With Nintendo offering a selection of 20 downloadable NES games as part of its newly announced Nintendo Switch Online service starting in September, many have been wondering if the company is planning to revive its Virtual Console selection of emulated classic game downloads for the Switch as well. The answer to that question seems to be no, as Nintendo told Kotaku that “there are currently no plans to bring classic games together under the Virtual Console banner as has been done on other Nintendo systems.”
That doesn’t mean individual downloads for games from older consoles will be completely absent from the Switch, of course. Nintendo already offers up arcade games like Punch-Out!! and Vs. Super Mario Bros. as part of the Switch’s Arcade Archives series. Hamster has similarly released ports of a variety of Neo Geo classics on the system, and Sega has plans to do the same for many of its older titles.
But the announcement seems to cut off the possibility of the same kind of unified, system-level, one-stop clearinghouse for hundreds of emulated titles that became available on the Wii in 2006 and later moved to the Wii U and 3DS under the Virtual Console name. It also seems to cut off the faint possibility that players might be able to carry forward Virtual Console purchases on previous Nintendo consoles to the Switch in the future.
In its statement to Kotaku, Nintendo instead highlighted individual and compilation eShop release of classic games on the Switch, and the coming availability of classic NES titles via “Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online” (yes, that’s the official name for the classic game download service included in the Switch’s online subscription).
Nintendo has promised that new titles will be “added regularly” to the initial selection of 20 NES games in that subscription, which also adds online play and virtual “controller sharing” with online spectators to the original titles. Nintendo previously said emulated Super NES games would also be available through the subscription, but as of last June, those titles simply “continue to be under consideration.”
The death of the Virtual Console brand comes after the runaway success of the Classic Edition line of miniature plug-and-play Nintendo consoles. While those two facts aren’t necessarily directly linked, it’s easy to imagine Nintendo viewing one-off hardware bundles as a more lucrative use of its older IP than nickle-and-dime individual downloads.
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