Nintendo plans to permanently remove NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, and other retro classic games from sale starting in 2023.
From 2023 onward, Switch Online service will be the only place gamers can experience retro Nintendo games. Earlier today Nintendo announced it would close the Wii U and 3DS eShops in 2023. Starting next year, gamers will not be able to buy content from either the Wii U or 3DS storefronts, including a wealth of Virtual Console games across legacy systems. This effectively removes these old-school retro hits from the market.
In a now-deleted section of its announcement FAQ, Nintendo said it "currently has no plans to offer classic content in other ways" outside of Switch Online. Just a bit ago we discussed how Nintendo was evolving the Switch Online subscription service with additive value. This particular move sees the company is boosting value with the omission of choice rather than additional content.
The lease-only business model has done well for Nintendo so far, and Switch Online remains an incredibly important source of recurring revenues. While I argued that Nintendo was missing out by not having Virtual Console on the platform, the Switch already sells millions of software every quarter; the Switch has sold nearly 767 million units since the system's launch.
Here's an excerpt from the FAQ. Note that this portion is no longer included on the announcement page.
- Q: Once it is no longer possible to purchase software in Nintendo eShop on Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems, many classic games for past platforms will cease to be available for purchase anywhere. Will you make classic games available to own some other way? If not, then why? Doesn't Nintendo have an obligation to preserve its classic games by continually making them available for purchase?
A: Across our Nintendo Switch Online membership plans, over 130 classic games are currently available in growing libraries for various legacy systems. The games are often enhanced with new features such as online play.
We think this is an effective way to make classic content easily available to a broad range of players. Within these libraries, new and longtime players can not only find games they remember or have heard about, but other fun games they might not have thought to seek out otherwise.
We currently have no plans to offer classic content in other ways.
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