In the eyes of many, Nintendo is that dragon in classic fantasy titles that sits on top of a pile of gold but never seems to do anything with it. They’re a company that is sitting on (theoretically) the most lucrative library of games in the entire industry, but they seem hesitant to really do much with it.
To be clear, it’s not like Nintendo doesn’t do anything with their classic games. They have released “Classic Edition” versions of the NES and SNES (and are reportedly working on an N64 equivalent) and they certainly aren’t opposed to making sequels, remakes, and remasters based on those classic games. However, Nintendo no longer offers the console a la carte option that the Virtual Console provided. That is to say that you can’t easily buy classic Nintendo games via the Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo’s apparent desire to move away from the Virtual Console has left fans confused and angry. Why wouldn’t Nintendo just let people buy their classic games? What do they really have to lose by offering them via a digital marketplace? Is this the way that it’s always going to be?
We don’t know the answers to all those questions, but we do know that Nintendo is teasing us with the most appealing option of them all: a monthly streaming service for classic Nintendo games.
Right now, you can access a small selection of classic NES games via Nintendo Switch Online’s $20 a year service. The collection isn’t large (about 20 games with more to come) and the quality of individual titles is questionable, but neither of those aspects of the service matters much at the moment. What matters is that Nintendo is giving fans unlimited digital access to some classic NES games for a reasonable yearly (or monthly) fee. That’s something that fans have been asking from the company for years, but have been met with arguably lesser alternatives.
The question now is how far Nintendo is willing to go with this. Let’s say that they were to offer a collection of classic games that span several console generations. In the interest of being realistic, let’s say that this collection regularly rotates much like Xbox Game Pass (meaning certain titles appear and disappear over the course of several months). How much would you pay for such a service? It’s safe to say that such a service would cost more than $20 a year. For that matter, it would probably cost more than the streaming industry standard of $10 a month. However, it’s hard to believe that a significant number of people wouldn’t subscribe to it even at around $20 a month.
Frankly, we’d love to see a service like that even at that inflated price. Not only would it allow people to just play the classic games they want, but it would help preserve gaming history in a viable way. It could theoretically be a win for everyone involved.
Sadly, we don’t get the impression that Nintendo Switch Online will ever become that service. For one thing, Nintendo is likely hesitant to raise the price of Nintendo Switch Online in the significant way that such a service would likely require. That isn’t to say that they won’t eventually offer “tier” options, but it feels like the free NES games Nintendo hands out with Switch Online are more of a “cherry on top” than a banquet meal. Besides, the Classic Edition consoles feel a bit too lucrative at the moment.
However, Nintendo is experimenting with the idea of digital game delivery tied to a monthly fee. Considering that we’re talking about a company that is usually a few years behind in regards to nearly every technological innovation…well, that’s something.