When Nintendo announced it was moving to a paid online service similar to Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus, it was met with a lot of skepticism. After all, the company had a reputation of being behind the times when it came to online play as the company either skipped it entirely or poorly implemented it. However, one of their major selling points was that players would get a library of classic titles for free starting with Nintendo Entertainment System titles. But old games are not enough and this month proved that with its meager offering of just two retro titles.
Nintendo Switch Online wound up launching in September 2018 with 20 different games ranging from the original Super Mario Bros. to third-party hits like Tecmo Bowl and Ghosts ‘n Goblins. It was a great start and the momentum was kept up by releasing at least three games per month in addition to special versions of already released titles that granted players bonuses. Fast-forward to almost a year later and Nintendo is down to just two games a year and skimming the bottom of the barrel with games like Donkey Kong 3 (which is nobody’s favorite DK game) and Wrecking Crew, which was rightfully maligned by gamers online when the announcement was made.
There are still a few high-profile NES games that could make for a meaningful addition, especially if Nintendo is willing to translate some Japanese-only games, but these would come at a cost, be it requiring the company working with more third-party publishers or working on new translations of already released titles. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to do that as it’s more effective to just toss out Wrecking Crew and do their best to ignore the complaints.
However, there is a better solution that wouldn’t force Nintendo to make any difficult deals and would give players what they want, which is more of Nintendo’s top-notch games from the past. It’s simply time for Nintendo to expand its virtual console offerings on Nintendo Switch to more than just the NES. No video game company has a library of classic titles quite as vast as the Japanese console maker and making this service more all-encompassing could create a true selling point that could lead to an additional premium subscription service in the future similar to PlayStation Now or Xbox Game Pass.
Nintendo Switch Online could become the ultimate virtual console
Nintendo was able to get away with selling its classic NES titles for $5 a pop on the Wii. That won’t fly in 2019, especially when game subscription services are offering hundreds of more advanced and recent games for around $10 a month. That’s not to say that a digital retro archive isn’t appealing, but it just needs to offer up a comparable value in the future. Nintendo can do just that if it goes further into its library as the Nintendo Switch is powerful enough to emulate its console and handheld titles up to the GameCube.
However, adding all of these titles will take time and Nintendo needs to build up more trust with consumers. That’s why the optimal solution is to slowly expand its current library of Nintendo Switch Online titles beyond just NES games. By dipping into its back catalog, it can give players several Game Boy titles or SNES games a month. Players would be much more psyched to be able to play Pokemon Red or Blue on the go again compared to Donkey Kong 3. These are actual reasons to subscribe to Nintendo’s service rather than just an additional perk that you get when you want to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with your buddies.
Of course, eventually it would go beyond the oldest titles and into more premium offerings. Game Boy Advance titles and N64 titles still have plenty of value, a lot more than their older counterparts. These could be the cornerstone of a Virtual Console subscription service, one that would offer players a collection of their best titles from the past for a small fee per month. Even if Nintendo doesn’t believe that subscription services are the way of the future, this is a good way to test the market and get its userbase accustomed to paying a fee every month.
A Switch Virtual Console would please new and old fans
While the NES catalog and less beloved titles would be great additions to the monthly titles that come with Nintendo Switch Online, games like Super Mario 64 and Star Fox 2 would drive players to subscribe. Nintendo has a number of rare titles and games that were never translated, and this would be the perfect way to unveil them. Imagine Mother 3 finally coming out as the gem of the Game Boy Advance library and driving fans to subscribe for a month. Even if most cancel after just a month, Nintendo is still recouping the translation fees, and most of their die-hard fans will dive at the opportunity to keep so many great games on their system at all times.
This wouldn’t just be great for gamers looking for a bit of nostalgia, but also newer fans looking to experience where characters came from, especially given how far back some of the characters in Ultimate‘s extensive roster go. Nintendo has kept characters like Mario, Kirby and Link relevant for well over 20 years, so newer players would still be interested in checking out their previous adventures.
Plus, with the special versions that have already been released, Nintendo has already shown that it has no issue with altering versions of classics in order to make them more playable and enjoyable to a modern audience. Nintendo would be creating more attachment to their current best-selling titles and giving players a great value at the same time. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved.
Nintendo clearly has a lot of work to do when it comes to Nintendo Switch Online and what it offers subscribers. The current method of giving them a sub-par service and two NES games a month simply isn’t cutting it. All of this needs to be improved, and it will take time before it can implement bigger plans, but by giving players better classic titles on different systems they can at least quell some of the complaints.