Recently, there was a collective sigh of dismay heard across the world as disappointed Nintendo fans received the news straight from the horse’s mouth that a Nintendo 64 Classic mini console is, in fact, not on the horizon. While Reggie Fils-Aimé, President and COO of Nintendo of America, didn’t completely take the idea of a Nintendo 64 Classic out to pasture, he didn’t inspire any confidence that it would ever happen either. And we know for sure that it’s not something we’ll be getting in the near future.
Why so serious?
So what’s all the fuss? Why are Nintendo fans everywhere so disappointed? The answer is as plain as day. In an era marked by a resurgence of classic games, fans including myself have long hoped to play these games on some form of a modern HDMI-capable machine.
And the scope isn’t just limited to Nintendo 64 by any stretch. Players want GameCube games, Wii games, and more to come along for the ride. I can hear the salty wit from the other side now: Why don’t you just play those actual consoles? Or, why do you even want to play rugged, three-dimensional games that look terrible by today’s standards? Quite frankly, many of us either don’t have those consoles any longer or they’ve bitten the dust. And the validity of great games from these eras never changed. Ocarina of Time will never cease to be hailed as one of the greatest Zelda games of all time.
The Virtual Console is dead and buried. In 2017, Nintendo rolled out the Switch. After much delay, Nintendo presented Switch owners with the online service that we know as Nintendo Switch Online in late 2018. Nintendo Switch Online all but sealed Virtual Console’s fate. We get that. But also Nintendo’s messaging of the new online service remains quite befuddling. Does the company intend for Nintendo Switch Online to eventually be a Virtual Console 2.0? Will Nintendo work as hard at preserving their legacy as they have been churning out new great content for Nintendo Switch?
Building a better archive
With another major player in the industry, Sony, being chided for its failure in the backwards compatibility arena, Nintendo must first recognize that it possesses perhaps the most legendary back catalog of any game maker. Keeping this in mind should enable business decision-makers to take clearer steps to improve the amount and type of classic content available for Switch Online. To develop a better catalogue for legacy games, there are a few items Nintendo can home in on, one of which they’ve begun doing.
1. Port more Wii U games
Continue to bring great games from the Wii U over to the Nintendo Switch. The Switch has already outsold the Wii U from across its entire lifespan. Therefore, Nintendo has rapidly entered territory where many Switch owners have never played, let alone owned, any of the great games on the Wii U. Currently, we have some heavy-hitters like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. But there are still so many more that need the Switch treatment. Super Mario 3D World, Yoshi’s Woolly World, the HD versions of The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, and much more. Nintendo would be crazy to not continue releasing these Wii U games on the Nintendo Switch. I’m sure New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe will perform well commercially.
2. Expand the digital library
Next, Nintendo needs to focus on cultivating its Nintendo Switch Online service. Millions of people own the NES Classic. Anyone interested in that era of games likely purchased it already. Adding NES games to the online service that many already have access to is deeply misguided. The same can likely be said for SNES games as they’ll probably make an eventual debut on the service as well. We want Nintendo 64 games, GameCube games, Wii games, and all the old Game Boy games for good measure. Call it an expansion of Virtual Console if you will. But recently, I’ve become so desperate to play these games that I unpacked my N64 and re-purchased a GameCube on eBay — a purchase that Nintendo would never see a dime of.
3. Talk about the future
Finally, Nintendo needs to really open up about its plans for Nintendo Switch Online’s future. Sure, building an online service takes time, money, and effort. But Nintendo should still be forthright about the long-term plan for the service. If that plan includes bringing games from the consoles I had suggested — games that many folks would love to play again — I’d be more than happy to subscribe now knowing my money was going toward building that future for Nintendo Switch Online. And I’m sure Nintendo could use the money to bolster the service. So, talk to us, Nintendo. Tell us what your long-term goals are. Use words like “Nintendo 64” and “GameCube.” Tell us what we will eventually see on Nintendo Switch Online.
Let’s make Nintendo Switch the shining pinnacle of all things Nintendo. Just imagine if we didn’t have to resort to replacing old broken consoles or scouring eBay for nostalgic games that are expensive. Believe me, I’ve been looking, and Super Mario Sunshine can’t be purchased for much less than $50 USD, which shows the demand is high. Also, imagine if Nintendo put as much energy into building its legacy library on Nintendo Switch as it did shutting down ROM sites. What an even more incredible ecosystem the entire Switch platform would be to just have it all.