Did anyone else optimistically assume Nintendo would dazzle with a Switch Virtual Console unveiling in a Direct prior to launch on 3 March? Begrudgingly, we’re going to have to accept it isn’t happening. It clearly won’t be available at launch, but the smart bet is now that it won’t even be revealed before the console goes on-sale.
Now the dust has settled on the divisive reveal event, I’m really excited to get my hands on the Switch (actually I already have, and so has Steve). It’s an impressive piece of kit as the most powerful handheld ever made, which conveniently outputs to a TV. And it’s launching with one of my most anticipating games of all time; it just wouldn’t be right to play the last-gen version, regardless of how similar they perform.
While I’m all in for day one, I wasn’t as frustrated as certain Internet dwellings over the lack of information. No news on the online service, other than it will be paid eventually, and flimsy information on how purchases tie to the new Nintendo Account system. There was nothing on a version of Achievements for Switch, and of course no news on if previous Virtual Console games will carry over to Switch, or be available at a reduced price, like they were between Wii and Wii U – because Virtual Console hasn’t been mentioned at all, outside of renting a selected NES or SNES game each month with an online account. I wasn’t too worried in January, because I assumed more information was coming. I thought Nintendo wanted to devote its first run of information to the hardware, and save these announcements for mid-February.
To quote the world’s most infamous tweeter: WRONG!
As launch day beckons, it’s becoming increasingly likely none of this will be clarified, because there is nothing to say. Virtual Console mustn’t even be close to being ready, and ownership, or licensing, of digital games through Nintendo Accounts probably won’t be as straight forward as their Xbox and PlayStation counterparts, otherwise Nintendo would have made a big song and dance about it.
The monetised online service isn’t free at launch as a bonus to early adopters. It’s free because the paid variant isn’t even ready to be discussed yet. Nintendo hasn’t taken online play as seriously as Xbox or PlayStation, but we can’t complain on Wii U, where it doesn’t cost a cent (and works pretty well). Two of its online super stars, Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon, are being reborn on Switch during the free-play period (probably in the case of Splatoon 2, as we still don’t have a confirmed date for it or the online service). It must be communicated clearly and concisely to explain the sudden extra charge for an experience that was originally free on Switch, and remains free on Wii U. It’s odd to announce a free trial of something that can’t yet be entirely explained.
The pre-announcement rumour of GameCube coming to Virtual Console is probably true, and that never specified it was a certainty for launch. Many of us just assumed in misguided hope, or at least expected for an announcement. As much as the Switch’s launch line-up would have been bolstered by a Virtual Console encore of Super Mario Sunshine or Luigi’s Mansion, an announcement that GameCube classics are coming later in 2017 would almost have been just as good (although it remains to be seen how the former could be played without analogue triggers).
A lack of Virtual Console at launch isn’t anything new. In fact, since its heyday and inception on Wii, Nintendo’s enthusiasm for the concept has waned. It arrived on 3DS three months after launch, and the gap was closer to five months on Wii U, where the prevalence of new releases never accelerated beyond a crawl.
But this is the fourth rendition of the Virtual Console. A month ago, it felt safe to assume it will appear on Switch, and the real question is which classic platforms it will include and will there be any cross-platform benefits? After all, we did get confirmation about transferring between Wii and Wii U ahead of time. Answers to those questions before launch now sounds ambitious; we need to know when and in what form Virtual Console is coming to Switch first.
The Switch is still three weeks away, so Nintendo could fulfill my original assumption and confirm details about Virtual Console, cross-platform purchases, the eShop in general, the online service and Nintendo Accounts. But the reality is it seems unlikely. We might get a throwaway comment from Reggie reaffirming his tidbit something will be announced eventually, but that’s not what I expected. I had assumed there would be a full Nintendo Direct presentation dedicated to the great unknowns before launch, because there are simply so many of them.
There was a Direct just prior to the launch of Wii U, detailing key information, and let’s not forget that infamous day one patch. The same could happen for Switch, and I still expect there will be something before launch, but I doubt it’ll be the treasure trove of lost details we are hoping for.
The launch window is for Zelda fans wanting to start their Switch library with an amazing cross-gen game on the superior platform. That’s the only market targeted for 3 March, and Nintendo doesn’t have to release any more information to convince them. But for those of us that pre-ordered also assuming Nintendo would fill-in the blanks, it’s time to accept that information isn’t coming.