Nintendo Classic Systems vs. Switch Virtual Console

by Alex Grantz


The Super NES Classic Edition has finally been released and people everywhere are still standing in line hoping to get their hands on one. The NES Classic was a massive success for Nintendo, so it makes perfect sense that the company has doubled down on these nostalgic consoles and followed it up with the SNES Classic.

Currently, these classic systems are the best way to enjoy Nintendo’s legacy content, and it might be the only way for the foreseeable future. Outside of “[recognizing] there is an appetite for all [their] great legacy content,” Nintendo has been completely silent when it comes to putting the Virtual Console on the Switch. Recognizing there’s an appetite? Oh you mean like releasing a new version of the NES back in November 2016 and seeing it fly off store shelves at light speed? Oh yeah, there’s an appetite. And it’s one of those “hangry” appetites.

More than any other feature, the Virtual Console gets brought up as the one thing sorely missing from the Switch. Yes, there are other features people want, but nothing compares to the VC. But with one classic system already proven to be a smash hit and another one set to launch that will likely outsell the original, how concerned is Nintendo with making their classic games library available on the Switch? Personally, if all of the games that are available on the SNES Classic were also available on the Switch, I would have no reason to pick up the former. I know there are die hard collectors out there who would seriously give their left foot for the classic system, but most gamers would probably be fine with just downloading each game individually on their Switch.

Why would Nintendo rush to put out classic games on the new system when they can sell the classic system?

It’s likely that we will be seeing a new classic system every year for the few years. I think it will play out like this:

2018 – NES Classic rerelease and Game Boy Classic

2019 – Nintendo 64 Classic

2020 – Game Boy Advance Classic

2021 – Nintendo Gamecube Classic

Think about that. In the next few years you could have an entertainment center full of miniature versions of classic Nintendo game systems. Those same systems you owned once upon a time. Tapping into nostalgia like that is a brilliant move on Nintendo’s part.

We already know that some NES games will be available on the Switch once the full version of their online service launches sometime in 2018. However, that is believed to be different than the actual Virtual Console. More of a perk of the online service rather than the definitive way to play classic Nintendo games on the Switch.

I would absolutely love the opportunity to buy classic Nintendo games piecemeal on my Switch, but I’m not sure it’s coming anytime soon. As long as these classic systems are selling like hot cakes, there is no rush to make the digital content available. It’s a great problem to have. I can just see the Nintendo top brass sitting around a conference table (shaped like a 1up mushroom) asking each other “how many different ways can we sell these games we made over two decades ago?” There is no real answer because Nintendo is having a renaissance year and everyone wants in on the action.

It’s possible that we will get a Virtual Console announcement at the same time Nintendo decides to share more information about the upcoming Nintendo Switch Online service. But with the NES Classic set to rerelease next summer, Nintendo might just be riding that classic console gravy train for the foreseeable future.

- This article was updated on:March 7th, 2018

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