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Nintendo Has No Idea What To Do With Its Heritage

I recently reviewed NES Remix and came away with the impression that Nintendo really should be packing it in with every new Wii U, in order to really leverage their heritage and get people buying more Virtual Console games. However, I think Nintendo have got their retro game strategy entirely wrong and, instead of seeing it as a little treat for nostalgic fans and something to prop up the weekly eShop releases, it should be seen as the backbone of their entire business.

Nintendo have easily the richest and largest back catalogue of games of anyone in the industry, but has treated the old games very strangely. They re-released NES games as standalone Gameboy Advance retail releases, but also gave them away for free in the original Animal Crossing, which says a lot for the theory that Nintendo really has no idea what to do with its heritage.

Upon the release of the Wii Shop and Virtual Console, Nintendo saw the opportunity of selling the games online, a good if obvious decision. The problem was, they put no effort into updating the games at all, overcharged massively and then, worst of all, had the slowest drip feed release schedule that could be possibly imagined.

3 years after the launch of the 3DS, you still can't download this outside Japan

3 years after the launch of the 3DS, you still can’t download this outside Japan

This horrendous and bizarre choice of drip feeding the games may have been to create excitement each week, and to plug gaps in the Wii’s release schedule, but it only actually had the effect of turning gamers away. When you know Nintendo have a host of classics ready to upload, but then ping a lone Turbografx game onto the store, it does become rather difficult to keep waiting.

Nothing has changed in this regard for either Wii U or 3DS, with Nintendo actually repeating history this week. Just like with the GBA re-releseas and free Animal Crossing NES games, Nintendo released NES Mario Bros for the princely sum of £4.49 while also allowing players of Super Mario 3D World get a version of it for free. Just insane, on every level.

“Hey, lets massively overcharge for this game, alienating potential players and reducing the sales enormously, while also giving it away for free, watering down its value!!”

Nintendo should be maximising the potential of these games, and here are a few ideas they can use for free.

1. Bundle 10 Virtual Console games with every 3DS and Wii U. Having the ability to plaster ’10 free classic games included!’ on every box might sell one or two(million) more Wii U’s. While we are at it Nintendoland and Wii Sports Club should also be pre-installed. Seriously, this isn’t rocket science, Ninty.

2. Release the entire first party back catalog at once. That is, every game published by Nintendo on NES, arcade, SNES, Gameboy, N64 and GBA. Do this now, right now. Done that? Ok, we move on to the next step.

3. Charge a subscription for all the classic first party Nintendo games. Ten dollars a month sounds about right for access to several hundred brilliant games on Wii U and 3DS, growing to thousands once you start to:

4. Keep the subscription fresh by adding certain second and third-party games to it every week, with new platforms added every now and then. Third-party publishers could choose to have some games in the sub package and others available to buy separately.

Plenty of chunky plastic goodness

Plenty of chunky plastic goodness

5. Start to update some of these games with leaderboards, Miiverse functionality, HD graphics and online play. One small team, working on a couple of games at a time. You could call them ‘Star Versions’ and charge extra for them. We won’t mind. You could even use Miiverse to let users decide which games they want you to update.

These are not revolutionary ideas. Sony has proven that gamers will pay a subscription for games on a console and they have nothing like Nintendo’s heritage to play with. The games have a tiny footprint in terms of file size and the subscription model is a great way to entice people emulating these games for free elsewhere into paying a fair price. A lot of music lovers are happy to pay companies like Spotify instead of stealing music, and I am sure many gamers share that sentiment: a small fee every month to get unlimited access to the content they love.

Even if Nintendo don’t want to go down the subscription route, they should still have all the games available instead of the pointless weekly releases that no-one cares about, bundle some classic games with every new console and reduce those laughable prices.

In short, Nintendo need to be something they have hardly ever been: generous.

Take a look at another retro article: Did the videogame industry die with Sega?

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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.

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  1. You made some great points. I often feel like Nintendo lost sight of who they are and their core audience. It is a shame, especially when they could do great things with their fans. I think they just saw a quick growth market in causal gamers, and ran with it. But now they are left back at square one. It will be interesting to see how they will proceed now.

    • They need a change in direction, and learn how to use the great assets they already have

  2. The only issue I have with releasing the entire back catalog at once would be the sheer size / confusion of it all. A little overwhelming for many. I think a curated release schedule (not unlike what they had on the Wii) but with more games would work well and help highlight some gems.

    • Yes, they would have to significantly up the releases every week, I just don’t understand what they hope to achieve with the way they are doing it now.

  3. I don’t see why they don’t release a stand-alone virtual console unit. It wouldn’t be that expensive to make, I think it would sell well for those who want to buy retro games but not worry about purchases transferring between consoles. I could care less about the Wii, except to get my hands on those classics.

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