Friday, May 28, 2010

My Virtual Console Czar platform

Given that I love a series that some say hasn't innovated since 1998, you'd think I have a love for old games. You'd be correct - visiting the Nintendo press site on Mondays to see what will be available on the Virtual Console that week is one of my weekly habits, along with watching Raw and cursing the fact that I continue to have to work for a living.

However, recently I've come up empty. In fact, this month has seen a grand total of ONE release - and it's a game I've bought twice in Kirby Superstar. The most we'll likely have this month is two games unless they launch a new system on Memorial Day, which has odds similar of that of a Pokemon MMO being announced at Electronic Three next month. (That is to say, never.)

At one time, there were five games a week coming out. Presumably this was to seed the service, as it has gone from 5 all the way down to 0. Some might say the rise of WiiWare (and recently, DSiWare) has something to do with it, or blame the general lack of care toward old games on other consoles. But still, this service can get a lot better and serve as a huge moneymaker for Nintendo as long as someone gives a crap about it.

Which is why I'm throwing my hat into the ring for the apparently non-existent position of Virtual Console Czar (North American division).

But of course, if you're running for office, you need a platform.
Article the First: There will be one release every week on Virtual Console. No exceptions.
There are eight systems that are available on Virtual Console - up from 5 at launch with the Neo-Geo, C64 and VC Arcade added later. Taking out games that aren't available due to licensing issues or publisher existence failure still leaves an immense number of games that should still be available for publishing (ESRB issues aside). Even a solo C64 game is better than nothing, because someone will have nostalgia regardless.

Hell, Nintendo has at least 25 games that could be released unencumbered. Surely one of the many quiet weeks they have had in the last year could have been filled in with say, Devil World for the Famicom (it's referenced in Brawl for Ra's sake).

Point is, there's no excuse for going quiet most weeks. If I was appointed to run the VC, there would be a game a week, unless Miyamoto personally hand coded a WiiWare game. And even then, we'd put out the arcade version of Donkey Kong in tribute.

Article the Second: Hey EA, want some free money?
The main 3rd party publishers that you see on the VC are Capcom, Konami, Namco, Hudson and recently SunSoft. Notice that these are all Japanese publishers. But if there's going to be games that only come out in other territories, North American should have its own exclusives. So let's get some Western publishers online.

Just with EA alone, you have the Road Rash series, the Mutant League series, The Immortal, the Skate or Die games... the Genesis section alone would get a massive boost. I don't know why they haven't come onside, but we would make every effort to have them onside. Even if they decided to do HD remixes of their games.

Speaking of...

Article the Third: An HD remake will not preclude the release of the original.
Also known as the Bionic Commando Corollary - Capcom has gone on record as saying that the main reason Bionic Commando for the NES is not on the Virtual Console already is the existence of the Rearmed game for PS3/360/PC.

The Wii may not be able to run the HD remake, but why would you turn down the original? A small but significant portion of the audience either doesn't have access to a HD system or would prefer the original game anyway, so let it see the light of day again.

Article the Fourth: Citation Of Fair Use And Licensing
Also known as "We're getting Earthbound on the VC come hell or high legal fees". If we can claim public domain for Donkey Kong, isn't half of the music they're worried about being referenced in the public domain in the UK?

Obviously, this is the hardest situation to deal with - getting the licenses for things like the Lion King SNES game, DuckTales for the NES - but I'm sure Disney Interactive and Capcom can be convinced to have a little revenue sharing. There's already a precedent for it with the first Turtles game (UbiSoft has the license now, but the original was a Konami/Ultra release), which has a 100pt premium.

Article the Fifth: Mutually Assured Sales
If appointed as czar, I'd ask for three minutes at E3 to tell the assembled masses this: "July 5 will be Mother week on Nintendo downloads. Mother as a translated NES import, Earthbound, and Mother 3 ported to WiiWare with an all-new translation". (Acknowledging the existence of the Mother leak and the Mother 3 fan translation so the folks at The key is that where it would be possible, we can use VC games to sell WiiWare titles and even DSiWare titles if applicable.

Article the Sixth: Pricing Correction
I recently had occasion to purchase SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1, and at the same time it made at least two of my purchases (Baseball Stars 2 and Neo Turf Masters) redundant. So instead of paying $9 a shot for World Heroes, Fatal Fury, etc on VC I can spend $30 and get 16 games? Yeah, I'll do that.

SNK/D4 Publishing is probably the worst offender of the bunch. Between SNK Arcade Classics, the Samurai Showdown/Art of Fighting Anthology, the King of Fighters collections... That's at least 40 games that would have no reason to exist on VC if you follow retail releases at all. So first thing is that NeoGeo games get an automatic, across the board reduction to 700 points.

Last year around Christmas, Sega temporarily lowered the price of a bunch of games, and what happened? Even after the sale ended, I still ended up buying Shining Force (original). Temporary price reduction brings attention to the back catalogue and gets people out buying points again - the sales for Gold members on Xbox Live have to be working or they would have cut them off long ago.

Article The Seventh: Timing Is Everything
This week, Nintendo had a golden opportunity to make some metaphoric hay on Virtual Console by releasing Mario World 2 to coincide with the release of Mario Galaxy 2. And yet, we're still waiting. Unless there's a New Super Mario Brothers Wii 2 coming out later this year, there really wouldn't be a better time.

Going on with the above though, why not use releases of existing franchise games to push VC to the masses? Aside from the fact that most of the fans probably have these games already, the expanded audience could be encouraged to try hooking up to the Internet to grab a free game. This would not be a Gamestop exclusive thing, but a first run of say, Metroid: Other M could have a code to download Super Metroid, the original... or perhaps both?

But perhaps the best opportunity would be to put games that may be attractive to the expanded audience into things like Wii Party and Wii Relax. For Wii Party, a good match would be something like Ice Hockey or maybe a future release of Super Spike V-Ball (came with a 4 player adapter). Wii Relax? How about a puzzle game like a version of Tetris or a Yoshi's Cookie?

So that's where I stand. Most of this has been repeated elsewhere, but it's better than bitching about it on a podcast.

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