The Virtual Console is a way for Nintendo to allow for digital backwards compatibility going several generations back. That’s a great idea allowing them to capitalize on their rich legacy, but as the years go on, it feels like the VC needs a big change in order to keep consumers interested.
While it’s something Iwata wanted to prevent, games do devalue over time and they should account for that. NES games are a tad on the expensive side, especially with the NES Mini offering 30 games for $60 which would cost you around $150 on the VC. Lowering each by 20-40% might do them some good. $1.99 for NES/GBC, $3.99 for SNES/GBA, $5.99 for N64/DS, $9.99 for GCN, and $14.99 for Wii/3DS seems reasonable enough.
PS+ is a great money making strategy while adding value to consumers and it’s something Nintendo should very much be looking into with NX. An issue would be that including new retail games is a challenge, especially early on in a generation. With a massive back catalog of 5 generations and 9 console libraries they can fill in that quota for awhile. Additionally, new games (be it indie or retail releases) are devalued if they get on PS+ with some fans feeling ripped off for buying the game earlier or if they only own other platforms. This could ease the issue while allowing Nintendo to stick with their drip feed method.
I don’t believe they can gate online play behind a paywall, not until they get rid of the stigma, but being like the original PS+ would make consumers pretty happy while providing an additional source of revenue.
Another alternative Nintendo might want to look into is a Netflix style service. Allowing access to their entire back catalog (likely excluding Wii U) for a certain amount per year. Maybe tie this in with other incentives like early access to new releases, additional discounts, etc. They have a lot of exclusive titles to put on offer, something Netflix is trying to achieve now, which will increase profitability if done right. This would require most of the VC library to be available from the offset, though, so the drip-feed method would not work. I think there’s still a large market for Nintendo’s retro games, but not sold individually and released slowly over a long period of time.
Pricing for something like this could be similar to Netflix’s $9 per month, or $90 per year. Should match the value provided, at least, which is another issue.
Emulation has taken off on PC, usually illegally, but people have grown used to having several features when playing these games and maybe Nintendo should take advantage of them. Nintendo already implemented save states which alleviates some frustration when revisiting older games. Additional visual upgrades might be warranted as well. Filters for older games as well and resolution bumps could add value to older games. Nintendo experimented with 2x resolution for DS games on the Wii U VC, but left the feature disabled for some reason (bugs?) so they’ve at least considered it. 3DS and GameCube games would generally look pretty nice with an improved resolution (as seen above).
Nintendo should look into expanding their line up, which has been stuck on N64 level games since the Wii. Eurogamer looked into the possibility of GCN and Wii emulation and the results are somewhat promising, though it might require more effort they’d be willing to put for every release. Even a 480p GCN game would look pretty nice on a 5″ screen, though. If they manage to add Wii, 3DS, and GCN games to the service, they’d be able to access over 90% of their back catalog outside of Wii U software. Wii U emulation isn’t likely for several years so porting key titles like Bayonetta 2 or Smash 4 is recommended.
As a side note, marketing the VC as a “buy once and play anywhere” type service could work pretty well. I imagine many would love to revisit retro games on the go, especially GCN and N64 titles. Also, giving Wii/Wii U owners the chance to transfer their purchases would result in a lot of good will which would make those most likely to buy a lot of VC games to come back especially if they already have a library of games available from the get go (remember, there’s no native BC based on the Eurogamer rumor)
I believe there’s a lot that can be done with Nintendo’s massive back catalog and these are just a few suggestions that might be more effective than their current strategy. These games already came out and made their money, they can do much more with them now a days than selling them for an inflated price. Giving them away for a small subscription is one way of handling it, as is lowering the price. I hope they reconsider their strategy since it doesn’t appear to be working optimally.