Let’s roll back the tape a little.
It was the early ‘90s, and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) hype was real.
Nintendo was dominating the console realm nearly singlehandedly. Sure, it had some competition from Sega, but you know ... It was SNES all over those days, thanks to classic titles such as The Legend of Zelda, Super Metroid, Earthbound, the Super Mario series, Donkey Kong Country and other immaculate games.
But Nintendo wanted to up its game a little and decided to bring higher-capacity CD-ROMs to the SNES, paving way for potentially superior games.
They had a deal with Sony to develop the add-on CD-ROM drive and it was all going good, until the very last day. That's when Nintendo abruptly and unilaterally ended the deal with Sony – without even informing the company – and announced that they had agreed with Philips to develop the new drive.
This shook Sony to the core.
During the ’91 Consumer Electronics Show, Sony executives were hearing for the first time, as was the rest of the audience, that Nintendo partnered with Phillips instead of them.
Ken Kutaragi, also known as the father of the PlayStation, was furious.
He was so furious that he spent months trying to persuade Sony’s top brass to continue developing what they did for Nintendo thus far into a game console of their own. Kutaragi saw the future of Sony in gaming, and rightfully so. Without PlayStation, Sony would have been long bankrupt by now due to their problematic moves in other areas of tech; especially their hard and painful failure in the smartphone industry.
So, Kutaragi got the company's approval and developed PlayStation in-house – without any Nintendo oversight whatsoever and totally independent from it.
Nintendo was creating their own sworn enemy with their own hands, one that would later come back to haunt them.
After PlayStation’s release on Dec. 3, 1994, nothing would be the same ever again.
Nintendo was kicked out from the realm of mainstream gaming, and they sought refuge in what I call the “nicheland” – they were no longer appealing to the masses, but to Nintendo fans themselves. But when you consider the tens if not hundreds of millions of Nintendo fans around the world, that “niche” epithet kind of fails to live up to its meaning. But you know what I’m getting at.
PlayStation appeals to a much larger audience now, and Sony proved this during the fifth generation of consoles with their absolute dominance in every single part of the globe and with sales numbers off the charts.
After gaining permanent resident status in nicheland, Nintendo saw that history, or fate if you will, forced them down this road and they accepted the reality. They have been innovating ever since.
If they didn’t choose this niche path, maybe the Nintendo we know today wouldn’t be as fun and full of surprises. So I’m glad they did try and succeed to be original and produce some of the most innovative gaming equipment, such as the home-mobile game console hybrid Nintendo Switch, the DS line of handhelds, motion control-focused Wii and many others.
And after taking over the throne of the nicheland and expanding its territory, Nintendo is now setting its sights on the retro gaming scene even more with the recently announced Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis expansion pack. Let’s take a look.
With the demise of its Dreamcast, Sega quit the hardware business and continued developing games only. Another Japanese giant, the company has been software-focused for nearly 20 years now.
Nevertheless, its legacy is alive and well.
Sega has also released some hardware themselves in recent years too, and they have all been retro gaming stuff. The Game Gear Micro, Astro City Mini and especially the Sega Mega Drive Mini were high-quality systems that deserved to be Sega products. But other than that, Sega is no longer in the game console industry.
All that said, Nintendo appears poised to offer Sega products a new home. Once fierce rivals, the two Japanese giants have now partnered up to bring Sega Genesis (known as Sega Mega Drive outside of North America) games to the Nintendo Switch Online subscription, albeit with an additional premium – which is sad. People are already paying for a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, so why not let them get the goodies too? But Nintendo being Nintendo, the so-called “Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis Expansion Pack” will add up to retro gamers’ expenses.
When I saw N64 games being introduced, I wasn’t shocked at all, for obvious reasons. First of all, it was a Nintendo console. Second, Switch would easily handle all of its games just fine from a technical point of view, provided emulation is done well of course. But Sega’s Genesis, being offered to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers as a permanent service? That was surprising, to say the least.
Considering that Nintendo Switch Online, which already offers dozens of Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and SNES titles now gets even better with N64 and Genesis classics, there appears to be only a single conclusion from my view: Nintendo is going all-in on retro.
Hundreds of titles from four different game consoles for a fixed price per month seems like a very sweet deal for retro fans – here’s hoping Nintendo won’t charge us for every other platform they might potentially add in the future as they did with the current expansion pack offering N64 and Genesis.
Will Dreamcast games also come to Switch? Or maybe Sega’s short-lived Saturn, which also offered some decent titles? PC Engine, Atari and Commodore 64 too?
Sega has been already selling a very decent Genesis Classics collection on Nintendo Switch eStore, and Atari also has its own collection for sale.
Nevertheless, offering many retro gaming systems for a fixed price may help drive Nintendo sales even further thanks to the ever-increasing number of retro gamers like me, people who are still – at least mentally – living in the good old days.
What Nintendo needs to do, in my humble opinion, is to maybe ramp up the price of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription in a fair manner and include N64 and Genesis games in it too. If they add new platforms in the future for this fixed fee too, Nintendo Switch will be a retro gaming mammoth. No need to buy any games separately, just buy a subscription and have access to hundreds of retro titles for a fixed price per month.
The newly announced wireless N64 and Genesis controllers are gorgeous, too. They also signal that Nintendo may venture more into the retro hardware business after this move.
The only concern I had with the N64 controller was the previously horrible analog stick, which was prone to breaking and failure even after a couple of months’ worth of use. I hope they did better in this new revision.
And another frustration for me was the fact that the announced Sega Genesis controller had a three-button layout. Home of the rising sun and Nintendo, Japan is privileged again as they will get the six-button layout version of the controller. For the love of God ... Why the discrimination?
So, if the company infamous for the “Nintendo Tax” – which refers to the fact that the same games are sold for higher prices on the eStore compared to other platforms – gets a little more consumer-friendly, cuts to the chase with the expansion pack and gives us every single classic console for a fixed monthly payment, it will win over many more people’s hearts. It’s honestly humiliating to have to pay for online gaming capabilities already, so why don’t you give us access to more stuff that we only “rent” and not own anyway, to make it a little more worthwhile to pay for a Switch Online subscription?
That’s the question to ask.