Recently, the news of impending doom for the 3DS and WiiU eShops has been spreading like wildfire, and as is typical when these events occur, folks are becoming increasingly concerned about losing access to their digitally purchased titles.
I don’t really understand why in 2022, this still needs to be a problem. The easy solution for this would be for Nintendo to offer BOTH a subscription services to their retro catalog, as well as an a-la carte option (also known as the Virtual Console) so you can grab individual titles on a “to own” basis – that is, you will not lose access to purchase them. My frustration with subscription services runs deep, but what ultimately bothers me the most is that it’s a more expensive way to play the games I want to play, and since you’re billed annually, the value of the service values highly on how often and how many of those available titles you play on a yearly basis.
In the past, I would purchase a few eShop Virtual Console games, and then I could play them at my leisure. The issue with the subscription service is that I can no longer do this – I feel like I need to get my money’s worth, because despite paying the $50 if you include the expansion pass, you don’t actually have anything after the year is over, unless you re-up.
Of course, if all you play is subscription titles and multiplayer games, well, you’re in for a great value! No question there – just playing 5-7 games over the course of a year pays for the cost of the subscription. But remember – you need to keep paying this $50 each year or else you lose all your toys.
The Nintendo subscription service has been only $20/year since it’s inception, but if you’ve had it since it existed, you’ve payed somewhere around $80. How many of those games on the service have you played? For $80, you could have nabbed loads of games on the previous Virtual Console service, and you’d never have to worry about losing access to them. Heck, you could have grabbed:
- 3x Nintendo 64 games ($10 each)
- 3x Super Nintendo games ($8 each)
- 2x Game Boy games ($6 each)
- 2x Nintendo games (@ $4 each)
Also remember, these games would be yours, that is – on your device until you wipe the thing clean. My 3DS is a treasure trove of Super Nintendo and Game Boy Color games (the Zelda Oracle games are two that I intentionally grabbed just to have, when they went on sale for $2/each!). Earthbound and Super Metroid, same deal, except I think I paid $5/each.
This is a gripe I’ve had with the industry of subscription services since Netflix started removing staple shows, and the more this goes on, the more we run out of options.
Now, you may be saying – the easy solution here is to go month to month with the membership. If you want to play a game (like in my case, I would LOVE to play Banjo-Kazooie, as I do not have a remake available to play), I can pay for one month, beat it in probably 15-20 hours, and then cancel the service renewal. Easy enough – but if you are in the situation that you play multiplayer games and so you require the membership, you are paying an extremely high amount of money for these games. I’d rather just pay $10 (the cost of N64 games on all previous Virtual Console offerings) and have it, so I don’t “have” to play it to completion in a time window.
For my money, when I have some time freed up to play Banjo-Kazooie, I’m going to get one month of NSO, beat it, and then cancel. I don’t need it for the multiplayer, and I’m not paying $50 to play a single game.
I don’t really understand why the Virtual Console cannot peacefully co-exist alongside the Nintendo Switch Online Service. The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes that Nintendo has figured out that guaranteed subscription income beats a-la carte income every time. And the more I realize this, the more I realize that Nintendo knows how the frustrate the absolute crap out of me.
What gets me the most is that this only serves to devalue their games, in my opinion. Make games rental-only – how does that make them exclusive again? So when your service shuts down, all the licenses are bunk and you can’t get them again? Treating their legacy software like mere add-ons for a online multiplayer service cheapens the properties if you ask me, and an option to outright buy a copy of the title outside of NSO would only serve to to increase the value of their games. “Hey, you enjoyed this game – do you want to purchase it?” sounds more like “upgrading” to a “full ownership” (as much as one can own something digitally in 2022). The ability to do this would remove nothing and improve everything.
I’m not confident the Virtual Console will return, I’m afraid to say. But at this point in the Switch’s life, I’m going to stay positive. They’ve been releasing bundles of their older games, and maybe we’ll get lucky and see some cool remakes a-la Link’s Awakening. I’m sure they’ve got something interesting in the works. No matter how bitter they can make me, they always have something cool lined up. That’s just good ol’ Nintendo!