Opinion: How can Nintendo turn around its Wii U Virtual Console service?
If there's one thing that Nintendo feels comfortable relying on time and time again, it's their older game library. Now, while we won't see the company do something ideal, like releasing its classics on the iOS front, they're trying to capitalize in another way, by re-releasing some of these classics on the 3DS and Wii U. The 3DS is doing just fine with NES and Game Boy releases, but the Wii U still has yet to find its footing, with only a few select titles available at the moment, like Punch-Out!! and Kirby's Adventure.
That'll change in a short amount of time, as Nintendo is prepping a Virtual Console update that will allow various games to be available for reasonabole prices. On top of that, Nintendo also took the time to listen to its fans and is bringing the cult favorite Earthbound to the U.S. market sometime later this year.
Still, I can't help but think more could be done with the Virtual Console service in terms of title accessibility. I mean, sure, it's great to see NES games there, but the company should really dig in deep with some of its ideas and make those especially spectacular for their current systems. And I've got a few ideas for how that can be accomplished.
Digital GameCube releases
To be honest, the GameCube was one of Nintendo's most pivotal consoles. It introduced disc-based format for the first time in Nintendo history, and did so with a reasonable amount of great games and features. We'd love to see those games make a return on the Wii U front, if only to play F-Zero GX, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Mario Sunshine and others in full HD, with an easier to play control setup than the one offered by those weird-looking GameCube pads. And for that matter, ask third-party developers to contribute as well. We'd love to see Cubivore again without having to try and scrape up a copy at our local GameStop.
Sega Saturn games
This is a bit of a long shot, mainly because Saturn games are probably the hardest things you can re-emulate right now. Still, we've seen people do it, so why not ask Sega to team up and bring some of its finest Saturn classics to the Wii U as exclusive Virtual Console releases? We're talking the Clockwork Knight games, the Panzer Dragoon series (including, most notably, Saga), and so many others that would easily fit right in to Nintendo's digital library. C'mon, Sega, I'm sure the fans would love a return for Astal.
Nintendo seems to have a penchant for bringing back long-forgotten titles to its service, so why not take the time to go after some real gems? Talk to Rare and see if it's possible to bring back the old NES favorite Battletoads – and, for that matter, pinball favorites like Pin-Bot and High Speed. Coerce Square Enix to team up again for a return of the classic Super Mario RPG from the SNES days. In fact, why not resurrect Mario Paint? The GamePad seems ideal for something like that.
Introduce a "Game Room."
Remember a few years back when Microsoft re-introduced various arcade classics with its XBLA package Game Room? Well, why can't Nintendo do that? Introduce an interface similar to the Play-Choice 10 or the sit-down vs. machines (courtesy of the GamePad screen) and let players choose a number of classics from the good ol' days, either to play in one shot or purchase for unlimited use. This would be an ideal opportunity to bring back several arcade favorites, including the original Vs. the Goonies (Konami wouldn't mind that, I'm sure) and Sunset Riders, the four-player cowboy shooter that, at one point, was actually slated to be on Game Room. It'd be nice to see it come back.
Finally, why not set up some sort of reward system, in which players can earn digital goods for completing certain tasks in their classic games? That may sound a little far-fetched, since they wouldn't hold any real-world worth like Achievements and Trophies would. But it's certainly better than nothing, and you could amass a great little virtual collection of goods to show to your friends – or give as gifts. It'd take time, but this would be a system that could get people addicted to Virtual Console games all over again, Nintendo.
Here's hoping the company likes these ideas…