Opinion: What's wrong with the Virtual Console anyway?

GamePro details some of the gripes we've had with the Wii's Virtual Console, but thankfully, we're also gracious enough to offer our "valuable" advice on how to fix them.

By Eugene Huang

I remember a time shortly before the release of the Wii when a good portion of the gaming community wholeheartedly believed that Nintendo's next-gen system would contain backwards compatability the likes of which gamers had never before seen. Every single American title in the entire NES library would be playable on the Wii right out of the box.

Remember when you believed that? Come on -- don't lie.

Of course, it doesn't take a degree in finance to realize that such a plan would be economically unviable to a mind-boggling degree. Sure, you would probably be able to fit the entire worldwide catalogue of NES ROM images onto a single CD and still have room for jell-o, but how much in potential sales would Nintendo lose in the process (even if the jell-o was pineapple flavored)?

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Nintendo offered a comprehensive iTunes-like system in which the whole of Nintendo's retro catalogue went up for sale on the same day that the Wii launched. With an amazing array of choices put in front of them, of course users would buy a ton of games, but only at first.

"Urban Champion, huh?" you'd ask yourself. "Well, it's a classic, of course, but I'd consider that second tier at best. Maybe next time."

The trouble for Nintendo is that there may not have been a "next time". By the time Super Mario Galaxy had gotten released, you probably would have forgotten about poor Urban Champion, and it would have remained unsold.

So Nintendo went with a much more economically sound plan: release only four games a week at a specific price point and toss in retro content from SNES and N64 as well, in addition to games from the software catalogues of other 16-bit systems, such as the Sega Genesis and NEC's TurboGrafx-16. With this system, gamers would be confronted with a much more limited number of choices.

"Urban Champion, huh?" you ask now. "Well, I guess there's nothing else going on this week..."

Here are four reasons why the Virtual Console could be a lot better than it is now.

Here are four reasons why the Virtual Console could be a lot better than it is now.

Unfortunately for most Wii owners, the promised "four-games-a-week" eventually dwindled to three, and the price points were probably a lot more expensive than gamers had originally hoped for. Still, Nintendo fans, being the militantly faithful tribe they are, took it all completely in stride. However, with this week's absolutely dreadful update, it appears that Nintendo might be going a bit too far in their brazen quests of free-market capitalism, and as always in these cases, the customer suffers the most.

As evidenced by previous "Wii-kly updates", Nintendo of America usually provides one triple-A first-tier game among a list of three or four (but usually three). The week before exemplified this strategy, as it saw the release of the much-awaited Punch-Out!!, along with two very strong titles in their own right: Virtua Fighter 2 for the Genesis and Bonk's Revenge for the TurboGrafx-16. It could be considered one of the best lineups in weeks, but what did Nintendo do to follow it up? Gradius III, Battle Lode Runner, and Wonder Boy in Monster World. I implore you to seek out a single gamer that has owned legitimate copies of two of those games, let alone all three.

Evidence shows that NoA has been, at times, spotty even prior to the stellar Punch-Out!! update. The week before that, the offered games were Galaga (NES), Bravoman (TG-16), and Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Genesis), which was hardly earth-shattering. In one particular week, NoA offered only a single title: Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV, which is a niche title at best.

Anybody who works at that company can not possibly look me straight in the eye and tell me that Nintendo is incapable of doing better. With so many classic, historically significant games available for so many retro systems under the Virtual Console's belt, there's absolutely no reason why a week should go by without the release of one or even two triple-A titles. Things need to change, and luckily for Nintendo, I'm just the guy to ask for advice.

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