A disheartening announcement was buried in the dregs of an official Nintendo PR e-mail that Virtual Console games will not be available on the Nintendo Switch at launch.
The “Nintendo eShop, Indie Games Ready for Nintendo Switch Launch” press release had one particular bit of information that was slipped in with as little fanfare as possible: “Virtual Console games will not be available on Nintendo Switch at launch. We will share more information in the future.”
This is the latest in a line of quiet cuts that give the distinct impression that Nintendo wants their new console on store shelves as soon as possible. It also won’t feature a web browser or services like Netflix and Hulu, despite the introduction of exclusively subscription-based online support.
The omission of the Virtual Console is even stranger, as Nintendo’s massive back-catalog of older games is one of the foremost strengths of the brand. Launching without nostalgic retro titles is like launching without Mario — which they’re also doing.
The Switch also won’t support routers with internet verification at launch. That means that even though the console is planting its flag on portability features, you won’t be able to access any online features in places that require any sort of verification for your connection. Hotels, airlines, and other traditional web-verification platforms are a no-go.
It’s important to note that despite all of the controversy surrounding a console with so many attached costs and so few compelling launch titles — I count exactly one — Nintendo seems to be doing just fine. GameStop is reporting “tremendous” demand for the new console, with a higher pre-order attach rate than the Wii U.
GameStop’s Senior Director of Merchandising, Eric Bright, further called Nintendo’s first quarter launch “one of the smartest moves Nintendo could have done.” He explained:
Instead of pushing units out during the heaviest time of the year (in Q4), this allows them to build a base. So by holiday, we can focus on games. There will be millions of people who will be hungry for content, creating a richer development cycle for game publishers who will have an install base to support titles. This also will take some of the brunt off of Christmas and enable Switch to be better stocked at stores.
Despite the predictable corporate enthusiasm and strong initial pre-sale numbers, it still feels like Nintendo is playing fast and loose with the debut of their next generation hardware. We’ll continue to keep an eye on it and bring you our impressions once we’ve spent some time with the system.
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