Our Dreams for Virtual Console on Nintendo Switch

As well as more grounded speculation about the form it's actually likely to take.

Article by Jeremy Parish, .

Jump to: Page 1 Page 2

Since Nintendo debuted its Wii console back in 2006, we've taken as a given the assumption that the option to play vintage games would come baked into each new piece of hardware.

Wii launched with the original Virtual Console storefront in tow, and both 3DS and Wii U saw their respective Virtual Console services debut within a few months of each system's launch. Nintendo's most recent system — the NES Classic Edition — consisted of nothing but classic games. Therefore, it stands to reason that Switch will also offer some sort of retrogaming functionality as well.

We don't know much about the particulars of the system's vintage hooks, though, despite being a mere five weeks out from its launch. We know that Nintendo will be rolling some classic title access into its paid online service, but in a limited capacity: Each month, the Switch's premium service will allow players to enjoy a select NES or Super NES game, but each title will reportedly no longer be available for "free" premium service play once the month closes out. Compare that to PlayStation Plus free games, which remain in each member's library for as long as their subscription is paid up, and it seems like something of a bum deal.

We also know that Switch will not be backward-compatible with Wii, Wii U, or 3DS, which limits the likelihood that owners of those systems will be able to bring forward their existing Virtual Console purchases and benefit from price breaks the way Wii owners were allowed to do on Wii U. We also know that Nintendo is moving toward an account-focused sales model, which means any VC purchases will be registered to fans' accounts moving forward... but also very likely means that VC purchases will be limited to the account that purchased them on a given machine. Since Switch can support multiple user accounts per machine, this means you probably won't be able to play VC games (and other downloaded titles) unless you're logged in to the purchasing account.

It all sounds terribly less than ideal, right? But let's hold onto an ember of hope — since Nintendo hasn't yet announced its Switch VC plans, there'a always hope they could surprise us in a good way. Presented here in the spirit of impossible optimism, then, is our wish list for Switch Virtual Console.

The all you can eat approach

The ultimate dream, really, would be for Nintendo to comprehensively overhaul its approach to Virtual Console by abandoning its current slow trickle of individual releases in favor of a subscription-based service boasting hundreds (thousands!) of games drawn from 30-plus years of video game history. Nintendo seems to prefer rolling a single new VC release into its weekly release announcements (sometimes two if we've been very good boys and girls). This helps shore up those weekly release press releases on soft weeks, but it makes for a very slow and painful process when you consider the Virtual Console library on its own. And let's be honest: The first time Nintendo gave us Super Metroid or EarthBound after years of anticipation, it was great. The next time it had considerably less impact.

It's pretty safe to say that, at this point, Nintendo has wrung its drip-feed approach dry. And aside from a handful of high-profile titles, it's hard to imagine these games are going to sell well to people who have already bought them a la carte on another system, or two... or three. It's time to abandon that old model and move over to a massive streaming service — maybe a tiered service with different levels of features at different prices, e.g. online multiplayer for Gold subscribers, save states for Silver subscribers, etc. One where Nintendo rounds up licenses for a few hundred games across multiple platforms, gets a sizable library working up-front, then uses subscription profits to continue adding new games to the service.

We've been calling for this approach on Retronauts for years. We even came up with a name for it: NESflix. And it's not like this is a new idea for video games. I did some work for Turner's GameTap more than a decade ago. It can work!

Of course, this service would have its downsides. Sometimes games have been delisted from Virtual Console, generally due to license issues (e.g. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for NES); people who bought those games a la carte can still play them, but they'd become inaccessible if delisted from a streaming service. And Nintendo already intends to charge for its Switch network service, which would make "NESflix" an additional fee on top of that. The upsides, however, more than outweigh the shortcomings. This... is what we need.

We probably won't get it, though!

Peaceful transfer of content

So, at the very least, the absolute minimum Nintendo could do to avoid coming off as egregiously exploitative of its fans would be to allow existing Virtual Console customers to transfer the rights to their games over from Wii or Wii U. After all, Switch is being positioned as a Wii U replacement; it would only seem reasonable to expect we'd be able to transfer some licenses over, the way we could from Wii to Wii U and DSi to 3DS.

No, Switch won't be backward-compatible with Wii U software, but Virtual Console isn't "Wii U software." It's a catch-all term for software designed to reproduce vintage games from a wide variety of platforms. We'd even be OK with a system similar to the one Nintendo implemented for Wii to Wii U transfers, where we had to re-purchase games for a steeply discounted price. Assuming, that is, unlike what happened to NES games in the move from Wii to Wii U, these games don't take a hit to their emulation quality. Which brings us to our next demand...

Jump to: Page 1 Page 2

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 29

  • Avatar for link6616 #1 link6616 A year ago
    Oh man I'm up for some proper botkai
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #2 donkeyintheforest A year ago
    I'm down with multiplayer in all virtual console games (though a server/player browser would be great cause some of those games will likely not have many people playing at once - social app?). I'm even more down with Dreamcast games! The lid on mine wont stay put anymore so it constantly has books on it to be playable haha. Also Neo Geo Pocket Color plz!

    Also, it would just take a super cheap plastic box frame to turn the switch into a ds/wonderswan:

    I'm pretty sad it looks like they're gonna let the 3DS slip by with no Virtual Boy stuff. One of the eyes in mine only works half the time :(
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #3 chaoticBeat A year ago
    I'm a simple person. All I ask for is the Metroid Prime trilogy on the go.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for mappyland #4 mappyland A year ago
    I will stump for the return of C64 VC titles even if I have to stump for them by myself in an empty parking lot! Datasoft's Bruce Lee is the on-the-go two-player killer app that TEENS THESE DAYS don't know they're missing!!!!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for link6616 #5 link6616 A year ago
    @chaoticBeat I feel playing MP3 with motion controls on the go would be difficult. is it left joycon attached and right joycon pointing at the screen?
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for souled4 #6 souled4 A year ago
    When I first got my WiiU I had no idea about the NES emulation problems. I bought/played Super Mario Bros. 3 and wondered "Did this game always look this ugly?" I found out later why it was so. Fix the emulation and I'd consider rebuying, with a discount of course! ;-)
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #7 chaoticBeat A year ago
    @link6616 Good point! I was turned off from 3 because of the motion controls (I know it's a kick ass game though). Couldn't they reverse engineer it for a controller like they did with 1 motion controls for the Wii? I know it's a long shot... :/Edited January 2017 by chaoticBeat
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for GaijinD #8 GaijinD A year ago
    It was my understanding that TurboGrafx-16 had returned on Wii U. At the very least, Nintendo's web site lists Bonk's Adventure as being available as of last June.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for otenko #9 otenko A year ago
    I don't think an IR sensor can work as a UV sensor. Even they could get it working I don't know how many people would enjoy to play at the sun. Besides, the bright screen of Switch wouldn't help. And, finally, fucking Konami maybe wouldn't license it anyway. Why you do this to me, Jeremy?
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for jimgamer #10 jimgamer A year ago
    Great suggestions. But the experience will be ruined if they don't release a joy-con with a real d-pad for retro (i.e. Non- analog control) games. This is essential and more important to me than the price of the games. Even if it's free, I won't play Super Mario World on the Switch with an analog stick. Secondly, and almost as important is they need to look at a proper 3x scaling solution. No reason why a chip as powerful as the X1 can't do this - look at how crisp the M2 3D Sega games are on the 3DS. Such a big opportunity, hopefully won't be missed.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for I-m-not-Daredevil #11 I-m-not-Daredevil A year ago
    Warioware: Twisted! The game I most regret selling (it was mint in box). I would love a Switch VC port to wash away the pain.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for link6616 #12 link6616 A year ago
    @jimgamer The pro controller does have a dpad... But this does suck for the portable side of the equation.

    I wonder if we will see 3rd party joy cons at all? I'd be happy to trade analog for a dpad.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for jimgamer #13 jimgamer A year ago
    @link6616 It does, but I've got so many other ways to play these old games on a tv with a proper d-pad (Wii, WiiU, Retron 5, Shield TV). My 9 yr old PSP 2000 and 7 year old DS Lite have awesome d-pads- why release something new without it?
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #14 LBD_Nytetrayn A year ago
    I agree with the bulk of what's here, if not all of it -- especially bringing back non-Nintendo platforms to the mix.

    One thing I think wasn't mentioned, though: Super Game Boy support.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Tebunker #15 Tebunker A year ago
    It should be, at the least, that we can transfer licenses over to Switch from WiiU.

    All of your digital purchases on WiiU are tracked and attached the Nintendo Network ID, which is currently linked to mynintendo, and I believe the plan was/is to merge that with the Nintendo Account that they had everyone sign up for back when the re-launched Mynintendo.

    The current problem is that the NNID is tied to a specific system, which is the old archaic way, so I guess they need to figure out how to transfer the license to the Nintendo Account and let us d/l these VC games on Switch. I feel like that is the barest of minimums they owe people who have dropped tons.

    Problems with this solution is that it probably wipes out the purchases on any legacy system using the NNID still. Okay good and bad here. They could also want an upgrade fee like they did from wii to wiiu. We shall see.

    TLDR; What we know, they have all of your digital purchases tracked and logged with the NNID, good, They could conceivably transfer that all to switch. Second, most folks made an Nintendo Account when they relaunch Mynintendo and linked it to an NNID, see how freaking confusing it gets? I ultimately believe the NNID is going to be phased out in favor of the Nintendo Account, which will ultimately let us carry purchases forward to the new 'unified' ecosystem. Problem with this is that any system with those games linked to the NNID will lose access to those games (this is my speculation), This will be Nintendo's way of encouraging 3ds and Wiiu owners to move on...
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for DJ-Dynamic1 #16 DJ-Dynamic1 A year ago
    Still trying to figure out why people even care about this. You all have these damn games on your Wii U, Wii, PC, Phone and Tablet. So now u want them on the Swtch too? How about all NEW games to play and new IP's instead of playing the same old stuff. Where are the new experiences, come on guys why must Nintendo waste time on this when they can spend time making new an better games
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for docexe #17 docexe A year ago
    Sigh… Honestly, while I really hope that by this point they finally have a f#$%ing unified account system on the Switch that tracks your digital purchases, given how Nintendo’s entire history with online is “one step forward, two steps backwards” (seriously, their entire scheme for the “free” download classic game they are offering with the subscription just made me face-palm and head-desk in succession!), at this point I’ll just be satisfied by them letting you transfer your digital rights from 3DS/Wii U and giving you a hefty discount if you purchased a Virtual Console game previously on any of those consoles.

    The “NESflix” approach mentioned in the article would really be the win-win option for everyone involved, really (and indeed, something like that has been suggested multiple times already by several game critics and analysts). Unfortunately, given how obstinate they are about “preserving the value” of their back catalog, I doubt Nintendo will ever implement something like that.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for not_themilkybarkid #18 not_themilkybarkid A year ago
    @jimgamer It's so the left joycon can be used as a sideways "Stick and four face buttons" controller.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for PEZPI #19 PEZPI A year ago
    Nintento Switch looks really promising, I only wish it had a better battery life.Edited January 2017 by jeremy.parish
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for jimgamer #20 jimgamer A year ago
    @not_themilkybarkid I know, and that makes sense given the multiplayer strategy of the device, but my point is they have to address the lack of a d-pad in some way (a VC-themed add-on Joy-con) - the legacy hardware/software catalogue is too huge to ignore.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Sandman83 #21 Sandman83 A year ago
    Xenoblade Chronicles X virtual console please.
    And yeah Nesflix would be pretty fun. :)
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for link6616 #22 link6616 A year ago
    @jimgamer unfortunately, while I agree a lack of D pad is a huge sin... I've watched many dear, beloved friends, instantly reach for the analog when playing old platformers.

    I think for many people the dpad is a relic. Sadly you and I are the big niche here, and we are also the people most likely to buy the retro joycon.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for jimgamer #23 jimgamer A year ago
    @link6616 sad but true. I'm glad Sony still sees its value
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for yuberus #24 yuberus A year ago
    I've been saying for years Nintendo should be more aggressive in getting outside platforms for Virtual Console (and vice versa). Atari seems very happy to license out their games for Flashbacks and game collections, so putting them cheaply on Switch VC would be right up their alley. The same is true for Intellivision Productions and whoever it is that owns the Colecovision rights these days (and geez, if it's the Switch maybe their versions of Donkey Kong could make it out). We may be out of luck with Philips for Odyssey2, but lord knows we could do well with those Sega, SNK and NEC platforms too.

    Gimme that Neo Geo Pocket VC!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Patrick-C #25 Patrick-C A year ago
    Deleted January 2017 by Patrick-C
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Patrick-C #26 Patrick-C A year ago
    Deleted January 2017 by Patrick-C
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Patrick-C #27 Patrick-C A year ago
    @jimgamer@link616 I'm hugely discouraged by the lack of a D-pad. Even "But the pro controller has one!" is not especially comforting, because the pro controller's D-pad is in a secondary spot that makes for an awkward reach. Playing a twitchy 2D action game like Mega Man X on it would not feel great.

    It'd be nice if the console would accept generic USB or Bluetooth controllers so you could use the Buffalo or 8bitdo Super Famicom-style pads ... or, for that matter, the Wii Classic Controller ... but, uh, we all know it won't, because Nintendo wants to sell more $80 controllers.Edited January 2017 by Patrick-C
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Thad #28 Thad A year ago
    @Patrick-C I can't even play Mega Man X on a controller with a right stick; holding the Charge button while jumping and dashing cramps my hand something fierce. (I've always assumed that was why the later games in the series added auto-charge.)
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Vanderdulpp #29 Vanderdulpp A year ago
    With or without a proper VC, I'd love to see some NES Classic-style collections to drop on the Switch. Would be a simple way to fill in the gaps in major releases for the first year. Something in the style of Rare Replay or Sonic Gems, with unlockable GB/GBC games? I'd just melt.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for docexe #30 docexe A year ago
    @jimgamer@link6616 Mmmm… You know, while I find using the Control Stick an alien idea in many platformers, I actually tend to use it a lot in many fighting games, at least when it comes to Sony’s consoles. Mostly because, while I find it serviceable for platformers, I think the D-Pad of PlayStation controllers (or more accurately, those four concurrent buttons they pretend are a D-Pad) is on the whole terrible for traditional 2D fighting games. The D-Pad on the Dual Shock 4 is relatively better, but not by much.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for jimgamer #31 jimgamer A year ago
    @docexe fair point, and the PS4 d-pad is a tad wide while the PS1/2/3 dual shock d-pad can be a little stiff for those diagonals/combos. I'm much more of a shoot em-up (Gradius etc) and platformer person and the DS Lite, PSP 2000 and Vita (in that order) are the best portable d-pads for size, movement and placement IMHO. 3DS is passable but too low.
    Sign in to Reply