Nintendo Continues To Make It Hard To Play Classic Games Legitimately

from the pew-pew dept

When it comes to being crazy restrictive on all things IP coupled with being amazingly combative with making lots of properties readily available for legitimate purchase, Nintendo barely needs an introduction. This is the company that has taken down ROM sites for classic games all over the internet, taken down fan-made games that use Nintendo properties, taken down all manner of fan-made ports of Nintendo properties onto other hardware, and has even taken down fan-made creations that involve putting Nintendo characters and the like into 3rd party creative games and software. Now, to be clear, Nintendo can do all of this. The open question has always been why it bothers to do so. What threat is a fan-game to legitimate Nintendo titles? Especially when Nintendo often times makes it quite difficult to legitimately get classic Nintendo games on its current hardware.

Case in point, Nintendo recently announced a new Metroid side-scroller that has Metroid fans very, very excited. So excited that some of them want to go back and play the classic Metroid games before playing the new title, only to find out that on the Nintendo Switch you just can’t.

During E3 2021, Nintendo announced Metroid Dread, the first 2D classic style Metroid game in nearly 20 years. As you might expect, lots of fans got excited. Many of them wanted to play the older Metroid games as they waited for Dread to release in October. However, if you go looking for old Metroid titles on the Switch, you’ll quickly discover that Nintendo has done a poor job of supporting the series and its catalog of beloved games. In fact, you’ll need to boot up a Wii U if you’re looking to enjoy games like Metroid Fusion or Metroid: Zero Mission.

A quick search for Metroid on Nintendo’s eShop returns a selection of classic titles. But after toggling on a filter to only show Switch content, you’ll quickly see that none of those games are currently available on Nintendo’s super-popular console/handheld hybrid. In fact, the only two items that show up for Switch are a pre-order page for Dread and for some reason a random game called Wunderling.

It would be one thing if Nintendo wanted its stance to be that the public can only play legitimately purchased classic games on its hardware, thereby nixing things like ROMs, ports, etc. That would be, oh, let’s just call it annoying but expected. But to remove the ability for fans to play those classic games out of excitement for the new title and to fail to make those classic games available on its most current and popular hardware? Well, that’s just callous and ultimately unproductive.

We have said for a long time that in many instances piracy, especially in the retro-gaming space, can actually be a boon to sales of new releases of franchises like Metroid. That’s the case because of exact circumstances like this. Nintendo announces a 2D Metroid side-scroller, leading fans to want to revisit previous 2D side-scroller Metroid games. When they cannot do so on their Nintendo hardware, well, we’ve just injected a massive negative perception into what should be a totally positive fan experience.

That is, of course, unless they turn to copyright infringement instead.

Meanwhile, fans and pirates have done the hard work and continue to be better than Nintendo at supporting old games. In the case of Metroid, this is incredibly useful for anyone looking to play the past games without relying on Nintendo’s official stores or consoles. You are, right now, a quick Google search and a few files away from having hundreds of NES and SNES games available to play on whatever device you are using to read these words. Many of these fan-created emulators rival anything Nintendo has officially created and often support more features, fan translations, and mods. These emulators and their communities have done incredible work preserving Nintendo’s history and have no doubt helped introduce folks to older games from the company.

Yet Nintendo continues to fight emulators and ROM sites while offering no real legal equivalents. Imagine an alternate universe where fans excited for Metroid Dread could head over to a giant online Nintendo store on their PC or phone, where nearly every classic Nintendo game was waiting for them. Nintendo would make a ton of money and would, in the process, help support classic games for decades to come. But instead, it’s just lawsuits and disappointment.

It feels like we have a new Nintendo corporate tagline for the brand.

“Nintendo: it’s just lawsuits and disappointment.”

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Companies: nintendo

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Comments on “Nintendo Continues To Make It Hard To Play Classic Games Legitimately”

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34 Comments
Samuel Abram (profile) says:

BTW, Timmy G...

Nintendo often times makes it quite difficult to legitimately get classic Nintendo games on its current hardware.

That is, unless you subscribe to their online service and can get the NES and Super NES collection, both expanding every month. BTW, Metroid and Super Metroid are both available on those respective services.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: BTW, Timmy G...

It’s not just me saying it. Look here. Notice the words "Metroid" and "Super Metroid". Nintendo’s online service is so inexpensive it even costs less than Gamepass, Netflix, or Disney+.

(Granted, there’s a lot of latency with their online service, but at least you get legitimate Nintendo Switch access to NES and Super NES classics and deep cuts)

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: BTW, Timmy G...

Which requires an active subscription to an online service which may or may not be valueable to you. Nor do I have access to more than a handful of first party games, many of them are C or D tier. Yeah, having Metriod (Metriod 1) and Super metroid (Metroid 3) is great. It not so cool that I have to buy into an unrelated subscription service to access them. And not having Return of samus (Metroid 2 for the gameboy), Samus Returns (The metroid 2 remake), Fusion (Metroid 4) or Zero Mission (the far superior Metroid 1 remake), on current hardware, means I am absolutely playing most of these games illegitimately.

The online bonus games dropped to a trickle after they released SNES options. Its expanding whenever they feel like it. It doesn’t include GBA or N64 games we used to get from the eshop, nor does it incorporate gamecube, a system which just begs for retro releases given its place as argueably more iconic than the N64 combined with the issues gamecube hardware has with native HD TV support. (i just want to play thousand year door nintendo….)

I don’t think the existence of NSO NES and SNES classics disproves the core thesis, particularly as most Metroid games, including both remakes, including the most recent 2d release, the remake which serves as the basis for Metroid 5, Samus Returns, aren’t available on the service.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Sammy, jeez, learn to keep it in one comment. Replying to all your stuff here for peace of mind.

Nintendo somehow makes a Game Boy Advance service for their online membership plan like they did for the NES and Super NES.

Given how long it took for Nintendo to start the SNES part of its online system after the launch of the Switch, and how few games of the total libraries of both the NES and SNES are on the service (even compared to the amount of games available through the Virtual Console on the Wii U)? Don’t hold your breath waiting for GBA games — or games from any other system, for that matter.

this is not the first time Nintendo left money on the table

Nor will it be the last. But it is one of the more infuriating times, especially for Metroid fans who want to play the games legally.

Metroid and Super Metroid are both available on those respective services

You know what games aren’t on that service? Fusion (GBA), Zero Mission (GBA), and the original Metroid II (GB). Considering how Dread will pick up from Fusion, the inability of Metroid fans to revisit that game legally on the Switch is notably egregious.

Nintendo’s online service is so inexpensive it even costs less than Gamepass, Netflix, or Disney+.

And it still only gives you a fraction of the games that are available on the Wii U’s Virtual Console.

Would it kill Nintendo to release a Metroid collection that has Metroids 1 to 4 (the original, Metroid II, Super Metroid, and Fusion) in addition to Zero Mission? Like, they can price it at a full $60 and do that limited time bullshit like they did with that Mario battle royale thing, but at least it would be something people could get their hands on.

The larger problem here is that Nintendo could easily afford to do such a thing, given the broad success of the Switch and many of the first-party games for that system (notably Animal Crossing: New Horizons and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild). That they don’t is a testament to either its inability to give a fuck about its classic back catalog or its dismissive attitude towards the same fans that are willing to toss Nintendo money in exchange for a legal way to play the old Metroid games. Either way, it’s not a good look.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"And it still only gives you a fraction of the games that are available on the Wii U’s Virtual Console."

It seems somewhat disingenuous to compare it to Game Pass, given that GP mainly gives you brand new games, often on the day of release, while the Nintendo service is giving you stuff from last century that many people using it have bought at least once already.

Also, it depends on how you’ve bought into Game Pass. Sure, on paper the full price is much higher than Nintendo’s service, but there’s various tricks ranging from stacking special offers to using Microsoft Rewards that can make it way cheaper, or even free.

Nintendo throwing a bone to fans in order to get them to pay for a service that’s notoriously inferior to competing online products is nice, but it’s not necessarily the bargain it’s made out to be.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Nintendo service is giving you stuff from last century that many people using it have bought at least once already.

And stuff they never played legitimately (such as Star Fox 2), and stuff few of them had gotten their hands on (e.g. Kirby’s Dream Land 3, Super Puyo Puyo 2, Shadow of the Ninja, VS. Excitebike, etc.).

That being said, all of the rest of what you and Stephen T. Stone have said are valid.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

back when the NES was still a thing

The NES is still a thing. Hell, there are new NES games and cartridges being made right now (i.e. way after the commercial life cycle of the NES)! Let me list some of them in my NES games collection:

  1. Haunted Halloween ’85
  2. Haunted Halloween ’86*
  3. Jay & Silent Bob: Mall Brawl
  4. Star Versus
  5. Tower Defense 1990
  6. The Legends of Owlia
  7. Lizard
  8. Nebs ‘n Debs
  9. Rock Paper Scissors
  10. Alfonzo’s Arctic Adventure

*Nintendo actually licensed a port of this game for the Nintendo Switch.

Also, you could get a better NES now than what Nintendo made back in the day. Check it out!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Sure, what you say is true, I just think it’s disingenuous to compare a service that will give you massive amounts of new games every year, many on the day of release, to something that largely gives you nothing but old games, even if some of those games aren’t available elsewhere.

Also, while Microsoft are constantly negotiating new licences for titles and getting involved in the necessary quality control to ensure they’re not adding incomplete titles, Nintendo are just copying ROMs for things they already own and ensuring their own emulator is up to scratch. The cheaper prices are because the games are pure profit for them to begin with.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Nintendo are just copying ROMs for things they already own and ensuring their own emulator is up to scratch.

Are you sure that’s what they’re doing? Have you ever heard of M2 or Digital Eclipse? They recreate the classic games from scratch instead of using emulation. It’s possible that Nintendo outsourced a team like them to recreate games for the Nintendo Switch instead of just straight-up emulation.

On the other hand, if it is just straight-up emulation, there is also the factor of negotiations with the third-party IP (i.e. © and ®) holders for putting their games on the service. That probably isn’t cheap.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Well, recreating every game from scratch when the hardware is so easily and effectively emulated does seem like overkill, but if that’s what they’re doing then kudos, I suppose.

"there is also the factor of negotiations with the third-party IP"

There is some of that, but a lot less than Microsoft have needed to do since the majority of the most popular games were first party titles. It’s certainly not the same as negotiating with publishers for new titles as they are released.

I admit I don’t know the nitty gritty, but it certainly seems that it’s a much easier service to create and maintain than the one Microsoft have, so I just find it disingenuous to directly compare pricing as if they are the same service.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I admit I don’t know the nitty gritty, but it certainly seems that it’s a much easier service to create and maintain than the one Microsoft have, so I just find it disingenuous to directly compare pricing as if they are the same service.

As I said before, that is indeed a fair and valid point. I did not mean to suggest otherwise, and if I did, I apologize..

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

That’s fine. I just don’t like the idea that the two services are compared so directly, when the fundamental differences mean you might as well be comparing it to a library. I don’t own a Switch personally and I’m sure it’s a great service for a lot of people, but the differences make it somewhat of a bad comparison. There’s room for both in the marketplace, and hopefully the hype surrounding the new Metroid will convince Nintendo to add the older games.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

We know for a fact that Nintendo are using emulation in their classic-game services and devices; people commonly extract the official ROMs, or insert and play their own. What’s interesting is that Nintendo’s NES ROMs are exact matches for ROMs found online, suggesting Nintendo may have distributed ROMs they denounced as illegal. These NES "ROM" files are actually dumps of two hardware data chips (PRG and CHR), combined with an unofficial header that was never present in hardware and used a numbering scheme made up by early emulator authors; nobody could accidentally recreate this format. (I.e., whether or not Nintendo distributed a "pirate" ROM, they definitely built on the history of "pirate" emulators.)

Anonymous Coward says:

That is, of course, unless they turn to copyright infringement instead.

OK. So, why the fuck should we accept Nintendo’s view that this is not "legitimate" and is "piracy"? We’re talking about videogames that are decades old, for long-obsolete consoles. They don’t need financial incentives to create NES games. It’s the continued copyright restrictions that are illegitimate, not the torrents of old ROMs.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because they have a long history of making quality games, putting them out in a completed state on the hardware they’re developed for, not loading them with nightmarish DRM and gambling mechanics and doing so without the relentless cruelty towards developers that is widespread in the industry?

They’ve got a bunch of issues as a company, they need to bring their attitude toward the internet into the 21st century but compared to a lot of publishers…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"not loading them with nightmarish DRM"

They’re still infected with DRM, it’s just that console DRM is far less odious than PC DRM because they’re designed to run on a single purpose custom device, instead of screwing with general purpose devices typically used to store a lot of sensitive personal and financial data.

"without the relentless cruelty towards developers"

Depends on what you mean by "abuses", but there’s reasons why Nintendo have traditionally had a harder time attracting quality 3rd party developers than the other consoles.

Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Cruelty toward developers, they have issues attracting third party developers because the hardware they put out isn’t able to compete with Sony and Microsoft’s hardware in terms of specs, which are usually sold at a massive loss because they’re more able to absorb that than Nintendo, that’s nothing to do with abusive practices in the present day. Nintendo aren’t the ones buying third party studios, inflicting crunch on the people who work there to rush to meet unrealistic release dates, then firing them en masse when a game sells 3 million when management expected 6, based on nothing but numbers going up looking good. Nintendo don’t buy studios just to strip their IP then shut them down, while making record profits like Activision or EA. Nintendo aren’t the ones covering up workplace abuse like Ubisoft, Konami and others in the industry. Other major players have left a huge trail of dead studios bought to take over a game franchise then scrapped after one failure, burnt out staff, people they’ve chewed up and spat out to get games out at all costs, but that accusation is rarely levelled at Nintendo. There are numerous ways they could be better, but they’ve a long way to fall to touch the lousiness of other triple A developers.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Absolute bollocks. The original Wii had a virtual console service, so you’re lying if you pretend that it was created specifically for the Wii U. They certainly expanded it for the Wii U, but a lot of the work was already done. Nobody’s claiming that the ability to play older games is a system seller on its own (though the systems that sold out in moments that were created for that express purpose might indicate otherwise). So, the failure of the Wii U only proves that emulation alone isn’t a system seller if the system fails in other areas.

Also, I’d like to see your figures for the claim that it was expensive to create. That seems very unlikely, and even if it were you then have to explain why Nintendo have failed to capitalise on it while Microsoft have had no problems raking in cash from their backward compatibility service.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

One of Nintendo’s many, many mistakes with the Wii U (I should know, I was an owner of one) was that the virtual console wasn’t transferable from the Wii to the Wii U. That meant that you had to buy your games all over again. That really delayed me buying a Wii U console because I was disgusted with Nintendo forcing me to buy their digital games twice. At least on the Switch it’s with a subscription service.

Besides, if I really wanted the original games, there’s always ebay and places that make accurate original console clones that are compatible with modern-day TVs (I’m not kidding).

Lt. Nitpicker says:

Re: Re: Re: Wii U game transfer

IIRC: The way Wii U game transfer worked was that if you transferred the game to the Wii U Wii Mode, you got a large (for Nintendo) discount on the Wii U version, and when you bought it, you couldn’t use the Wii version anymore. If you still wanted to play the game without paying, you could play it in Wii Mode. Was it a very stupid system? Yes, especially since the price rose the newer the system the game was on.

Rekrul says:

Nintendo hates ROMs and freeware emulators. The irony being that if it wasn’t for people writing emulators, dumping the ROMs and uploading them to the net, interest in retro games probably wouldn’t be anywhere as high as it is today.

Does anyone think that any of the "classic" systems or the Virtual Console would exist if there hadn’t been an active community of people keeping interest in old systems alive? Sure, there would still be some hardcore collectors, but demand for retro stuff wouldn’t be nearly as mainstream as it is today if it wasn’t so easy to access the games so easily through illegitimate methods.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"The irony being that if it wasn’t for people writing emulators, dumping the ROMs and uploading them to the net, interest in retro games probably wouldn’t be anywhere as high as it is today."

This is indeed worth stressing. Does anyone think that Nintendo would have released Starfox 2 without the emulation buzz around it? Unlikely, given that they almost completed the game before deciding not to release it for the system it was actually made for. Yet, now it’s a selling point for multiple consoles.

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