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The SNES Classic Is Not The Product We Need

by David Lloyd - May 18, 2017, 8:03 pm PDT
Total comments: 11

The NES Classic Edition was likely discontinued to make way for an SNES Classic, but Nintendo should aim higher.

Now that the sun has set on the NES Classic Edition, rumours of Nintendo’s next nostalgia project have begun to surface in the form of the SNES Classic. The appeal of the classic systems is that Nintendo wants consumers like myself to relive their past memories of joyfully playing Nintendo games as children. Nintendo isn’t wrong in reading the market, I would gladly give them my money to relive a piece of my childhood (assuming they made enough for everyone) and I would be first in line to pre-order. The problem I see is that Nintendo is too focused on what may be a short term craze of nostalgia and not on creating new memories for the next generation of gamers.

The greatest asset that Nintendo has over current and future competitors is that no company can create a product that will erase 30 years of memories. I still remember the Christmas morning I opened up my gift from Santa and there was my original Nintendo. The games I played as a child are still to this day my favourites and not a year goes by when I don’t play through them again and again. My love for Nintendo only grew stronger with each passing generation, and as of this day I currently have 4 systems hooked up to an old CRT television and 2 more connected to my HDTV. It doesn't matter how many Playstations, Xboxes, Ouya’s, or iOS games come out, nothing can replace those memories.

This leads me back to the rumours of the SNES classic, a product marketed to the thirty something gamer with disposable income. In the short term, this seems like an easy decision to make but I think this is where Nintendo should be looking at the long term. Most of our kids are likely playing our systems, but it's not the same feeling as owning it themselves. To recreate that same market that started in the 80’s, Nintendo needs to create a new product at a price point that adults feel they can purchase the system for their children without feeling the need to keep the system for themselves. The need for this product is based on the safe assumption that Nintendo has no plans to drop the price of the Switch below $100.

I’m not naive enough to think someone at Nintendo hasn't already come to the exact same conclusion as I did. I believe the current answer to the indoctrination of kids into the Nintendo Ecosystem is the Nintendo 2DS.

The 2DS does provide children with a system of their own, I just believe that the experience of playing The 2DS isn’t the same as a console. To illustrate my point let's take a look at audiophiles. There have been dozens of case studies and research into the debate of analog vs digital. If you know an audiophile I’m sure you've heard many rants that digital music cannot compete with vinyl records. Many of us would argue that for the less refined ear the music quality is equal, the difference is the experience that the listeners creates when they feel connected to the record.

So Nintendo, if you’re listening and if you care, here's my pitch:

- A console visually identical to the NES classic that has access to a virtual console that can download games

- An eShop available to indie developers

- NES, SNES, N64 controllers with the same Wii style port (cause we know you need to make money off accessories)

- And lastly, but most importantly, plastic NFC cards to mimic cartridges that you can put inside the NES that will automatically download and start the game. There is something lost when games come from the air, the ability for kids to be able to feel the games and take them to their friends house is a key part of the experience.

A new system that can play up to 64 bit games that is marketed to a new generation of gamers would be music to the ears of developers large and small alike. In the current gaming landscape it's difficult to impossible for a single person to develop and market a game to console. A console with a mass audience created by offering Nintendo classic games could create an environment where developers like Toby Fox could thrive. The successful launch of the Switch has begun to lure back third parties to Nintendo but how excited would SquareEnix be if Nintendo provided them a platform to resell Final Fantasy on SNES to a new generation of kids.

This is a huge ask of Nintendo since they have already placed their bets on the 2DS but I know a couple of kids in my household that would become Nintendo fans the rest of their lives if they opened this on Christmas Day.

However, if Nintendo were to completely ignore my grand scheme of a modern retro console that returned us to simpler times, Nintendo could at least do their legion of loyal followers a favor and make sure there is enough stock of whatever next classic-style console they make available.



ClexYoshiMay 18, 2017

while I'd rather just have this stuff intigrated into say... the Switch and the right joycon's NFC reader, I'd like to say... yes. thank you. I really do not need a plug n' play in my life, even if it's of quality and features the triple threat of Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy 6, and Chrono Trigger.

I really am in the space of belief that the NES Classic Mini was literally moreso a publicity stunt to keep Nintendo in the mindshare as a valued brand over the sparse holiday season.

SorenMay 18, 2017

This sounds like a bad idea.

EDIT: You want a console that only offers digital games(has to be online), could possibly mean another ecosystem an indie would would have to spend resources porting his game over (because this is Nintendo we're talking about) and you want Nintendo to sell a meaningless NFC card for...what really?

DonkeyBilly KongMay 19, 2017

I agree that having games in a physical format is good, but I would prefer it to be completely physical -- the games would be on the cards.  No internet needed.

It is difficult to say what the right choice is, because these devices have different audiences.  The NES Mini was primarily a hot item because it looked like a little NES, which was great for people who grew up with one.  It was a collectible more than it was a game system.  But, that might not be an audience that will stick around for as long as the young audience you have in mind.

nickmitchMay 19, 2017

I don't get the NFC card.  The card triggers the download?  What's to stop me from buying one NFC card and sharing it with as many people as I want?  Don't amiibo and other NFC devices only work one way? or am I just missing something?

I also don't like the idea of multiple controllers.  The last thing Nintendo needs to to flood the market with "plastic crap".  While having those kinds of things around would be cool, to me at least, I couldn't see myself owning yet another Nintendo console that takes 3 different controllers.

Lastly, I think selling a cheap box that lets you download old Nintendo games would cannibalize Switch sales.  Being able to download old Nintendo games has been a major selling point of Nintendo consoles and will hopefully be one for the Switch very soon.  If I were Nintendo, I wouldn't want to takeaway a unique feature of the console before it's even fully out of the gate.  Just seems like shooting yourself in the foot.

My thinking here was that this product would exist outside of the Switch environment and be solely meant for kids 10 and under. Kids love to collect stuff (see pokemon trading cards, Amiibo, etc) so the physical format is a necessity but as we all know 30 years of inserting and removing cartridges wears out the system so NFC would solve that issue. NFC only holds a few bits of info so the game couldn't be on the card which would require the download. To solve the downloading issue, the game should only be playable if the NFC card is inside the slot. I know my idea is pretty out there, I just wanted to get a discussion going about how Nintendo could market to the next generation of kids.

nickmitchMay 19, 2017

Needing the download and the NFC card sounds kinda cumbersome, especially if I have to buy a storage solution for the thing.

I think trying to appeal to the next generation of kids is a good idea, I just don't think that forcing their parents' nostalgia on them is the best way to do it.  Those kids probably don't wanna play FFIII; they wanna play Minecraft.  If this thing doesn't play Minecraft, who cares?  I think Nintendo is already doing a pretty good job of reaching out to kids.  The 2DS is a good solution.  I don't think you need to introduce them to console gaming or really gain anything from it.  Modern 3DS games are bigger and more complex than those old systems.  The only thing you're missing is the TV out.

If you take Nintendo's word at it, the target customer for the NES classic (and a presumed SNES Classic) is a lapsed gamer who has lots of fond memories of the games they played as a kid, would enjoy re-playing and sharing those beloved games with their own children, but likely won't re-enter the foray of gaming beyond some nostalgia-based fun.

The Switch is clearly aimed at the current gamer who is interested in the latest/greatest offerings, and assuming Nintendo is still planning on a virtual console, also a steady drip of classic and possibly underappreciated games to discover. 

Your product proposal seems to want to straddle these two, but doesn't have a clear audience IMO.  The initial pitch you give is basically a Cheap console that would be good for adult & kid alike, back-ended by a scaled down e-shop for titles that only work on this device"  Which you admit the 2DS is kind-of positioned for, but then argue because its not something that plugs into a tv, isn't good enough.  But then also kids are going to be audiophiles and want to insert a game cartridge into a system for the experience?  The product you're idealizing doesn't seem to have a clear audience for it, other than yourself.

Truthfully, it sounds like you're projecting nostalgic memories on current-day kids.  Kids I know are used to tablets, where there's no physical device they have to insert to play a game, take wherever, and put down on the charger when they're done with it. 

Sorry, not trying to come off as harsh, I just don't know if this is a post about business advice to Nintendo, or a personal device wishlist.

All fair points, there is certainly biased on my part for a system I can give my kids that requires a physical cartridge to be inserted into a system. The issue I have with the 2DS is that it's an individual experience that cuts you off from everyone else. At lease when the game is on the tv you can have 2 to 4 people play (or at least watch) and engage with each other.  I love the Switch and think everyone should have one but I understand that the price point can be a major barrier that may prevent kids from being introduced to Nintendo.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterMay 19, 2017

I'm much more interested in a device called the Retro Freak.


Which can play ROMs off actual cartridges instead, a much better solution than NFC cards.

StogiMay 19, 2017

The SNES classic isn't for you. I suggest building your own NES with Rasberry Pi.

BlkPaladinMay 24, 2017

This is similar to what I thought when I heard about the reason why Nintendo discontinued the NES classic. It just wasn't profitable. A machine whose only purpose was to be a "Classic" NES/SNES/N64 VC machine would eliminate the need to pay a licensing fee to the owners of the games for each machine shipped instead would change it to each license "sold". Heck the games for those are so small you could probably opt for a small amount of flash and "stream" the titles.

For a hook they could off a few of their own games already on the machine for free.

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