SEGA had their annual FES event recently, with multiple announcements regarding their back catalogue of games; not only is a Mega Drive Mini coming, but also games such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star and Alex Kidd in Miracle World will be coming to the Nintendo Switch via the eShop. This will be called the SEGA Ages series, and will be over 15 in number – there will also be new, as of yet unspecified, features included. The question that raises is, well, wouldn’t they normally be part of a Virtual Console service? Does this hint towards such a service never coming, at least in the way we know it, to Switch? In Tanuki Talk this week, Ashley Harrison and I discuss!
William Robinson: So, Ash, whilst we wait for me to finish Super Mario Odyssey – I’ve finally started it! – we have perhaps a more pressing issue to talk about; the state of Virtual Console on Nintendo Switch, or rather, the lack of it. First, I’d like to turn your attention to SEGA releasing Sonic the Hedgehog and more classic games on Switch later this year. Combine this with the NEO GEO and Arcade Archive games that come to the eShop every week, and it’s starting to look like the whole Virtual Console idea is being bypassed. Should we be worried? Even Nintendo released the arcade Mario Bros.…
Ashley Harrison: EVERYONE STOP RIGHT NOW. WILL HAS STARTED MARIO ODYSSEY FINALLY. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Now that that’s out the way, let’s get on with this properly. Whilst you ask if we should be worried, I say don’t panic in the slightest. Whilst these games aren’t explicbly labelled as “Virtual Console” games, isn’t that exactly what they are at their base?
WR: The unifying nature of the VC was fantastic, though; it meant that not only did it stop the store becoming an unorganised meas of new and old games, but also meant the games were forced to have reasonable and comparable prices; with releases like those that SEGA is doing, I can see them raising the cost. It isn’t just them; Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2 are coming, for example.
AH: I think it’s too early to get into any sort of panic myself. We don’t know how much these are going to cost, but looking at the cost of the Nintendo released games such as Super Mario Bros., it’s £4.49 on 3DS which, correct me if I’m wrong here, isn’t too much more than previous Virtual Console releases of it, right? [on Wii U it’s actually less, at £3.49 – William].
WR: No, but I think the concern is more about the future. Is it that SEGA, Capcom and co. have grown tired of waiting to make money from their back catalogue, and they have reason to believe VC isnt happening? Even if Nintendo does have the free games that come with a subscription to their online service – more on that in a sec – maybe third-parties think that may exclude them?
AH: Possibly, but I think at the same time there’s a strategy in play by Nintendo here. They’ve said before that there’s no streaming services available because they want to make the Switch a games machine first and foremost, which could also be the reason for a lack of Virtual Console. It’s only a year into the Switch’s lifespan, and they’ve obviously been focusing on making sure the system sells with heavy hitters such as Super Mario Odyssey, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe having been released already. Now that the system has a respectable install base (it’s sold more units in its first year than the Wii U did in its whole lifespan) I think we will start to see Virtual Console, streaming services, an internet browser, and things of the like releasing soon.
WR: Yeah, that’s true. Netflix isn’t even on it, which is amazing to me, but it would perhaps hurt the pure gaming image the system has. It’s not like there isn’t a million other ways to watch Netflix at any time. The strategy has worked for the Switch so far. The question is, then, how and when we see VC. September is the rollout of Nintendo Switch Online (official site here), where for $3.99 a month, $7.99 every 3 months, or $19.99 a year, you will get – amongst online play and the like – “ongoing access to a library of classic games with added online play, such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight and Dr. Mario.” It is currently under the name of “Classic Game Selection*” though that is “*Name subject to change.” Right off the bat, what does this make you think it will be?
AH: Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight, and Dr. Mario? That’s pretty much classic “Virtual Console beginning” games right there. I swear Balloon Fight and Dr. Mario were 2 of the first games available on both the 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console games available.
WR: Yeah, it’s basic building blocks of VC. The key word may be “ongoing”; there is lots of hope/speculation of this being a Netflix for classic games. I almost think that idea is too good to be true…
AH: I just hope that they’re not only available through the online subscription, and are available to buy normally through the eShop as well.
WR: Surely they wouldn’t only keep them behind a paywall? Maybe the online functionality being added – which for the likes of Dr. Mario is awesome, imagine if Pokémon Red/Blue got online – is what is locked behind the paywall?
AH: Possibly. We already have both the first 2 generations of Pokémon with online added on 3DS, so I don’t think that it’d be locked behind the paywall myself.
WR: Going back to the streaming ideas, though, do you think that’s what we’ll get? Xbox Games Pass but for Virtual Console?
AH: I’m not sure. I can see there being a Games Pass-style service, but I’m not sure given it being Nintendo and that doesn’t seem a Nintendo thing to do.
WR: If not that, what else could it be? Whilst I do think we will see the back catalogue of Nintendo on Switch – they wouldnt pass the opportunity to sell those games to us AGAIN – I don’t think it will be in the same way we saw before. Otherwise we would’ve heard something by now.
AH: We might even be discussing this a month and a half early though. Could be asking where Virtual Console is now, then it’s revealed at E3 in June. I think Virtual Console will be the same as it always has, and buy the games as you want from the eShop.
WR: That just doesn’t work for me though, as it’s a key point of their online service sales pitch. E3 needs to be the rollout of Online, and I agree that we will get more info there.
AH: It might not work for you, but I think it’s the one that works best for everyone as a whole. I don’t want to have to pay money to “rent” a game, I’d much rather just pay for the game outright, especially since I never use online services for games.
WR: I don’t mean works for me personally; I’m trying to say that it doesnt work marketing wise. Why would people download a service which grants access to these games if we are also getting standard Virtual Console? Online Balloon Fight?
AH: To have access to the online features in every game, let alone just the few that come with the online service that we know of. To me it makes no sense to limit Virtual Console to a side product of the online service.
WR: I’d be interested to see the reaction to that. It’s quite telling to me that the online service is around half the price of those offered by Sony and Microsoft, as Nintendo knows it lacks a certain something in that department. We can count on classic games turning up in one way or another, though. Would you actively delve into a Virtual Console service on Switch? Portability would tempt me to buy certain games again, I have to say.
AH: If it’s the same games we’ve seen on every other system we’ve had a Virtual Console on, I doubt I’ll delve too deep into it. However, the one sure-fire way to make me get into it as deep as possible is to add more N64 games, and to finally add Gamecube games.
WR: Were you pretty active on older Virtual Consoles? I tend to buy a fair few games through it and not finish many… it did get me to play through the original NES The Legend of Zelda, though. Tough game.
AH: I spent a fair amount on the 3DS Virtual Console games, but never on Wii, and not so much on Wii U. The Ambassador system was the perfect way to get me hooked on the idea of a Virtual Console.
WR: Oh, the Ambassador program! One of the greatest ever apologies in the history of our species. If we’re going to see more online functionality meeting classic games, which could be best suited? Maybe some Mario Kart, or maybe even Smash Bros.? Get Melee on there, Nintendo.
AH: 2 words. DOUBLE. DASH.
WR: I said classic games, Ash.
AH: Double Dash is the greatest Mario Kart game of all time. Fight me.
WR: DS is my personal favourite, but I think we’re snaking way off course here (I won’t apologise for that wording). I’m going to attempt to get us back on track (they keep coming). What’s our conclusion, then? We think that at E3, we’ll see a Virtual Console announcement, and learn that a premium element of the service will be locked behind the Nintendo Switch Online paywall?
AH: I think we’ll see it at E3 for sure, no matter what form it takes. Whether that is a “traditional” Virtual Console, or one that’s locked behind the online paywall I’m still not sure, but I hope it’s the former.
WR: My feeling is that even Nintendo isn’t fully sure what they’re doing with it yet. To bring this conversation full circle, how do you think these other retro games are going to factor in? Are we going to get the SEGA Ages version of Sonic the Hedgehog, and a VC version? That’d be weird, but y’know, SEGA has done weirder.
AH: I wouldn’t be all that surprised. I just hope SEGA Ages games sell well (I’ll be picking up Sonic and Alex Kidd for sure) so that we get Dreamcast games as SEGA have promised. Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 on Switch, make it happen SEGA.
WR: Double Dash and Sonic. Your priorities are all wrong.
AH: Double Dash and both Sonic Adventure games are incredible, get outta here.
WR: To be honest, the Switch is hardly lacking in eShop releases at the moment. I’m OK with Nintendo taking their time! Are you going to be day 1 on the online service?
AH: Nah. I haven’t even been online with my Switch once yet, and it’s not gonna change to be completely honest with you.
WR: Ooof, well, they have some work to do at E3. We’ll see if they can impress you there. I’m off to try and finish Odyssey, for our super-prompt review.
AH: Definitely super prompt and not at all delayed by about 2 months.
WR: More like 6…
AH: Or that.
E3 could be very interesting in terms of the mysterious Nintendo Switch Online; surely we will find out more concrete details there, with the September launch of the service coming not long afterwards.
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