“SNES Online vs. Virtual Console: Innovation or Disappointment?”

“All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff.”
-Frank Zappa



Ask anyone who has an exceptionally good memory for odd conversations held more than a year ago and they’ll tellyou what I said when we first found out that the Nintendo Switch would not have Virtual Console. I suggested: “Maybe Nintendo is planning to do something different or better than VC?”

As it turns out, “different” is right but “better” remains to be seen. A company that has somehow managed this balancing act through gaming history of innovating and reinventing while at the same time remaining strictly traditional is also a company which is bound to have taken this route at some point. In certain ways, the subscription model Nintendo is utilizing to provide access to retro games for Switch users is not unprecedented. For one, it’s very much like the streaming services which have come to dominate access to film and television at home, services which are multiplying and competing intensely with each other.

I have played all but 5 of these. Can you guess which 5?

With Virtual Console, a consumer was required to pay for each purchase of a digital game. Owning an entire library of digital games on Virtual Console could get expensive, then. And if your console got lost or stolen, there went your digital library. With Switch Online, consumers have to pay a monthly or yearly fee and then gain access to a library of games. It’s cheaper but it also raises the question of what true ownership means. The choice of games can rotate as with movies on Netflix, but I don’t need to shell out $100 to play every NES game on there (games I’ve probably already played at some point or own physically, anyway).

Maybe I’m missing something here but for someone like myself, Switch Online is an affordable alternative to Virtual Console that I’m all for, and the fact that they’ve announced SNES games means they could also announce Game Boy, GameCube, N64… heck even Virtual Boy. That’ll be the day, but to me, this means more than simply creating an online store. It means creating an online archive. Nintendo potentially has a massive attraction of a subscription service in development here.

What do you think? Would you still want Virtual Console or is Switch Online enough?

You’re the consumer. You make the call.


-The Well-Red Mage


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10 replies »

  1. Sincerely, I read many thing about the Online offer of NES and SNES games, and I don’t understand how it is innovative. I cannot urge myself to pay for games that are for the most part unplayable with the Joycon. (Should I say SadCon?)

    Plus we cannot close our eyes and live in a world were we ignore the fact that all those games are emulated in the exact same way on a PC, or way better yet on a Wii.

    Or on a PSP / VITA / 3DS for the portable fans.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Is the reason it isn’t innovative because of the Joy Cons? Because I dislike those controllers too but that’s why I got a Pro Controller, same with the Wii U and same with specialized controllers the Wii, unless you really wanted to play all those retro games with nunchucks.

      I think the affordability of the sub service is the innovation, rather than having to pay again for each individual game you may like to play. Plus, someone may not own a gaming PC or want to illegally emulate, or may not own a PSP, Vita or be comfortable on a 3DS as is my case with my gigantor hands LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      • I feel your pain for the 3ds tiny grip to play. I cannot stand more that half an hour to one hour play on my 3ds. Or Vita… Or PSP. Damnneven the SWITCH give me pain in handheld mode 😎😄

        The joycon don’t help but the lack of innovation come from the fact that nintendo based its service on the Work (?) of all the people that built the emulator in Open Source to make it work in the first place.

        Plus it has been at least 10 years that those games can be played full speed elsewhere. Even the plus mode in some games (like zelda all items playthrough) is just a save state.

        I don’t play with nunchuck on Wii lol. It would be a fiasco. I have a pro controller too. Plus emulator on the Wii are able to Display at 1080p resolution, so you don’t see smudge graphic on a HD TV SET.

        Finally I agree that it can be quite cool for family that don’t like hassle.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m not *generally* a big fan of subscription services because I prefer to own my stuff… but I do think for retro titles it’s actually a good idea, particularly when it’s a company like Nintendo handling it. I’d actually been hoping they’d take this angle on Virtual Console for quite some time before they even announced the Nintendo Switch Online service at all.

    One way you can look at this is that it gives you the opportunity to experiment with games that you might not have picked up otherwise. If you end up actually enjoying something you find on the online subscription services, there’s nothing stopping you trying to hunt down a physical copy to own for yourself, or in some cases a standalone digital version that you can purchase outright.

    Other Nintendo platforms would be great (especially N64; properly upscaled non-fuzzy, non-PAL-crippled N64 stuff would be lovely), but what I’d really like to see is some of the more unusual platforms that hit the old Virtual Console services. It’d be amazing if they were able to license the PC Engine/Turbografx tech for an online library on Switch, for example, and I think I was probably the only person who was excited when Commodore 64 games came to Wii for a glorious but brief period 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I really liked the Virtual Console mainly because it had so many games on it you wouldn’t expect. It even had the Last Ninja for the Commodore 64 at one point. Not to mention the games you would normally have to pay a lot to import at the time.

    With the online service selection, the games have been mostly drip-fed which is kind of annoying to people. Sure you might have spent $5 an NES ROM, but there were like 90 of them by the end. For a lot of us, the Service is just that tiny incentive to pay the $20 for a barebones service. For people like me, we would begrudgingly buy the service every year even without the ROMs. Because we want to race our friends in Mario Kart, Get 89 Splats in a round of Rainmaker in Splatoon 2, or rip heads off in Mortal Kombat 11. If you’re a competitive person buying games on a Switch you pretty much have to pay for it no matter what. I think the physical release of Tetris 99 is going to move a loooooooooooot of subscriptions though. Even people who don’t live to win enjoy Tetris, and so getting the subscription bundled with a game they’ll likely play a ton of (Who doesn’t love Tetris?) means they’ll probably resubscribe.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am more of a virtual console person. I especially loved the Wii’s extensive selection. I always struggle with subscriptions, for I absolutely hate not actually owning the games. Yes, it’s cheaper by far to have the subscription, especially at Nintendo’s awesome, ludicrously low price, but assuming they do something different for their next console, or if you plain decide to not subscribe any more, then you basically spent all that money and now have nothing to show for it, similar to paying rent and leasing a car, two other things I could never bring myself to do.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I think when it comes to video games, we’ve got enough of a back catalogue that…. yeah. Taking a given large number of games and making them playable for one low monthly fee is totally a viable idea.

    There are a few weird issues to hand with this: What about DLC and expansions? User content? if we did this on PC what about mods? consoles meanwhile have the problem of when the console’s lifespan ends: how long until the service shuts down then?

    Still, problems aside I think it’s a business model worth exploring.and with their back catalogue Nintendo’s in a good position to do it Though I WOULD ideal still like the ability to purchase games in case I want them in a more permanent capacity.for whatever reason.

    Coincidentally, I am aware of Gametap on PC and how it ultimately failed, though I think we’re in a better position to make something like this work, what with the rise of online content streaming.

    Liked by 2 people

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