Talking tech since 2003

Nintendo has a long and storied history in the world of video games, and its past systems have been home to some of the greatest titles ever made. The company has made many of those titles available — three times, in some cases — on its Wii, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS Virtual Consoles.

And as much as I’d love to dive back into Majora’s Mask and finish what I started 14 years ago, I just can’t get myself to plunk down the $10. Why? Because Nintendo’s Virtual Console system is all wrong.

wii-u-salesNintendo, it seems, has no problem ask you to pay three times for the same game. If you bought the original Super Mario Bros. on the Wii a few years back and want to play it on Nintendo’s newest console, you’ll have transfer the title over to your Wii U and pay an upgrade fee. If you want to take that game with you on the Nintendo 3DS, where Super Mario Bros. is available through the Virtual Console, you’ll have to pay the full price of the game again — even if you own a copy on the Wii or Wii U.

Let me put it this way: if you bought a movie through iTunes that only worked on your iPad and couldn’t be played on your iPhone or Apple TV, you’d be a little miffed. So why is this okay for Nintendo to do?

It shouldn’t be.

But, as it stands, I rarely watch movies from iTunes. I have a Netflix subscription, which offers me a whole lot of choice and unlimited access for a low monthly fee. So while Apple may get the occasional $4 or $5 from me, Netflix gets a consistent $7 per month. And over the course of a year, Netflix will make almost $96 from me. Apple might get $20.

This is why Nintendo should make the Virtual Console a subscription service.

By charging a subscription fee, Nintendo benefits in a few ways. First, it gets some money flowing to the company on a recurring basis. Second, depending on price, it could be a heck of a value for gamers and could maybe help them ignore the huge gaps between Wii U releases. And lastly, it’ll help undo that notion that Virtual Console titles are owned and shouldn’t have to be “paid for” again.

Such a subscription service could be Nintendo’s answer to PlayStation Plus and Microsoft’s Games with Gold promotion, too. Nintendo could tout access to the entire Virtual Console library and maybe even offer up a Wii U or 3DS title from time to time. It would certainly generate some goodwill toward a company that, aside from a few exceptions, has disappointed with its current offerings. And, over the course of a year, it would probably make more for the company than individual Virtual Console sales alone.

Nintendo is getting its figurative clock cleaned by both Sony and Microsoft right now. First, Super Mario 3D World was going to be the savior game, until it wasn’t. Now Nintendo’s hopes rest on Mario Kart 8 to turn the tide. But I can’t help but feel there is more Nintendo could do to change its fortunes. This is just one idea.

What do you think? Would you pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to Nintendo’s Virtual Console? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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