About this time of year, Nintendo has announced plans regarding their lineup of micro-consoles for the past few years now. In July 2016, they announced the NES Classic Edition to be released later that year. In June 2017, they announced the SNES Classic Edition. And, in May 2018, they announced that they would be producing more NES and SNES Classics to keep up with consumer demand through the end of the year. So, now that it’s late-spring/early-summer 2019, we should get some news on Nintendo’s next Classic Edition micro-console.
Mind you, when I say “we should get some news,” I don’t mean that I’m expecting news – I mean exactly what I’m saying, that we SHOULD get news. Last year, then-President of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime, stated that the company had no plans to release a Nintendo 64 Classic Edition, despite the successes of the NES and SNES Classics, both of which sold tremendously (to a fault, even). But it’s been several months since that statement, and plans can change. And in this case, I think they should.
Releasing a Nintendo 64 Classic Edition would simply be a good business move. It would very likely sell great, just like the NES and SNES Classics did, bringing in more money for the company, while also keeping their consumer base happy. Let’s focus on the first part for a moment. Last year, I wrote an article about how I thought it was unlikely that we’d be getting an N64 Classic in 2018. One of my main justifications for this was that Nintendo was producing a ton of hardware at the time, from the Switch, to the newly announced New 2DS XL, to other consoles in the 3DS family, to restocking the NES and SNES Classics. It seemed like a bit much to throw in an N64 Classic into that mix as well. But now, a year later, things are different. NES and SNES Classics aren’t being produced anymore and, while Nintendo insists that it is continuing to support the 3DS family of consoles, it’s clear that the handheld console is majorly taking a backseat to the Switch. After the busy year in hardware that was 2018, Nintendo probably has resources to spare in 2019, and while most of them are going to go towards continuing to produce as many Switches as possible, it probably wouldn’t hurt to dedicate some to creating something like an N64 Classic, which would almost certainly sell well, if the NES and SNES Classics are any indication.
But aside from simply being a product that the company could probably sell a lot of, having an N64 Classic would make a lot of people happy and continue their investment in the Nintendo brand. It’s not very easy to get ahold of N64 games anymore. Sure, there are those who still have their original N64 from twenty years ago, and there are less than 14 million people worldwide who own a Wii U and can buy N64 games from its Virtual Console, but for most people, playing N64 games is kind of out of reach, especially now that the Wii eShop has shut down, meaning that the more than 100 million people who own a Wii can no longer buy more N64 games for its Virtual Console. Given how hard it is to own N64 games now, you can bet that there’d be a ton of long-time Nintendo fans looking to replay games from their childhood, as well as newer fans looking to play the console’s classics for the first time, who would happily buy a micro-console that gives them access to games they probably don’t currently have access to.
If Nintendo were to give some sort of Classic Edition-related announcement soon, they could just as well announce a Game Boy Classic Edition instead of an N64 Classic, and that would be great too, but there’s one more reason why an N64 Classic in particular would probably be a good idea right now: Banjo-Kazooie. In case you somehow missed it, Nintendo just recently revealed at E3 that Banjo and Kazooie, the titular characters of the classic N64 games Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, will be joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s roster as DLC. The inclusion of this duo as a playable character in the series has been highly requested for nearly two decades, and it’s finally happening. And you can bet that there are a ton of Banjo-Kazooie fans looking to replay their favorite games in anticipation of these characters’ inclusion in Smash. Back when Classic Edition hype was at its highest, everyone was coming up with their lists of what games could be on an N64 Classic Edition micro-console, but, despite many fans wishes, it was always clear that Banjo-Kazooie probably wouldn’t make the cut, given that it is now a Microsoft-owned franchise. And an N64 Classic without Banjo-Kazooie just didn’t feel right. But now that Banjo and Kazooie are going to be in Smash, it’s clear that Nintendo and Microsoft are on good enough terms to allow such a partnership to take place. So if Banjo and Kazooie can be in Smash, why can’t Banjo-Kazooie be on an N64 Classic? As if an N64 Classic wasn’t sure to sell tons of units already, the inclusion of Banjo-Kazooie to ride the coattails of the hype of Banjo and Kazooie coming to Smash would seem like a very obvious recipe for enormous financial success for the hypothetical micro-console.
So yeah. Given how well it would sell and how happy it would make fans, making an N64 Classic seems like an obvious move. In fact, there’s only one real reason I can think of why Nintendo wouldn’t want to do it and that’s that they think an N64 Classic would compete with the Switch. Nintendo is putting everything they have into the Switch right now, and they likely don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize its sales. Now, I’m no business expert by any means, but I can’t really see a whole lot of people thinking, “Oh, I don’t need to buy a Switch, I’ll just buy an N64 Classic instead!” The two consoles simply play to different audiences. An N64 Classic would target fans looking to relive their childhoods and/or experience twenty-year-old classics for the first time for a manageable price point (likely less than $100). Meanwhile, the Switch appeals to those wishing to keep up with Nintendo’s newest games. At the end of the day, I don’t see how an N64 Classic would interfere with Switch sales any more than the NES or SNES Classics did.
The only way I could see an N64 Classic majorly interfering with Switch sales is if the Switch started offering a way to play N64 games. Since the launch of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service, subscribers have been able to play games from an expanding library of older games, but only NES games. Classic games from other older consoles have yet to make their way to the Switch’s online service. If Nintendo plans on adding N64 games to the service relatively soon, then that could explain why they wouldn’t want to release an N64 Classic – they would want fans who want to play N64 games to buy a Switch and subscribe to their service, rather than just buying an N64 Classic.
However, I STILL think it’d be a good idea to release an N64 Classic soon. For one thing, it seems like N64 games probably aren’t going to be coming to the Switch any time soon. The Nintendo Switch Online service launched about nine months ago and still only has NES games in its digital library. With only two or three games being added to this library a month, it’s quite possible that it will still only have NES games for some time to come. But even when it’s finished with adding new NES games, there are still a ton of SNES, and maybe Game Boy, games to get through before we’re likely to start receiving N64 games. At the rate we’re currently going, it could be years before N64 games are added to the service. So releasing an N64 Classic could serve to keep N64 fans happy while they continue to wait for a larger library to come to the Switch.
Also, an N64 Classic could actually help Switch sales and increase NSO memberships. Consider this: You buy an N64 Classic when it hypothetically releases this year. You’re hyped about Banjo and Kazooie coming to Smash, so you play Banjo-Kazooie, maybe for the first time, and you love it. But the micro-console only has 15-20 games on it, and Banjo-Tooie isn’t one of them. This kind of thing isn’t unprecedented – the SNES Classic only had the first Donkey Kong Country, and neither of its sequels, after all. If the N64 Classic served as something of an introduction to the N64 library, a library which would then be expanded upon via the NSO service, it would give those who want to play even more games than the N64 Classic offers incentive to buy a Switch, if they don’t already have one, and subscribe to NSO to play even more N64 games. Obviously, there will be those who are just happy with the selection available on the N64 Classic, but there’s also the potential of investing, or re-investing, fans in N64 games, and then capitalizing off that investment with N64 games on NSO.
All in all, an N64 Classic seems like a good idea and I really want one, so if Nintendo decides to change their minds and actually make it, that would be great.