As Nintendo Wii Turns 10, So Too Do Retronauts' Complaints About Virtual Console

As Nintendo Wii Turns 10, So Too Do Retronauts' Complaints About Virtual Console

A decade of lamentations for a potentially brilliant service that never quite lived up to its promise.

My memories of the early days of the Retronauts podcast have become a little fuzzy after 10 years of weekly recordings, but I seem to recall that it was summoned into existence in some part by the incipient arrival of Nintendo's Wii. Or rather, the amazing service built into every Wii: Virtual Console.

The idea of Virtual Console was practically unprecedented back in 2006. Yes, there had been services like GameTap and EGG, but those were PC-based solutions provided by a third party and therefore lacked Virtual Console's sense of... authenticity, I suppose? Here was an online service provided by Nintendo itself, encompassing practically every classic console ever made, treating old games as valid products for which an exchange of resources could be had. It had some flaws, to be sure, but it could have been the start of something amazing! Naturally, we complained about it from the beginning.

In hindsight, our complaints throughout 2007 and 2008 seem naive and a bit churlish. Mostly they involved some game or another not being available for purchase yet, as if Nintendo wasn't eventually going to give us Super Mario World or A Link to the Past. In its early days, Virtual Console encompassed hundreds of games from dozens of publishers! Compare that to now: Dozens of games from a handful of publishers. Clearly, our lamentations came too soon.

This episode arrives not only on the occasion of Wii and Virtual Console's 10th anniversary, but also as Nintendo closes the book on Wii U and 3DS, ending both a line of software continuity stretching back to 2004 and, most likely, Virtual Console as we know it. Now we have the Classic Series mini consoles, beginning with NES Classic Edition, and the giant question mark mystery that is Switch. So in that sense, think of this episode as a bit of a post-mortem on Virtual Console: What was great about it, what went wrong (from our perspective), how it could have been better, and what we hope to see going forward.

Download Links

Libsyn (1:38:15, 71.6 MB) | MP3 Download | SoundCloud

Episode Description

Chris Kohler joins Jeremy and Bob to revisit a topic from the earliest days of Retronauts: Virtual Console. Boy, what a difference 10 years makes! Remember when we were optimistic about that? Also includes some NES Classic Edition spitballing or whatever.

Naturally, we invited Wired's Chris Kohler along for this conversation, since he's been right there in the Virtual Console trenches with me from the start. And because all the world loves a smartass, this episode's music comes from Castlevania: Bloodlines for Genesis, the one classic console Castlevania game that has inexplicably never appeared on any Virtual Console platform. Enjoy!

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