Experts project Nintendo will sell 40 Million units by the end of 2020. This would make it worse than the Wii in sales, but well ahead of the Wii U, which only sold 13 million units. Gamestop’s director of merchandising Eric Bright has even said, “[The Nintendo Switch] could eclipse the Wii.” after examining the system’s first couple of weeks on the market.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Many films, games, and products have been successful primarily because they successfully tapped into people’s feelings of nostalgia. Just last year Nintendo did this with the release of the $60 Nintendo Classic Mini, this was so popular it is still hard to find at market value. The Virtual Console has the power to tap into people’s feelings of nostalgia the same way for the Nintendo Switch. At this point, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t feature a Virtual Console, but Nintendo executives have all but garunted one is coming. A quality virtual console with the promise to play classic games on the go will make the Nintendo Switch a must have for some people.
Tapping into Nostalgia
Nintendo under-produced the Nintendo Classic Mini; they claim the reason the didn’t anticipate such a high demand was they only thought gamers and ex-gamers that played the NES growing up would want the system, as opposed to every Nintendo fan wanting the system. The executives claim they have learned their lesson and will not underestimate demand again, especially not for nostalgia. While the Switch’s launch makes that claim a little suspicious, perhaps Nintendo has learned their lesson regarding nostalgia. Which begs the question, which games lend themselves to virtual console? Releasing first party games on Virtual console comes at nearly no cost for Nintendo. So quantity is Nintendo’s greatest ally in making the Virtual Console attractive. Nintendo shouldn’t just put their entire library online at once, but should gradually add games weekly to feed the nostalgia of the hungriest of fans.
Since before we knew the name of the Switch, there have been rumors that the system would support GameCube games on a Virtual console. That could be huge for the Nintendo Switch. The GameCube currently sits in a unique position. It is barely old enough that many of the gamers in Nintendo’s target Switch demographic fondly remember it as the system of their youth, yet it is new enough that the games are graphically appealing and have enough content to nearly hold up as games under today’s gaming standards. This combination of circumstances makes its games perfect for the Switch. If Nintendo puts its games on the Virtual Console, there will be people that buy the Switch so they can play games like Super Mario Sunshine, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, and Luigi’s Mansion on the go. That would be especially true if Nintendo took the time to give these games a shiny new HD coat and finish. One barrier is the lack of a GameCube control for the system, but that’s an easy fix with the unique design of they Joy-Cons, but that is a discussion for another article.
As a part of Nintendo’s online service, which we will discuss at length in a future entry to this series, the company has promised monthly trials of classic games on the virtual console with online capability. This could be a game changer for how virtual console gaming works, as long as the service is not exclusive to the games the online service already features. A good skill level pairing system to this online play is also critical since being consistently outclassed is not fun. Those challenges aside, online play for classic games has a high upside for games that Nintendo designed for friends to play together.
Role of Remastered Re-releases
Nintendo loves slapping a new coat of paint on a game and re-releasing them on a newer console. Zelda is notorious for this and has re-released four of its most popular titles on either the Wii U or Nintendo 3DS in recent years. Though fans love these re-releases, they are often a little off-put by their cost to new content ratio. These re-releases of remastered games are welcome, but Nintendo needs to respect the fans by pricing them reasonably. One of the ways to do this is to release these titles on Virtual Console where there is no production cost for putting the game onto a cartridge. This compromise allows Nintendo to make roughly the same amount of money on these titles while saving their consumer money as well.
When is Too Late?
As mentioned above the Virtual Console is still non-existent on the Nintendo Switch. This isn’t ideal, but the Switch’s current sales indicate that it isn’t really a problem either. Nintendo needs to get the Virtual Console online before they begin charging for their online service, which is intended to launch September of this year (2017). If the service starts before the Virtual Console goes live, Nintendo will turn off potential buyers with that monthly fee that doesn’t include all of the promised content. Nintendo has promised that digital purchases will link with an account, as opposed to a system as has been the case in the past with Nintendo. This pledge further places emphasis on the importance of the Virtual Console for the Switch, as it ensures to consumers that the games they purchase will always be theirs. It also solves the issue of backward compatibility for future consoles, but that is neither here nor there.
Nostalgic fans want to play the games they love, and they are going to do it. If Nintendo doesn’t provide a nice way for them to do this, they will do it illegally on their phones and personal computers. But, if Nintendo makes these games playable on TV and on-the-go, consumers will want to play them on the Switch. Fans will want to show off their old school skills on a device that lets you play the games in their intended fashion, not just with a touch screen or a keyboard. The virtual console could be another way for Nintendo to show people that the Switch isn’t just for gamers but for anyone who has ever loved games.