Or…Why Nintendo is not from this planet!
Sometimes, a story hits you and short-circuits everything in your brain.
I have spent the last week struggling to write an article that summed up my feelings about Xbox’s Project Scorpio. I watched Digital Foundry’s summation of the upcoming console’s specs, then toiled about how I would express my feelings about the console, its specs, and its place in the console gaming hierarchy.
All it took was one story centered on Nintendo to make me forget all about the Scorpio and begin to rant against Big N.
The story: Nintendo has announced that they are discontinuing the NES Classic Edition in North America. After being on the market for only five months, the miniature NES with 30 emulated games would see its last shipment this month. A device that many people wanted to purchase but Nintendo decided to make rarer than conflict-free diamonds will be no more.
A Nintendo representative told IGN that the NES Classic Edition was meant to be a short-term product. Truthfully, that isn’t such a batty strategy. The company specializes in mainstream video game hardware, not items like the NES Classic Edition, which is a boutique item at best. They want you to buy the $300 Switch, not the $60 toy. But that same Nintendo representative told IGN that they attempted to somewhat fill demand.
Additionally, a representative told IGN, “NES Classic Edition wasn’t intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans.” The company has no plans to produce more NES Classic systems for North America.
So Nintendo extended its plans to get more NES Classic Editions to consumers. But five months was enough.
Reversing my course
I promised myself that I wasn’t going to bitch about Nintendo anymore. It was my intention to keep my promise. And I would keep it if they were to stop acting like a company that is afraid of making too much money. If Nintendo started acting like the company that rescued video gaming from extinction in 1985, I would be singing their praises.
Instead, I have to sing the blues like Bobby Bland into my bottle of vodka. Nintendo, I have decided, is not from this planet! If Nintendo were from this planet, they wouldn’t be this averse to making money!
For those that want to say that money isn’t everything, remember that Nintendo is a corporation. Money isn’t everything to a corporation; it’s THE ONLY THING! For Nintendo to discontinue production of a product that tens of thousands of people want to throw money at? That is not a corporate mentality. That is a mentality completely alien to a business. Therefore, they are not of this planet.
Since I have decided that Nintendo is an alien race, I will take a further leap and say that they want to take over our planet. You can’t convince me they’re not; they did so in the late 80s and early 90s. Maybe the alien overlords in Nintendo were ousted by a renegade faction that sought rule through more subterfuge. And maybe the original leaders can be convinced to regain power and return their rule over Earth.
Yes, that last paragraph was silly as shit. It’s not any sillier than Nintendo deciding that they will discontinue an item that is still in great demand and can make them tons of money.
So in this theoretical reality where Nintendo is an alien race bent on ruling us, how would they go about it? How can Nintendo regain our loyalty and assume its position on the throne, relegating Microsoft and Sony to also-rans?
Well, they have to stop doing all the stupid shit they’re doing now.
My apologies. I don’t want to seem like a Nintendo hater. Actually, I want Big N to succeed like they once did. To do that, however, I feel they must do something they have shown time and again to be uninterested in.
Nintendo’s regime change
The Nintendo of today is way too determined to make money by using its old-fashioned tactics. In a way, they remind me quite a bit of the music and home movie businesses of the 80s and 90s, in that they’re intent on selling you the same thing multiple times. They’re convinced that they can get you to buy Super Mario Bros. for the NES infinitely. So far, it has worked. Sooner or later (I vote sooner), it will not.
A person can only buy the same thing a certain number of times before they’re tired of doing so. Ask the hardcore fans of Scarface if they bought more than five versions of the movie on Beta, VHS, VCD, SVCD, Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray. Sooner or later, you’ve bought something enough times.
In my opinion, Nintendo is already there. They have sold you the same version of Super Mario Bros. on the NES; the SNES; the Virtual Consoles for the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U; and the NES Classic Edition. When the Virtual Console for the Switch goes live, I GUARANTEE the game will be on it.
How many of you are excited at the idea of buying Super Mario Bros. for the seventh time?
Instead, Nintendo could try to change course and try to entice customers. I think with the Switch and its upcoming online service, they could do just that. It would require them getting their heads out of their asses and embracing new strategies. I’m pretty sure it’s not even a new strategy. I’m not the brightest light on the Christmas tree and I thought it up; more learned contemporaries must have thought it up before!
How Nintendo can rule us all
Imagine this: a Netflix-style online service where you paid a flat fee and had access to streaming versions of the entire Nintendo library. For the sake of clarity, I’m including every game from the NES to the DS in this fictional service. Guesstimating based on information I could glean about the libraries for the respective system, that’s anywhere from about 7,000 North American games to 9,000 worldwide games. How many people would be interested in a service like that?
If Nintendo were to provide a service like that for the Switch – let’s call it Nintendo Now just to give it a name that I obviously didn’t spend enough time thinking about – there would be a large number of people that I feel would be interested in it. The ability to play retro games anywhere sounds enticing enough that a large swatch of gamers would consider it. Nintendo could charge a flat monthly rate – I think $13 to $16 is the sweet spot – and rake in a ton of money.
If they wanted to sweeten the deal, they could take a page from their current Virtual Console. There, they offer classic games that originally released on the Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16. If Nintendo were to make offers to Sega of Japan and Konami, the respective owners of the consoles’ licenses, to include their games on Nintendo Now, how many Nintendo haters would convert? What if those offers include Sega CD and TurboGrafx-CD games, some of which are offered already on the Virtual Console? Maybe they could include Master System and Game Gear games? For that matter, how about adding MSX and Commodore 64 games like they have on VC already? What if Vivendi, owners of the Atari licenses, could be brought on board? If that happens, maybe Intellivision Productions and Coleco Holdings could be coerced into adding their respective platforms to Nintendo Now?
That would be a big ask, but the result of that mass integration would be a streaming service that could rival most RetroPie setups – including my own! For $15 a month, I would buy a Switch, subscribe to Nintendo Now, and turn my current RetroPie setup into something else. Hey, did I mention that the Raspberry Pi that powers my RetroPie can be used as a way to resurrect my Dreamcast’s online capabilities?
If Nintendo would just offer Nintendo Now with its own titles, retro gamers would flock to it. The idea of having a library that massive at one’s fingertips is pretty compelling, especially with all the love for retro gaming nowadays. With one move, Nintendo could regain the hearts and minds of many gamers.
I think the tipping point is the Nintendo 64. That console – the last home console to use cartridges – has a large fan base. There aren’t any real avenues for fans wanting to play those games outside of buying the console; emulation is hit-or-miss. Offering those games on a service like Nintendo Now would really pique the interest of gamers. They already offer Nintendo 64 games on Virtual Console, so it’s not a big ask.
Don’t hold your breath
As great as a service like Nintendo Now seems to be, Nintendo would never do it. In this, I’m not even blaming Nintendo exclusively.
As an industry, video games are stuck in the old days. As I alluded to briefly in Digital Crack’s last full podcast, Nintendo and Sony are doing business using antiquated models. In the podcast, I stated that in reference to digital gaming as a whole. Here, I’ll focus on retro gaming. Nintendo and Sony see the rise of retro and do very little to sate it outside of their own business practices. Sony and Nintendo are more than happy to sell you a copy of a game like Suikoden II or Super Metroid ad infinitum. In fact, they’re more content in selling items and making some money than building a service that can generate much more.
Honestly, I think Sony is the bigger offender here. As much as retro gamers love the Nintendo 64, Sony’s original PlayStation gets much more love. In addition to having way more released titles, the gray plank owner is home to some of the most beloved franchises of that generation. Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot, Syphon Filter, and Suikoden all saw their inception on the PS1. Final Fantasy, Mega Man, Castlevania, and Dragon Quest were reborn on the PS1. For all the love Nintendo’s meager library gets the PS1 catalog alone sports tons of amazing titles.
That fact alone makes Sony’s actual streaming service, PlayStation Now – which I completely promise I didn’t crib from to make up the name for Nintendo’s fictional service – more frustrating.
PlayStation Now currently sports over 450 titles – for the PlayStation 3! I’m not knocking the PS3; that console was home to many beloved titles in my mind. But Sony is content to stream games from their previous-generation console and not their first console? Shit, can they at least throw in some titles for the PlayStation 2? You know, THE MOST SUCCESSFUL FUCKING HOME CONSOLE IN EXISTENCE???
I blame that lack of foresight and adventurousness for the death of Sony’s last handheld marvel, the Vita. If Sony had a streaming service for the beleaguered handheld that let gamers play PS1-era games on it, I feel the Vita would’ve been WAY more successful than it has been. Instead, they were more content to sell Vita owners PS1 classics. Well, they were at least content to sell them the meager amount of games they even allowed on the system.
Microsoft has done a bit better in these regards. Although their library is nowhere near as robust as their competitors, they’re at least taking more chances. The Backwards Compatibility feature for the Xbox One allows owners of the original games on the Xbox 360 to play them on the newer console without extra charge. The entire 360 library is not represented, but the list includes some absolute gems. Their upcoming Xbox Game Pass, meanwhile, is an attempt at streaming that includes those backward compatible games. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s an option that’s leagues better than what Sony or Nintendo have offered.
Back to Nintendo ruling the world
This article, however, is about how the alien race Nintendo that doesn’t like making money could rule over us. We’ll get back to raking Sony and Microsoft over the coals another time.
Offering a service like Nintendo Now is not as simple as I make it out to be. If they had exclusive control over its own library, it would be. But since most titles in their deep library are third-party titles, licensing issues can rear their ugly heads. It wouldn’t be a problem for games like Life Force or Codename: Viper unless Konami or Capcom, respectively, wanted to make a problem out of it. But Capcom titles like Chip N Dale’s Rescue Rangers or Yo! Noid could be a problem. Those games feature characters from Disney and Domino’s, respectively, not Capcom. If the character’s license holder(s) wanted to make a fuss about it, those games would be nixed from Nintendo Now. To be fair, I don’t think too many people would miss Yo! Noid too much.
The most obvious casualty to licensing issues would be GoldenEye: 007 for the Nintendo 64. Even if Eon Productions were to grant a license for Nintendo to use the James Bond and 007 trademarks, they would still need to secure the rights for all the classic Bond characters like Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton. Nintendo will also miss out on Rare titles like Banjo-Kazooie for the N64 and Battletoads for the NES since Rare is now owned by rival Microsoft.
Of course, that would still leave a humongous library of games Nintendo could leverage, especially of Sega of Japan and Konami allowed Genesis and TurboGrafx titles, respectively, onto the platform. The only obstacle to the service would be the biggest obstacle of them all: Nintendo! One look at the Virtual Console concept reveals all the flaws that make a service like Nintendo Now almost impossible.
Back to Nintendo being an alien race that hates money
The Virtual Console was a great idea when it debuted on the Nintendo Wii in 2006. At the time, Netflix was a mail-order DVD rental service, and YouTube was not yet even owned by Google. The concept of streaming content was completely unheard of, and an online storefront like VC was a godsend.
Over ten years later, the concept has grown stale.
Streaming video services like YouTube and Netflix have redefined the landscape of home video. Spotify and Pandora have done the same for music. Although modern video games are a much more demanding medium for streaming services to tackle, the ability to stream retro games already exists. In addition to PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass, there are more nefarious options. In fact, there are add-ons available for uber-media center Kodi right now that do just that. I won’t link to those add-ons here, partially because I fear Nintendo’s alien death rays.
The point is, entrepreneurial gamers can gain access to services that provide them with the very service I am speaking of hypothetically. Ultimately, the service will become a standard. As I said in my article about digital gaming: sooner or later, EVERYTHING is going to go digital!
Meanwhile, the Virtual Console is not showing cracks so much as the foundation is rotted and collapsing. With its eventual release on the Nintendo Switch, the VC will be on its fourth Nintendo platform. Each platform’s VC, of course, is incompatible with the others. That means that if you want to play a game that you bought on the Wii VC on the Switch, you will have to purchase it again for the Switch. Just like you had to on the Wii U and on the 3DS.
With a service like Nintendo Now, the alien race Nintendo could set up shop on the ground floor of the digital eventuality. More importantly, the alien race Nintendo would earn loyalty from those that would use the service. The have loyalty now via the scads of diehards that have sworn undying love for the current regime. But they could gain so much more fealty from those that once loved them but have moved on. They could also gain the loyalty of those who were never with them but heard mention of their former rule. With a service like Nintendo Now, the alien race Nintendo could rule over us all.
Instead, they prefer to make $60 boutique items that they can sell in limited quantities for only five months. Instead, they prefer to convince you that the seventh purchase of Super Mario Bros. will be just as satisfying as the first. The alien race Nintendo doesn’t seem to want to rule the world under its current regime. This current regime seems to be content with just being an opposition party to the new rulers, Sony and Microsoft.
Sometimes, a story hits you and short-circuits everything in your brain. Stories about Nintendo and their apparent desire to not rule the world tend to do that to me.