Virtual Console, And The Two Ways Platform Holders Are Maintaining Classic Games



Virtual Console, one of my main hopes for the Nintendo Switch, isn’t coming to the system. Oh classic games are being and will continue to be released for the system, but that wasn’t the point. Virtual Cosnole represented the prospect of something Nintendo seems to have left behind today. Today there seem to be two main ways in which companies are bringing back classic games.

Sure, SNK has been releasing its classics on Switch for a while, Capcom is coming out with anthologies of Street Fighter and Mega Man, Nintendo is finally beginning to lay out details on the classic games it’ll pack into its online service. What has me upset is my digital purchases of classic games on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS are pretty much stuck on those systems. The fact that they’re technically part of the same eShop account that’s attached to my Switch doesn’t mean anything.

If I want The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the PastSuper Mario Bros. 3EarthboundSuper Metroid, or whatever other classic game Nintendo is bringing to the Switch, I’m going to have to buy them again or pay the subscription. Sure online classic games might be nice, but I don’t think I’m going to pay for those games a third or fourth time. My other worry is I don’t think whatever Nintendo does in the future is going to involve the same breadth of games that became available on Virtual Console. Sure the big classic games will arrive, but Virtual Console seemed to cast such a wide net that it even included obscure classics like Uncharted WatersOgre Battle, or Cybernator. I don’t think Nintendo or the publishers of those games are going to go through the trouble of emulating them  again on Switch.

Ever since Virtual Console started, the ultimate dream was to be able to buy a game once and be able to play it on Nintendo’s console and its handheld. The Switch looked like it would finally achieve that dream, being a hybrid console. All Nintendo had to do was bring my Virtual Console purchases to it and I’d be able to instantly switch between TV or portable Super Metroid having already bought it on Nintendo’s online store in 2007. Sony technically already achieved this dream with original PlayStation games on the PS3, PSP, and Vita, but the company continues to flabbergast me by not allowing me to at least play digital PSOne games on the PS4.

iTunes has had this handled for what, well over a decade now? Songs and movies you bought on iTunes in like 2007 or something are playable on your iPhone X or Apple TV 4K. I’m not even talking about PlayStation 3 games or whatever, just emulated NES, SNES, Genesis, or PSOne games.

Nintendo and Sony have increasingly moved towards a business model that really just convinces people to buy all their games more than once. The PS4 has had all these remasters of PS3-era games, and it’s getting to the point where Sony is making a real trend out of taking games from earlier eras and selling (or at least marketing) complete asset-overhauls of them like Shadow of the ColossusCrash Bandicoot, and Spyro (I know last week I did a blog post about games I actually would like to see remastered). People are gladly re-buying all the Wii U’s best games on the Switch. I know making the Switch backwards compatible with the Wii U or 3DS would’ve been an impossibility, but it’s still setting a trend where Nintendo can just re-sell games.

Those re-releases are great, especially if you didn’t own a PS3 or a Wii U, but many of those games exist on the digital services of both generations of consoles. Nintendo can’t do anything to acknowledge your digital purchase of the Wii U version of Mario Kart 8 when you go to buy the Switch version? When Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered Edition comes out it’ll be free if you own the original version on Steam, but $30 if you bought it on PlayStation Network or Xbox Live.

Microsoft meanwhile is applying honestly jaw-dropping updates to games from previous Xbox systems when played on Xbox One X at no additional cost to owners of the old games. Even if it wasn’t for the enhancements, if you bought Ninja Gaiden Black on Xbox Live circa 2005, it’s in your account on Xbox One now.

Outside of that, PC services like Steam and are the only ones I see treating legacy games and purchases the way I’d like. Steam has simply remained a single contiguous platform for over a decade. GOG is explicitly designed to let you buy and keep classic PC games without any restrictions to a service.

Now imagine a service like any of the three aforementioned ones, but with games like Mario 3Super MetroidSuper Mario Kart, Chrono TriggerContra, or Ogre Battle. Imagine having the ultimate way of creating a long-term collection of some of the most beloved console games. Right now the only way we can really get that is through emulation on PC and hacked consoles.


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