The Virtual Console and why Nintendo may be Holding it Back

Nintendo once proclaimed themselves as the ‘World’s Number One Games System’. It was no empty boast. Unparalleled sales success in the 80s meant there was little competition. If you were a gamer in the eighties, it’s likely you played Nintendo. So it makes perfect sense that a lot of nostalgia comes from Nintendo games. And Nintendo know a thing or two about mining nostalgia.


The Virtual Console came into being on November 19th, 2006 on the Wii. Its function was simple: emulate classic and popular Nintendo games. The Japanese giant introduced the service to its home console and handheld market so we could experience the fun all over again – but at a cost.

In 2013 Nintendo launched the successor to the Wii, the Wii U and with it came Virtual Console. So when Nintendo announced the Nintendo Switch as their new home console we all expected the virtual console to come with it. It did not. There was something else that came out in the year they announced the Switch and that was the NES Classic Edition. A small piece of hardware that replicated the original NES’s design and allowed us to play 30 pre-installed games. Unaware of how popular the item would be, it sold out almost immediately and gave Nintendo an idea how good for profits retro gaming could be.

For years gamers have emulated the classic games on PC hardware or Raspberry Pis and now Nintendo were in on the action. Sales of the emulated classics were good but to have a reproduction of their original console sell out beyond demand must have been a wakeup call.

So what’s the hold up with Virtual Console not appearing on Switch? Teasing us it will come is not the same as delivering the goods. With little in the way of transparency, Nintendo are always cryptic in how they work as a business. Like a magician who does not reveal their tricks, so too Nintendo hold back from showing too much.

It could be a recent announcement by Nintendo of a new product coming out that is holding up Virtual Console on Switch. That recent announcement is the SNES Classic Edition.


Sexy and it knows it… the SNES Classic Mini is set for launch


The 2.3 million units sold for the NES Classic were mind-boggling. Those numbers are what every console manufacturer must dream of for launch of a new state-of-the-art system, but this console wasn’t that. This was an old system replicated on modern technology.

Now take those numbers and let’s do some calculations. Even if we say production costs were 80% of the cost of the NES Classic (£49.99), that is still £11 profit for each unit sold – or £25,300,000. That is being excessive with the cost to produce per unit, and that is not profit over a year, that’s when stores had stock.

In 2010 Nintendo made around £50,000,000 in Virtual Console game sales. That’s over an entire year, whilst that does sound like a lot of money, would Nintendo do anything to compromise sales of either?

Nintendo know they will expect to sell at least the same numbers as they did with the NES Classic when they release the SNES Classic. Why compromise those sales by releasing a competitor on your other platform? You wouldn’t. We will not be seeing a Virtual Console on Nintendo Switch until they have released and sold out of the SNES Classic Edition.

Nintendo will likely release more retro items in the future, the Gameboy Classic must be a given, it is unlikely we will see another console. There could be an N64 Classic but that will likely be it.

Retro gaming is big business. As fickle as it sounds retro gaming is bigger business when its the official company doing it and they can reproduce hardware you remember. It amplifies the nostalgic vibe when you are playing on control pads you can remember from childhood.


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