Sam Byford of The Verge on Nintendo’s trickle-release strategy for Virtual Console:
Here are some movies you can watch right now on Netflix without causing the value of film as a medium to implode: Raging Bull. Fargo. Manhattan. Pulp Fiction. Chinatown. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Amélie. Trainspotting. Apocalypse Now. Rocky. These are movies that a lot of people probably pay several dollars each for on iTunes (or, well, DVD) à la carte, yet their availability on Netflix doesn’t hurt their classic status. Nintendo has by far the most valuable back catalog and intellectual property in gaming; even if it only made its own titles available and ignored third parties completely, it’d have a vast library that a lot of people would be willing to pay monthly for.
Sure, some will pay the cost of a month of Netflix for Super Mario 64 this month. But what about next month? I can’t imagine Donkey Kong 64 or Paper Mario drawing similar revenue, but they’re exactly the kind of title people would dip into out of curiosity under a subscription model. In a world where EA is offering access to all but its newest current console games for just $30 a year, this doesn’t seem like the hardest of calls.
When Nintendo began trickling out retro titles for the Wii Virtual Console, I shared Byford’s strong aversion to the slow, methodical rollout of games that had been available on past consoles (and ROMs) for years. At the mention of Super Mario 64 coming to Wii U, and Wii titles before that, the aversion never surfaced.
That the comparison of video games to film is an “apples vs. oranges” debate. Consumption of classic movies takes markedly less time than consumption of classic video games. With little time to focus on a single game, let alone the plethora or titles released every week/month, it’s nice to put the brake on “the binge” with an unhurried drip. A subscription service would not only bombard players with a catalog as stress inducing as Netflix’s, it would also surely waste away subscribers dollars spent vs. content consumed.
Regarding price, for titles I love and want to re-experience, Donkey Kong 64 and Paper Mario being two of them, I am more than happy to shell out $9.99 ($2.00 if I’ve already purchased on Wii) to relive the experience. On the other hand, I see what Byford is getting at regarding titles I had never played. Many of these legacy DS games are going to be a hard sell for me, especially when pit up against some of my fondest memories.