After months of silence, Nintendo has finally confirmed that Virtual Console — a service that offers a variety of classic games from previous console generations — will not be coming to Switch. But that doesn’t mean Nintendo plans to stop offering classic games digitally. Instead, for now, Nintendo plans to launch its new online service with a series of 20 classic NES games, with new games added regularly. As a Nintendo representative told IGN, “There are a variety of ways in which classic games from Nintendo and other publishers are made available on Nintendo Switch, such as through Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo eShop or as packaged collections.”
Virtual Console is still available on 3DS, Wii, and Wii U — although the service is set to be shut down on the Wii some time next year when the Wii Shop Channel shuts down forever. Countless people have expressed their desire to transfer previously purchased Virtual Console games over to their Switch, which is why Nintendo’s choice to suspend support for Virtual Console is no doubt a massive blow to fans everywhere. That said, let’s take a closer look at what Nintendo Switch Online could mean for the future of Virtual Console.
Though the Virtual Console “banner” is not set to come to Switch, that doesn’t mean some form of it won’t be available in the future. Nintendo could very easily be rebranding the service in which we purchase classic games individually.
Nintendo’s careful wording in responding to questions about the Virtual Console’s lack of presence on the Switch alludes to a bit of that — the company isn’t shying away from unloading titles from its massive library of classic games onto Switch, not in the slightest bit. As mentioned, Nintendo Switch Online will launch with 20 classic games, with plans for new games added regularly. Launch titles include:
Super Mario Bros.
The Legend of Zelda
Super Mario Bros. 3
The idea that Switch owners will finally be able to play classic titles like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. 3 with brand-new online functionality is exciting, but what about SNES and N64 games that have been available on Wii’s Virtual Console for over a decade? And what about Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles, which could utilize the Switch’s inherent portability? It’s also worth noting that 9 out of the 10 (Dr. Mario being the exception) of those launch games were available for purchase on Wii’s Virtual Console within its first year back in 2006 and 2007.
Although we may not be getting Virtual Console on Switch, Nintendo clearly still has big plans for its massive library of classic titles. And if the release of the NES and SNES Classic Edition mini consoles have shown us anything, it’s that Nintendo has a clear understanding of the markets desire to revisit its vast library of retro titles. This indicates that a Nintendo 64 Classic very well may be on its way.
Rumors of a Nintendo 64 Classic have been surfacing ever since the release of the SNES Classic late last year, but now with Virtual Console slowly fading out of the picture, it seems as though we may its release after all. Although it may not fully fill the void of a world without Virtual Console, it’s surely a step in the right direction. Finally, the SNES Classic was revealed shortly after E3 last year, so we might not have to wait too much longer to hear about an N64 version.
Nintendo has also stated that each NES game will include some form of online functionality as part of Nintendo Switch Online. This includes both cooperative and competitive online play, or simply taking turns controlling the game by virtually passing the controller. Although details still remain scarce, it sounds like users will be able to spectate a friend who’s playing a single player game after “passing the controller.”
Nintendo claims that, “Every classic NES game will support voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. It will also be possible to play these games offline.” Whether this will apply to future platform releases is still unknown, but if it proves to be successful with NES games, there’s no reason why Nintendo wouldn’t enable these same features for future platforms.
The steady flow of Neo Geo arcade ports, Nintendo’s own remasters, and SEGA’s upcoming lineup of classics (including Saturn and Dreamcast games) are a clear indication that Nintendo still cares about retro games on Switch. It wouldn’t be too big of a surprise if the company offered NES, SNES, and GBA titles as part of their standard online subscription service, while N64 and Gamecube titles were sold separately at their own individual price points.
We’re still wondering how Nintendo plans to add games from other classic platforms to this service at only $20 a year without significantly lowering the values of each of its classic IP’s. You can imagine how the addition of N64, Gamecube, and Wii titles to the service at such a low price point would be tough for a company that defends their IP values as much as Nintendo. So selling titles from these platforms at individual price points would make a lot of sense moving forward.
So there you have it. A lot of our questions answered, and a lot more questions posed. Nintendo may release more information about its new online service during E3, or possibly just before launch in September later this year. Either way, fans still have a lot to look forward to with the release of Nintendo Switch Online.
The arrival of Cloud Saves has been a long-awaited feature for many Switch owners, and although the addition of 20 NES games at launch isn’t quite the Virtual Console fans had hoped for, it shines a glimmer of hope as to what we can expect for the future of Nintendo Switch Online.
For more on Nintendo Switch Online, check out everything we know (and don’t know) about Nintendo’s paid online subscription service.