By Joel McCabe / February 1st, 2013
Note: This is the first half of a two-part cooperative editorial written by two separate authors about the recent Wii U news involving the Virtual Console. Part Two is titled: Wii U Virtual Console Upgrades and Backward Compatibility
When launching its newest console, primed for the deeper needs of the “hardcore” gaming audience, Nintendo spoke repeatedly about how this new system was all about how you played the game. How you wanted to play on your time, the way you wanted to; in fact, this concept was even ascribed as part of the console’s name. Yes, according to Nintendo, the Wii U was going to be the high-definition system for you. Even at the original unveiling of the system, Reggie Fils-Amie said, “Yes, the game could still be for all of us, but could it also be a perfect fit, just for you? … In fact, we’re so convinced of it, we’re putting that pronoun right in the name.”
And recently, with other announcements regarding the “upgrades” to the newer version of the Virtual Console, Nintendo has remarked that save files from the original version of your favorite digital titles will not be recognized under the new system. Not only that, but to receive this upgrade, to make use of the entire functionality of the GamePad and other minutiae, an additional fee and re-download will be required. Otherwise, those older digital distributions will be imprisoned in the ‘secondary’ functions of the Wii-emulation menu… One is left to wonder; is this how I wanted to play my Virtual Console game? A game that I have already paid for, a game that I already have spent hours on? Is this really the way I want to play?
Furthermore, is all this really necessary? It would be obvious that certain systems within Nintendo’s servers would require adjustments to make alterations for this new hardware, especially with the range of functionality that the GamePad is capable of. And as their own systems transfer and evolve from the older ways into new ideas like the Nintendo Network and Miiverse, programming upgrades are obviously a necessary step. However, is this additional fee for an ‘upgrade’ of previously purchased V.C. titles one of those that we must grin and bear?
According to a second-year gaming design student with experience in a range of Nintendo’s own operating systems, that is not the case. In fact, this could be little more than a monetization attempt on-par with Capcom’s on-disk DLC fiasco. “Save files and save states are nothing more than snapshots of where you are in a game. Making these kind of changes shouldn’t affect the ability to read that data and use it in-game at all,” said the young designer. And then there is the upgrade fee itself to consider. On its’ own, $1.50 US is not a large amount, by any stretch of the imagination… but that is per-capita for every V.C. title you want transferred. How many Virtual Console games did you have on your Wii? Five? Ten? Even more, perhaps? Added up, even among a small minority of customers, that equals tens of thousands of dollars of free profit for Nintendo. And then, you have to replay all of your games from scratch, destroying hours of work in the past…
Hopefully, this situation is not a permanent solution to this problem. Hopefully, Nintendo will learn from not only their own past, but from the history of other gaming companies and their struggle with making backwards compatibility more of an asset than an issue. Because that is what this is really about; with the promised complete backwards compatibility with everything on the Wii, this news regarding the Virtual Console on the Wii-U feels like a slap in the face to most gamers. Is Nintendo really trying to say that they can’t keep their promises? Perhaps a complete historical outlook on how this now-vital component of gaming culture has been used in the past can shed more light on what this really means for the future of the Wii-U, as well as what our reaction to this news should really be…
My fellow writer Brad Williams has amassed and assimilated that same history for a shocking look at how rare true backwards compatibility has really been in the gaming world, and why this recent announcement should not ruffle as many feathers as it seems.
SOURCE: Thanks to Timothy M. for consultation
backwards compatibilityWii Virtual ConsoleWiiU