GBA Virtual Console Titles: Genius or Desperation?

February 16th, 2014 -

Yesterday (February 13th) brought us another Nintendo Direct, and with it a slew of new information on upcoming titles on both the 3DS and Wii U. One thing that caught my attention in this Direct though was that the GameBoy Advance titles would finally be making their way to the Virtual Console service for Wii U. Nintendo’s choice of system for this has left me baffled though.

Finally! Finally GameBoy Advance titles are coming to Virtual Console! This announcement has me excited to play some of the great games on the GBA. Games like Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Golden Sun, Metroid Fusion, and many, many others. Now, I have a GBA. I have many games for the system. I just don’t have the willingness to bring it out of the box it’s packed in or the energy to find room on an already crowded power strip to keep it charged. An announcement like this is music to my ears. Digital copies of classic games I may have missed or just want to play again on a more current device I use all the time. At least that’s what I would be saying if they were coming to the 3DS. Instead, Nintendo has opted to bring GBA classics to the Wii U, perhaps to make their not-so-successful new piece of hardware more appealing to the crowds out there. Here’s a problem though. This announcement isn’t gonna make most people buy a Wii U.

Nintendo has been struggling lately to make the Wii U more relevant. The console still sees confusion in the sales market. I still get people coming to my store to buy new Nintendo games, only to find out they still have a Wii and wonder why they can’t play this new Mario without the “tablet add-on” to the system. Nintendo has a major problem here. They have already taken steps to make the system more appealing as well. A price cut earlier last year and a few bundles with major games on the system included both failed to drum up the numbers they were looking to sell. The PS4 and Xbox One aren’t helping things either. With those systems now out on the market, Nintendo looks like they’ve fallen behind once again. The Wii U seems to be a late to the party competitor of the PS3 and Xbox 360 that no one notices because they’re timidly hiding in the corner of the room. GBA games exclusive to Wii U will not draw in the people they need to draw in. The people who care about this sort of announcement already own a Wii U and the people who hear this news and don’t own one, don’t care because they won’t spend $300 on an emulation machine.

In a recent interview, Iwata mentioned the unification of the Nintendo platforms. A single ecosystem on which your Nintendo devices could thrive. Immediately I thought of Sony. The PS4 and Vita connectivity is something I really dig. Not just features like remote play, but cross-buy, cross-communication, and activity tied to single user accounts. Everything I do on one of their devices is present on their other devices, all feeding into the PSN ecosystem. Nintendo has a huge opportunity here. Not to copy their competitor, but to learn from them, adapt, and improve upon their concepts. Imagine buying Virtual Console titles and being able to play them on your Wii U, then transferring your progress to play on the go with your 3DS. This is something Sony already has, but Nintendo has an ace up their sleeve. Their past catalog of games. NES, SNES, N64, GameBoy, GBA, DS, and maybe even GameCube games all at your leisure and anywhere you want them. Being able to send messages on Nintendo devices would be different as well. Picto Chat could make a glorious comeback with the added benefit of wifi and the fact that both device have a touch to draw with. A cleaned up version of both eShops, or even a unified one, would make me actually excited to browse it.

But Nintendo seems like they don’t want to take the risk to try something new. It seems they want to slowly release older games on one system to drum up just enough cash to stay slightly relevant. Nintendo needs something new, something fresh. Are GBA games on Wii U going to be that something? No, they’re not. It’s a desperate move to get money on a system that seems to be dying. Maybe, just maybe though, they can still surprise us. Maybe this is just the first step to bringing Nintendo back into the world’s attention. Maybe.

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