News Article

Global Inequality on the Virtual Console

Posted by Damien McFerran

In the early days of the Virtual Console it looked likely that although timing differences existing between US and European releases, most (if not all) games would make an appearance in both regions. However, as the US passes the 200 game mark (leaving Europe trailing at 187) we’re seeing a massive disparity between the software available in the two territories – and both sets of gamers are equally annoyed about it.

For example, Capcom’s excellent Megaman has so far made two appearances on the Euro VC (the first in June 2007 and the second in December 2007) but has strangely yet to show himself in North America. Other Euro-exclusive VC titles (at the time of writing) include Sega’s likeable Robocop-clone ESWAT, the excellent Mario's Super Picross and the unique Megadrive/Genesis platformer Vectorman. Europe also has Skate or Die!, but the less said about that the better.

On the flipside, North American gamers have been enjoying the delights of Eternal Champions, Adventure Island, Elevator Action, Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Star Soldier for a fair while now, yet there is no sign of these games on the European Virtual Console.

The most perplexing example is that of Konami’s seminal SNES shooter Axelay, which was released in the US in November but has yet to arrive in Europe, despite seeing the light of day in Australia (which traditionally gets the same games to Europe).

So the burning question is: why is this happening?

There are a handful of possible reasons. The most simple (and some would argue most likely) is that Nintendo (and the publishers involved) are merely choosing not to release these titles in every territory at this moment in time. Why they would decide to do this is very much open to debate; it could range from personal preference to the belief that gamers in a particular region wouldn’t be especially interested in a game (this could be true when considering the likes of Tecmo Bowl on the NES, which was released in the US last March and is arguably not the kind of title that European gamers would go for).

Another reason is ratings. Each Virtual Console title has to be rated for content, and it may be the case that although a game is successfully rated in one region, it may not be drafted through as swiftly in another.

Licensing could also be an issue. To take Axelay as an example; in the US and Japan the game was published through Konami but in Europe, Konami subsidiary Palcom handled the distribution duties. Palcom no longer exists and although it was owned by Konami back then, there may be issues with who owns the European publishing rights now that the company is defunct. Obviously this is just us thinking out loud here (please don’t assume we have solid facts on this!) but it does go some way to giving an illustration of the issues related to releasing old games onto today’s market.

In relation to the Megaman issue, another explaination comes to mind. In 2004 North American gamers were granted the excellent Megaman Anniversary Collection on the GameCube which included ten of The Blue Bomber's adventures. Although this is obviously now out of print, it could be argued that Capcom felt it wrong to ask people to stump up more cash for Megaman games on the Wii (although having said that, this hasn't stopped Sega releasing games like Golden Axe and Altered Beast on several different retro compliations AND the Virtual Console). Could the fact that the Megaman collection was never published in Europe account for the release of the two NES titles in that region?

In addition to this problem, there are other questions to be raised. Although it’s since been rectified, why did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles originally cost 500 points in Europe but 600 in the US? Also, why are European gamers no longer permitted to download Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, but it remains available on the US Virtual Console?

European gamers are used to be being given second-class treatment (the 50/60hz debate rages on, for example) but the Virtual Console could have been a way of redressing that balance and gaining some equality. Likewise, North American fans will be puzzled as to why Megaman - one of the most popular NES franchises and a huge hit in the States - has yet to grace their consoles. Of course we have yet to even touch upon Japanese Virtual Console releases, although any concept of equality between the East and West is unthinkable thanks to the language barrier and the issue of taste - few Western gamers will be interested in the countless Mahjong simulations that seem to populate the Japanese VC release list!

Here at VC:R we are loathe to open up too many cans of worms at once, but it seems that the gap between the US and EU Virtual Console is widening and the service is slowly becoming like the global videogame market itself: fractured and inconsistent. The dream of a truly united world market is as far away as ever, it would seem.

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User Comments (53)



saturnkid said:

Great article, as always! I've given up trying to understand game releases, nevermind different region releases, it made my brain hurt too much.



N64_Gamer said:

It's a shame that we never hear anything from Nintendo. Sure they announce something every now and then, but an explanation from Nintendo or just a word on this subject would be really great...



Bass_X0 said:

I think Europe would be more appreciative of Tecmo Bowl than some crappy four screen NES game even if its not OUR sport. We got Double Dribble so why not Tecmo Bowl? I personally wouldn't play them but I know many others would.

But that was a good article and brings up many if not all points I've been wondering about the Virtual Console too. It really is annoying and confusing that VC digital downloads are getting this kind of treatment that we're used to with physical releases of console games. Until NoA and NoE come out and explain their actions, I really can't see why things should be like this.



Boredom_v2_2 said:

That article was totally awesome and well explained, but you probably already know that people are still going to say something like "I want megaman 2" "I want Vectorman!" "Where the heck is Axelay!?"
BTW, not only did Megaman have a collection of many Megaman games, so did Sonic in Sonic Mega Collection.



Damo said:

Atlantis - it is now, yes, but when it was originally released it cost 600 in Europe and 500 in the US.



Dark_Jinjo said:

Loving the recent interviews and features you guys are doing. All of these issues are easily explainable I'm sure if only Nintendo would pull their head out of that huge pile of money for a second and answer a few questions for their fans. But seeing as that will never happen please keep bringing these issues up in posts like this and maybe someone from Nintendo will take notice and show us they care.



Bensei said:

I don't know what they intend to, but I guess they save the 200th release for SSB, which they want to release before Brawl. There seem to be two different teams who amke the releases, one for VC and the other for the other side. The ones from the VC release team are optimistic and expect Brawl to release in April or so, and now we'll get only one game the next 13 weeks until they realize Brawl will still not be out...
I hope they get in the turbo shortly after they figure out what's going on!!!

What was Game 200 in US anyways?

And if someone wants to get SMB: Lost Levels: I bought it, and I think I could present it to anyone I want. So all you need is a friend who bought that game in September and give him 2x300 Points cards from the European shop.
But I hope it will be re-featured together with the next hannabi Festival, but not as a release.

Has anyone started a petition about the Global differnece yet? I'd join



Edwin said:

I also bought TMNT day 1 for 600. Great article BTW, I hope Nintendo reads it and changes their ways accordingly.



Starwolf_UK said:

"Has anyone started a petition about the Global differnece yet? I'd join"
Theres a petition going about for 60Hz but thats all i've seen.

As for the article. I liked that it helped provide some reason to some of the inequality. Though it leaves me with these questions:
-How much does it cost to rate a game.
-How much does one make per VC title and so how many need to be sold to pay for the rating.

"What was Game 200 in US anyways?"
Harvest Moon or Lords of Thunder. Game 100 in the US was Zelda 2 and game 100 in Europe was F-Zero X.



HeikeKagero said:

What else is weird is that Europe is only getting 1 game a week while the US gets 2 and the US has always had more games

And are you really the HVGN?



eltomo said:

I dont think US will get MegaMan, not with all games on GameCube disk which can only be brought in the US... its only $9 on amazon! Go there =D



SergeEXE said:

I wouldn't pay 600 points for TMNT anyway, which is why it's not on my VC list.

However, many good points are made in this article, and it was written very well. Perhaps things will be ironed out this year with the Virtual Console, with WiiWare comin out.




Hmm. Well first of all great article, Second of all although it sux that we dont have megaman over here in the states, it must be much worse for u guys over in europe. I mean your not only behind in the vc but in the entire video game industry. The biggest blow being you dont even have a release date for brawl yet. i feel for u guys.



Elk810 said:

I'm not really disappointed about Mega Man being M.I.A. in the U.S. (Not a fan. Sorry.) I'm still waiting on Kirby's Dream Land 3 though.



Bensei said:

Bought Megaman Anniversary from ebay because I'm from EU. Anyone who likes Megaman should buy it, most bugs got fixed and there also some interesting extras like difficulty modes for Megaman 1-6, and not only for 2



Kenryoku_Maxis said:

I think the release of the Virtual Console list can be summarized quite simply. The production and later handling of Virtual Console is being handled by a group of people in Nintendo who oversee which games go where. They probably also consist partially of some of the original people who developed the Virtual Console Channel (if not other channels or many other aspects of Nintendo production not even related to just Wii Software Design).

But they have bosses as well. And we've heard from people in Nintendo of America, Nintendo of Japan and even interviews with Iwata himself how higher ups in Nintendo oversee or influence projects. And multiple times, we've seen things happen on the VC that lead us to believe that quick or not so quick and long time planned decisions have been made (possibly by heads of Nintendo) to the Virtual Consoles normal routine and release schedule to influence other aspects of the Wii or game sales.

Combine this with all the data they have been getting over the course of the very short time span this service has been in effect and the fact that they've been trying to change the service to meet the trends of the fans and the casual have a complex system that isn't going to make any real sense and is far from being organized.

I don't think there really IS any logical reason to how or why certain decisions have been made so far on the VC. What should be done is they should have a Voting section on the VC to allow people to vote for which games they'd like to see appear on the VC in upcoming months.



donx998 said:

Why is it taking so long for tetris attack to come out? It was released in Japan like in November.



Starwolf_UK said:

"I dont think US will get MegaMan, not with all games on GameCube disk which can only be brought in the US... its only $9 on amazon"
Three words for you. Sonic Mega Collection. Nearly all the games from that can be bought on US or EU VCs for 800 points a piece. 800 points a piece or all however many for a similar price?

And unlike the Mega Man Anniversary collection there are no control issues to be found (in case you don't know the Mega Man Anniversary collection has jump and shoot the opposite way around to what you'ld think, apparently its not a big deal if you've never played the games*)
*-Thankfully this was sorted out for Megaman X collection (which allows full customisation of controls)



DEMON212 said:

Hi guys, just about Axelay Palcom thing. Cybernator is Palcom, so I don't think that's the reason.

Also, you got the TMNT thing mixed up. It was 500 in EU but 600 in U.S.



JGMR said:

i find it very strange, the way Nintendo handles the VC releases.
I haven't downloaded a single game for months.



Drake said:

Axelay's already been rated by the PEGI (7+) so I have absolutely no clue why it hasn't been released in Europe yet. In fact, the rating appeared on the PEGI site the day the game was released in Australia.

Then again, Australia doesn't have Probotector II/Super C yet, so at least there's no unfair balance in the amount of games (Though Axelay is the better game).



AchubaNanoia said:

Nice article, great job! I don't have any idea of what's going on with Nintendo. Being that I live in Brazil and have a US Wii, I get all the goodies from the US release, and since I have most of the GameCube compilations, I don't really miss the Europe exclusives so far... maybe Vectorman, which I never played but heard good things about.



TBoneTony said:

Sadly, I am STILL waiting for Final Fantasy 6 to come onto the SNES Virtual Console in Australia since that the GBA updated version never made it here.

Also I wanted Cronno Trigger, I love RPG's but it sucks that everything is based on what would be more popular and nothing about what the hardcore minority want...

Story of my own life in Australia...can't get it if it is not popular in America first.



ChocoDK said:

Very good article. I would like to see that Mario Picross game (sorry if I got the name wrong) released in North America. It really does suck for Europe though that as usual they get the short end of the stick. And whocares if Mega Man was released on the Collectors Anniversary because Capcom can still make money by re-releasing it on the VC in North America for the people who buy it. I am not a Mega Man fan at all but I think it makes sense and a lot of people want Mega Man on the VC in North America.



Virus said:

Although I'd like to see Mega Man on the US horizon, l would just like to point out the good things that we may be taking for granted. For one, Nintendo might be comtemplating whether or not to remove our imports titles from the US VC. That possibility is a slim one, but one nonetheless. I also point out that the Wii is the only system that continuously gets new games every week for its in-console system. Sure, I don't like the one or two a week deals, but as long as games keep coming out, the chances for other game rise. This is a severely optimistic viewpoint, but personally, I like the idea that we have a great chance to see a game eventually than questioning if it will ever come out. We all are getting games (or game) every week too, so even if they're crap, we're getting something people.

Still, no matter how much it may seem I'm claiming people to be spoiled and greedy, I do agree that this VC stuff is kind of screwy. Liked the article too. Offered some nice possibilities to why this problem is occuring. Um, I have to say though, Europe, you're not missing much other than Axelay. Many of the games the US has gotten aren't stellar or the VC already has an iteration of them (many times, a better iteration).

Lastly, to the US gamers, maybe we haven't seen Mega Man because some evil Capcom boss is just waiting to see how pissed off Americans can get and then release it. It's not a great reason, but hey, it offers a reason to continue posting angry comments towards Capcom or Nintendo.



E-dawg said:

Why is Europe/Australia 13 games behind? Aren't the US always playing catch-up with us? They better be releasing Super Smash Bros. as a 200th game present for us...



whalleywhat said:

If the VC had a packed release schedule, I would understand, being concerned that a game would have poor sales would make a little sense, but when they're only releasing one or two, it's baffling. Send everything up the flagpole and see who salutes. I can't imagine that the overhead for Nintendo to keep these games on a server is that much more than $0.00. If a game sold poorly duing its lifespan, here's their chance to find that niche audience without having to press disks/cartridges or print up manuals. If Nintendo could give us any sort of hint that SOME kind of logic was being used with their release schedule, I'd personally find it less frustrating. My ideal for the VC would be to have a library of lost classics like Metal Storm and Ogre Battle 64, but seeing as we haven't even seen Majora's Mask or the Metal Gears, how can I hope for an Earthbound Zero or the PC Engine Rondo of Blood? Why are the titles so slanted to racers and beat em ups while action games like Contra and Bionic Commando get the shaft?
And this is all taking into account that Square-Enix will continue to charge full price for DS "re-makes" of their classic NES & SNES games and that any Rare games without Donkey Kong in the title are increasingly unlikely. Almost all of these games have Publishers with multiple titles on the VC or are first party, so it's not like I'm demanding some souped up online version of Goldeneye.
I don't know, it just makes no sense to me.



Kawaiipikachu said:

Well to answer one bit in the article Super Mario Brothers: lost levels was only a limited time offer .
And to TBone tony check GameTraders as they occasionally have import games as that's where i got my Final Fantasy 5&6 from .



Bass_X0 said:

yes, but WHY was it a limited time offer which was what the article was asking.



Roo said:

"North American gamers have been enjoying the delights of Eternal Champions..."

Delights? Are you sure?!?!

Other than that, no complaints about the article; nicely done! Personally, I'm not too concerned about the VC inequality situation. I bought a Wii for, y'know, Wii games. Though it would be nice if Nintendo released more VC games we never saw in Europe, like Harvest Moon 64 et al.



E-dawg said:

@ Bass X0

When it was released Nintendo Australia said it was limited time because it was meant as a 'collectors item'. I have no idea what Nintendo Europe said or whether they were saying the truth about their statement.



David said:

The biggest issue is the 50/60 Hz issue. I don't buy VC games because of this.

And I sincerely think they could make the effort to add online game on major releases such as MK62, Bomberman, and Street Fighters.



-K- said:

@Damo - "Atlantis - it is now, yes, but when it was originally released it cost 600 in Europe and 500 in the US"

You are wrong there, it 600 in US first, and then not to long ago, EU got the 600 point change



Rapadash6 said:

Excellent article. I think it's unfair the way Nintendo treats Europe with not just VC releases but any kind of releases. It doesn't make sense to me that you guys are continually just getting one game a week now while the US is getting two and Japan at least three. Nintendo just doesn't do a very good job handling Virtual Console outside of Japan. I mean why can't we have a monthly schedule too?



Starwolf_UK said:

If it means anything to anyone Vectorman can found on Sonic Gems Collection.

Ultimately the inequality I would be more concerned about is Wii Ware. I don't want Nintendo to manage to turn the digital platform into the retail platform (games arriving in various terretories months after another) which Wii ware could easily fall into.



Adamant said:

"I think Europe would be more appreciative of Tecmo Bowl than some crappy four screen NES game even if its not OUR sport. We got Double Dribble so why not Tecmo Bowl? I personally wouldn't play them but I know many others would."

Well, Double Dribble was actually released over here, and honestly, basketball is MUCH more popular in Europe than football is.
While Tecmo Bowl is an awesome game, it's not a very well-known title, and football-interested Europeans would rather buy a new Madden game than try their luck at some old NES football game they've never heard of.



Kawaiipikachu said:

The PAL NTSC difference of the past only annoys me a bit but it doesn't deter me from getting them .
It's not that hard to release NTSC versions in pal regions & have it work on PAL tv's as proven by the Hanabi Festival games .
I got Mario super picross & Sin & Punishment .
While a pal60 compatible tv must be used but still they can be made to work on pal tvs .
Like i said the PAL NTSC difference does not deter me any way at all



Bass_X0 said:

I hope we Europeans get something good tonight. I have points that I want to use.



nisa said:

I wish they could just make the games and the consoles universal - easier and more entertaining for everyone _



Luigison said:

I'd gladly buy Mega Man 1 and 2 again because the Megaman Anniversary Collection on GCN has swapped controls which totally sucked. Maybe I should put my tri-point screwdriver and soldering iron to good use and rewire a Wave Bird. That'd probably be cheaper than chasing down a PS2 version and faster than waiting for the VC downloads in the US.



Mike1 said:

The reason PAL releases are always after U.S. releases is because each game has to be translated into different languages. Of course, once the English version is ready for the U.S., I don't see why they can't release it in places like Great Britain.

I'm not sure what is up with the VC lately. A lot of the releases have been slowed down in both the U.S. and PAL. It makes no sense. I know Nintendo wants people to try all of the games they release, but come on. Games like Operation Wolf were terrible back then; they're just as bad now. Why bother releasing it?

Also games like Romance of the Kingdoms 4 may be good in China, but myself and most other Americans would never play a game about the history of China. Again, so why release it?



donx998 said:

@Mike i totally agree with you.Heres my idea.Nintendo should make a update in the voting channel where nintendo puts up a poll that ask what do we want to come out next on vc.And the polls should be the same for each country so no country will be behind.And if the choices they give you are to hard to decide.It will be ok they will release the vc that lost the poll next time.Or you could pick a new option that says no deal telling nintendo that they are bad vc picks so they can tell what we like.



NESgamer said:

I think there is no reason for these big differences, while some cases can be explained by publisher interests (like no Mega Man for us in the American continent), others seem rather dumb like making "SMB 2 the lost levels" a collectors item for PAL. Like what happened with all the people that got their Wii after the date?, they even lost more buyers. I see them making it available later.



Luigison said:

"some cases can be explained by publisher interests (like no Mega Man for us in the American continent)"

I don't see Capcom's interest in not putting Mega Man titles on VC. Sure it may lesson sells of the Collector's Edition, but that's sold out already in most stores and the VC titles have practically no overhead so they are almost pure profit.



j11 said:

What really makes me mad about the VC channel is the fact that us europeans have to pay much more for the same amount of points!
For 100 Points in the US you pay $1. In Europe we have to pay 1€ - that is $1.50!
So stop whining about paying 600 points ($6) where europeans paid 500 points ($7.50) and later 600 points ($9)...



zelda_freak said:

I'm not gonna pretend to understand all of the stuff involved with which game gets released where. I'll just wait and see what games hit my way.

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