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The Virtual Console is a Terrible Friend
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 01, 2010   |   Episode 173 (Show Archive)  

   

Some jokes never go out of style!
It's no secret that lately I have become disillusioned with Nintendo's Virtual Console. Only a couple years ago it seemed like Nintendo was releasing two or three games a week, but now we're lucky to even get two games a month. These days it's not uncommon for Nintendo to go weeks without adding anything to the Virtual Console. I hate to say it, but Nintendo's handling of the Virtual Console is the absolute worst. Or is it?

All of this focus on the Virtual Console has prevented me from paying close attention to the PSN store's lackluster PSone offerings. Could it be that Sony is just as guilty when it comes to re-releasing their classic games? With no must-own games hitting either platform this week, it's time to figure out which major company is the worst at uploading old school games.

Longtime readers already know this is not the first time I have complained about the shoddy job these companies

U-four-ia: The Saga may be a great game, but it came after three weeks of nothing!
are doing. Last year I asked a simple question: Is Nintendo's Virtual Console Broken? I spent two pages lamenting that Nintendo had lost focus and completely dropped the ball when it came to supporting their older games. I predicted that if Nintendo didn't turn things around, this problem would only get worse. Sadly, I was right.

The numbers don't lie; Nintendo's yearly Virtual Console output has diminished to a point where it's a genuine surprise if they upload a game. In 2008 Nintendo uploaded a total of 85 games. By 2009 that had dropped to 67. By contrast, this year we'll be lucky to top 35. We're nine months into this year and Nintendo has only uploaded 21 games. By this time last year there were 39 games, close to

Sony gives continues to give me reasons to post Final Fantasy cosplay!
double. And the year before? We're looking at a total of 60 games between January and August. You don't need to be a math genius to see where things are headed.

Interestingly, Sony seems to be on the exact opposite trajectory. Sony has been slow at populating their PSone Classics store, waiting until both the PSP and the PlayStation 3 could take part before giving it their full attention. In 2009 Sony uploaded 57 PlayStation games, a sharp increase from the dozen games they released in both 2008 and 2007. And don't even get me started on the six games Sony uploaded in 2006.


Just off the top of my head I can think of two first-party Nintendo games worth uploading!
Clearly, Sony is headed in the right direction. In the past nine months they have uploaded a total of 29 games, eight more than the Virtual Console. Compared to last year, they are on track to hit 57 games again this year. Unfortunately, it's not all good news for Sony.

If it feels like Sony has missed more weeks than Nintendo, it's because they have. The Virtual Console has had thirteen missed weeks, while the PSone Classics store has had fourteen. That's not a big discrepancy, but in both cases it's too much. With so many classic games ready to be uploaded, there's no reason not to have at least one game

I ask for Tobal 2, but knowing Sony what I'll get is Blasto!
a week. What is especially frustrating is that just when it looks like Sony has figured out what they're doing, they take a three week vacation. These classic games aren't going to release themselves; it takes Sony pushing a button to make it happen.

Thankfully the quality has been strong on Nintendo's side. In the seventeen episodes of This Week in Defunct Games posted in 2010, there have been more positive reviews than ever before. This year has marked some excited releases, such as the first time American gamers got accurate ports of Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, Ironclad and U-four-ia: The Saga. Plus, we played through Final Fight 3, Ghoul Patrol, Final Fantasy II (Super NES),

Although the release schedule may be a bit erratic, Nintendo has managed to release some long overdue gems!
Kirby Super Star and even Wild Guns. The truth is, there were only two stinkers this year -- The King of Fighters and Zaxxon.

Sony hasn't had the same luck. There's no denying that 2010 saw some major PlayStation releases. It's hard to ignore Final Fantasy IX, Grandia and CTR: Crash Team Racing. But those are the exception in a year that has given us three XS games (XS Airboat Racing, XS Junior League Dodgeball and XS Moto), Toy Story Racers, Delta Force and Perfect Weapon. Considering the caliber of games on the original PlayStation, it's appalling that THESE are Sony's selections.

Despite the lackluster releases this year, I can defend Sony's lack of quality. For one thing, they are only starting to really understand how important it is to preserve their classic games on a central server. They also have only one system to support, unlike Nintendo's nine consoles (including

These days Nintendo is uploading one Neo Geo game every two years, which makes a WindJammers port unlikely!
the Virtual Console Arcade). Nintendo has no excuse, they have eight consoles to support versus Sony's one platform. If anything, Nintendo should be dominating with hundreds of games a year. But no, instead we get 21 games in nine months. It's just pathetic.

But don't think I'm taking Sony's side just yet, because they aren't completely off the hook. Let me be completely clear, Sony could be doing a lot more to bolster their credibility when it comes to classic games on the PSN. There is an almost endless amount of PS1 games that could be uploaded, many of which are better than XS Moto and Toy Story Racers. Where are the classics I remember? Where are the Japanese games that never made it to the states? How much do I have to pay to get a version of Tobal 2 I can actually play?

And it's not just their PlayStation 1 games they can release, what about the PC Engine and SuperGrafx? In Japan, Sony has teamed up with NEC to release some of the best loved games for their long outdated consoles. We're talking Bonk's Adventure, Gate of Thunder

Don't toy with my heart, Sony. If you're going to release SuperGrafx games, then let the rest of the world play!
and more. Seeing as Nintendo hasn't uploaded an NEC game since March, I would say it's time for Sony to pick up the slack. There's no reason not to bring these games over. And while they're at it, maybe they can work out a deal with Sega to port games from the Genesis, Saturn and Dreamcast.

As far as I can tell, there is no clear winner. Yes, Sony has had more games, but Nintendo has offered better games. The sad truth is that both of these companies could be doing much more to keep their old school fans happy. Nintendo has hundreds of Neo Geo, TurboGrafx, Master System and arcade games to pull from, yet they seem a little too trigger shy. Sony, on the other hand, should be pushing their PSone games and making deals with Sega, NEC and everybody else that had a console compete with Nintendo. Both companies are missing out on what could potentially be millions of dollars of revenue. If we're going to preserve games for the future, then we need to start taking classic gaming more seriously than Nintendo and Sony.
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