Speaking to IGN at E3 last week, Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime put it to them that the Switch doesn’t need a Virtual Console because Nintendo Switch Online subscriptions and the catalogue of classic games it will feature would be its successor. As Ron Howard would narrate, “It isn’t.”
“The Virtual Console successor is Nintendo Switch Online, right?” he said. “With the mentality that says we’re going to be offering a slate of games, and it’s a slate that’s going to increase over time. For many of these games, there’s going to be additional online capability provided in those games. That’s the vision we have for how to best bring our legacy content to Nintendo Switch.
“We do [believe people will subscribe], and I say that because what we’ve laid out is a proposition where, yes you get the competitive play accessibility, you also get the cloud save, and you get access to the legacy content. That’s a fantastic proposition for $20 a year. We believe that it’s not going to be any type of issue for us. In fact, it’s going to enable us to continue offering a varied slate of opportunities from an online experience standpoint.”
While having the catalogue of classic games is a great feature and is a retro equivalent to PlayStation Plus’ Instant Game Collection or Games with Gold on Xbox, the important distinction is that you’ll never own these games. That’s part of why PS+ and GwG draw from games that are readily available on their respective stores, because there are millions of players out there that don’t want to subscribe for online play and yet also want to own a wide variety of games.
The other issue comes from breadth, where Nintendo will start with 20 classic NES games and periodically add to that collection. They have offered no details on whether games will cycle out of the service to make space, not to mention whether you’ll have access to a game after it’s been been removed. Further to that, we have no indication of the variety of games that will be offered, what systems will be supported, and so on, but for $20 a year, you can bet that Nintendo will be sticking to older titles instead of dropping half a dozen N64 or rumoured GameCube classics into the mix.
Free games for an online subscription are there as a sweetener to make the unwanted burden of paying for online multiplayer feel less crap. Yes, having online play added to these classic games is nice, but it is no replacement for having dozens of first and third party classics readily available to buy and own. If it’s a “successor” to Virtual Console, then it’s a pretty poor one.