The Virtual Console promised so much when it launched alongside the original Wii all those years ago. Indeed, on that particular console it became something of a goldmine of amazing retro titles, and when Nintendo announced that the service would carry over to the Wii U, many assumed that the good times were here to stay.
Sadly, that hasn't exactly been the case. While Nintendo has released many of its most famous NES, SNES, Game Boy Advance and Wii games on the service, there are still a great many Wii Virtual Console titles that haven't made the jump to the new generation, and the general pace of releases has been rather sluggish.
During Nintendo's 75th AGM, this issue was raised by a concerned shareholder, who not only wanted to know the size of the Virtual Console business, but also if Nintendo could release the entirety of its back catalogue on the service.
Nintendo's boss first addressed the question of how big the Virtual Console is in terms of revenue by stating that download sales have grown - but crucially didn't reveal what slice of that pie was down to retro games:
Regarding your question on the scale of Virtual Console title sales, the download sales as a whole for this (75th) fiscal year are 31.3 billion yen, and I have shared publicly that this is a 30 percent increase from the last fiscal year, but we have not disclosed the individual sales of Virtual Console titles only.
He than broke a few hearts by explaining that Virtual Console releases take time to develop, and if Nintendo were to speed up the rate of releases, it would impact the production of new software:
Virtual Console itself is a service that began when we developed Wii so that consumers can play past titles on new platforms, and we continue to distribute various titles now. However, back when we started this service, there were some points that we could not sufficiently foresee about how big this business would grow to be and how the business would expand. For example, Virtual Console titles are generally developed based on the original game software, but this does not mean that we can develop numerous Virtual Console titles simply if we have the original game software. Development of Virtual Console titles require detailed manual work, such as testing if the software runs smoothly on each platform, or making sure the content is appropriate under the various standards currently in place. Thus, we occasionally receive opinions that our pace of releasing new Virtual Console titles is slow, but if we use much of our human resources on such detailed manual work, we would not be able to develop new titles, so we are currently researching how we can efficiently develop Virtual Console titles with limited human resources. One of the big issues for our system development is how to resolve the situation in which we can only release a few Virtual Console titles at a time when we release new platforms.
He then explained that it's not possible for Nintendo to release every single game that has ever been due to various licencing issues:
In addition, regarding the possibility of making all titles available on Virtual Console, I can say that it is possible for Nintendo titles with a few exceptions, since we generally have the intellectual property rights for such titles. However, as to third-party software publishers' titles, if they are producing the software based on a license from another copyright holder, for example, we may not be able to easily use the same title for the system that exists now because we do not have a license from the copyright holder at the time. This often becomes a problem with reruns of TV shows or Internet broadcasting. Therefore, since we can only release Virtual Console titles of third-party software publishers if they come to an agreement with the copyrights holders upon negotiating terms and conditions that were not included in their original contract, please understand that there are some titles that we cannot easily release despite many requests. We will make our best efforts to satisfy our consumers with our Virtual Console title lineup.
What are your thoughts regarding Iwata's comments, and the state of the Virtual Console in general? You know what to do - post a comment below and share your feelings with the wider world.