles, not to mention the NES Classic (which, admittedly, is relatively rare), just how many people want to play these NES games anymore??

I mean, Super Mario Bros. 3, Dr. Mario, and Balloon Fight... Mario 3's great and all, but I just... cannot, for the life of me, enjoy NES games anymore. Not even a little bit. To me they feel so annoyingly dated and archaic and aren’t really all that easy on the ears or eyes, with a few First Party exceptions. I know people who will buy yet another release of the MegaMan Legacy Collection, but I still find myself asking why.

I don’t know if it really was just the era I was born in compared to gamers 5 or even 10+ years my elder, but imho there is no legitimate reason I can fathom to prioritize NES games over SNES games. SNES just feels superior in every possible way. Why would I play SMB1-3 when I can play Super Mario World? Why would I play Final Fantasy 1 when I can play 4 or 6? MegaMan vs MegaMan X? Or how about METROID vs SUPER METROID?! Like that one’s not even close!

Come on, Nintendo! For as self-aware as you seem to be, sometimes you seem like you’re stuck waaayyy too far up your own nostalgia-filled ass to see that NES games just. plain. suck.

Ninty pls.

You’ve got one last Virtual Console chance with me, Nintendo. The Switch is make it or break it for me. Show me what you got. It’s time to unload the SNES and N64 libraries. (For that matter, libraries from handhelds beyond the GameBoy Color would be greatly appreciated too, but don’t let me get ahead of myself. Baby steps. :P)

Not that you care, N, but I swear on my grandma’s grave if you mess this one up I will emulate downloaded ROMs for the rest of my life and never buy another VC game again. XP