I’m not trying to dredge up the old battle from the 90’s. I think the SNES probably had the better overall lineup back then, but I love the Genesis library so much, and its wonderful synth-y crunchy sound chip.
I want to talk about how these two large corporations are re-releasing old games. And how Nintendo is doing it very stupidly.
The online video game community freaking exploded this morning with the announcement of the SNES Classic Edition, ending months of rumors and speculation. It’s launching in September for 80 dollars and comes with 20 games…one of which is the previously unreleased Star Fox 2.
That sounds good. In a vacuum.
But let’s give it some context.
Re-releasing emulated classic games is nothing new in the industry. It happens all the time, and has for years. The challenge is that most of these older games are available through shady and sometimes illegal means, often for free, thanks to the world of emulators and rom dumps.
Sure, you could dump your own system and cartridges…but free classic games that’ll run on almost any device are just a click away.
So companies have to get clever, and ofter real additional value to the consumer.
The only way to beat free is to make legal ownership easy and valuable to the user.
I loved the way Nintendo handled this on the original Wii, with the Virtual Console. They did the work to go out and secure the licenses to several old systems, including non-Nintendo systems, and the emulation work was exemplary. They added simple display options and easy save states. And they charged affordable prices.
Then it all went downhill.
None of the follow-up iterations of the Virtual Console were as good as the first one.
The Wii U retained the concept…but with a vastly reduced library of games. The emulation got better…but you had to re-buy/”upgrade” your game library, or play them through the built-in Wii emulator. The 3DS brought portable systems into the lineup, which was awesome…but the release schedule slowed to a trickle. Also, only the New 3DS is powerful enough to run the available Super NES games.
And let’s not even talk about the abandoned “3DS Ambassador” GBA titles.
When the Switch “launched” earlier this year, it didn’t even have a Virtual Console. And although it sounds like Nintendo is thinking of trying a cool new low-cost subscription method for users to access old games, we won’t know how good it is until its launch sometime next year.
Meanwhile…the NES Classic happened. It was 60 bucks for 30 games. And it came in a tiny NES with tiny short cords for the controllers.
This is a decent dollar value.
Too bad they made like, 8 of them.
I know they made more than 8 of them. It was a joke.
The thing sold out in what seemed like 30 seconds, as did every one of the limited restocks.
And then Nintendo killed the thing. We’ll probably never know the exact reason why.
Now, people are straight-up paranoid about limited availability of the SNES Classic. And I can’t really blame them!
A situation has been crafted where there’s now a raving, hungry fan base that wants this 80 dollar plastic thing that contains a bunch of games they’ve already played.
And it’ll sell out in a few seconds again.
And it’s still hard to get a Switch.
Meanwhile, over at Sega…
I know that the launch hasn’t been smooth on every mobile device. I like that Sega is calling it a soft launch. I’m that horrible guy who can say “well I haven’t had any issues on my device.” It seems like they developed it for the fastest devices first, and they’re going to work on optimizations now across lesser-powered phones.
This wonderfully hilarious and testy Eurogamer interview came out this morning, and I appreciate that the Sega guy actually went through the whole thing. His passion clearly shows.
But even with the hiccups, this is still such a better way to treat consumers than what Nintendo is doing.
The best way to beat free emulators is to give out your games for free, and monetize them sensibly.
Sega isn’t requiring people to buy plastic boxes they don’t already own. Sega isn’t doing limited hardware runs that are nigh-impossible to find. Sega isn’t limiting the release schedule. They’re putting new stuff out at a regular clip, and it’s all the same price of free.
And sure, they have some performance issues to sort out…but they’re fully committed to doing so. And you don’t lose any money for giving their games a shot, nor do you have to pay exorbitant eBay prices or stand in line at a Target at 3AM.
Look, I love Nintendo. But I feel like they’ve gone down a weird anti-consumer experimental rabbit hole. And it’s bothering me more than it would have a decade ago.
The NES Classic was one of their fastest selling products ever…so they killed it.
The Switch launched feature-incomplete, but people are still so excited about it that Nintendo can’t keep up with the demand. And rather than focusing entirely on increasing production…they’re devoting resources to tiny SNES’s and the New 2DS XL. And they pushed back their online service to early next year.
Nintendo is making products that feel designed to pull more money out of their most ardent customers. This is nothing new in the gaming/tech industries. I know that’s probably a sound business strategy, and I know that corporations don’t often have people’s best interests at heart…but it’s rarely so transparent.
I want to feel good about video games. I want to feel like I’m getting a good deal. I want to actually be able to buy the products I want without jumping through a million hoops. That’s what makes it easy to be a fan, and helps keep these fun entertainment products…fun!
I feel like Sega gets this right now….and Nintendoesn’t.