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.”