Virtual Console Makes Nintendo Look Incompetent

January 29th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Wii U Virual Console

In light of the news that Virtual Console games on the Wii U won't be able to use save files from the Wii's Virtual Console, I would like to point something out.

Just today, I found a NES save file for The Legend of Zelda dated May 28th, 1998 (created by legendary NES emulator Nesticle) and continued that saved game in Nestopia in the year 2013.

I did it to spite Nintendo, because this is ridiculous.

That emulator save file originated on a PC I owned 15 years ago, and it resided on a long-since-decommissioned hard drive. Now it's saved to a SSD in a computer a bajillion times more powerful, with a different emulator, and it still works.

By the way, I've been able to play my ROM of The Legend of Zelda on every computer since then as well. And yes, I own the actual cartridge (three to be exact), so I can play it on the original NES and even feel morally OK about emulating the title.

So what's the deal, Nintendo? Surely in the year 2013, when we can download photos from robots on Mars and build amazing electronics like the iPhone, you can spend thirty minutes to whip up a save file transfer scheme for the Wii U.

I'm sure someone out there in the homebrew community would be happy to write you a tool to do the transfer for free. In fact, they probably will anyway, because, historically, homebrew has always filled in on the functionality left out by clueless companies.

"Clueless" being the operative word.

A History of Incompetence

The lack of VC save transfer functionality is only the latest misstep when it comes to Nintendo's handling of officially emulated software. Here are a few others:

  1. Wii U owners will have to pay a surcharge to upgrade Wii VC titles to those on the Wii U Virtual Console
  2. Wii U owners cannot import and run Wii VC games directly from the Wii U interface
  3. Wii VC titles are locked to the console; if your Wii breaks, you lose the games forever.
  4. Nintendo 3DS owners cannot transfer VC games or saves between the Nintendo 3DS or any other Nintendo console.

Technology should bring us fluidity and convenience. If a company denies you these things, it means they are either afraid or incompetent.

Nintendo could be afraid. They could worry that opening up transfers willy-nilly between consoles would mean they couldn't sell the same game nine times to the same person.

Perhaps they want to keep the Wii and Wii U systems separate to prevent known exploits on the Wii from crossing over into the Wii U space.

But I think they're just incompetent. Nintendo's non-game interface design is a mess. Their online shops are a mess. Their online gaming/friending system is a mess.

Perhaps they simply lack the skilled employees to pull off quality non-game software. Perhaps they lack the vision in leadership to provide quality non-game experiences to their customers.

Perhaps they just don't know what the heck they're doing.

—–

Update: 02/03/2013

From my point of view, just about everyone arguing against my article is arguing against their own consumer rights. Especially the right to have mobility with your digital purchases without having their fate being sealed in a faulty piece of hardware or in a second-class artificial bubble (i.e. Wii mode) inside another console. (And to free yourself from that bubble, gaining artificial convenience, you have to pay extra.)

Many are thinking of this in terms of a war of Nintendo vs. Sony, etc. when the real equation is Nintendo vs. You. Stand up for your rights not to be digitally jerked around by incompetence and fear. The result ends up in lost cultural history that only piracy can rectify. We all deserve better than that, and it is neither unfair nor unreasonable to ask for digital flexibility from the companies that essentially own modern culture.



30 Responses to “Virtual Console Makes Nintendo Look Incompetent”

  1. technotreegrass Says:

    Nintendo's acting pretty stupid and VERY greedy. I buy more digital games and VC games from Nintendo's systems then I do my Xbox 360, but I feel secure in knowing that my 360 content is safe. My 3DS games, I constantly worry about. I don't own a Wii U yet but it scares me that my Wii VC titles are locked onto the Wii, and the Wii VC is the only way to get Nintendo 64 games that aren't hurt by the fact that the my N64 analog sticks on all of my controllers are shot, and I can't get the ROMs to work properly on my laptop despite an i5 core.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo claimed "hardware issues" are preventing VC games from easily being moved from the 3DS and Wii and Wii U, but I agree that the eShop menus and organizing games is ATROCIOUS, especially the 3DS. I can easily browse games released several years ago on the 360, but the 3DS is regulated to the recent titles or stuff they want you to see, or using the search function for a game you discovered online.

    In the meantime, emulators FTW. If Nintendo doesn't like it, too bad. They get my money from discs and carts anyway.

  2. Eagles409 Says:

    Good article, I couldn't agree more. I haven't even considered getting a Wii U. I had a Wii, it just sat in the house, collecting dust. I would break it out once a year during a party so everyone can play "bowling", otherwise it got no use at all, so I sold it.

  3. Jok Says:

    www.hackmii.com

    install the homebrew channel, and the homebrew browser. from there, install all the emulators you need…

  4. Alexander Says:

    Oh, Nintendo, when will you learn. Excellent article, Ben.

    Also, I totally just realized how many copies of Metroid I own… and when I want to play it on the go, I just bust out my hand-held NES clone.

  5. Oldscool Says:

    Heaven forbid Nintendo could handle digital download rights the same way as the rest of the industry. Downloads should be tied to an account, not an individual system. The end user is allowed to download and use the software on multiple devices tied to that user account.

    I live in a home with multiple iOS, Android and PlayStation devices and I favor those digital ecosystems (over Nintendo) because I can buy once and play on any device I own (with the same OS).

    Nintendo wants consumers to pay for a digital copy on every single device, regardless of who owns it. That methodology makes a physical copy more appealing than the the digital one, as you can at least swap the game between multiple systems.

    I believe this has more to do with Nintendo attempting to cling to antiquated aspects of its outdated business model than any technical issue. Fear and greed are the motivation, not incompetence.

  6. Joel Says:

    I feel that a great deal of this is overstated. The save game issue is what it is, "incompetent" is a strong word IMO, but let's make something perfectly clear. You aren't losing anything at all at any point in this process. In fact, you can transfer all of your VC games to your Wii U and play them in the sequestered Wii mode. The surcharge is simply to add extra capabilities. Why anyone would feel entitled to receive the game without paying anything ON A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PLATFORM, is beyond me. Regardless of what you think, it costs money to license, compile, test, and release these games, and I'm baffled as to why you should be able to do so without paying. Nintendo did not have to provide a transfer service, nor did they have to discount a Wii U purchase for somebody who owned a Wii copy. Again, you have lost nothing, have been freely allowed to transfer your title, and are being offered a minimal upcharge to enable new features. Take things in perspective here, folks. Let's see if Microsoft or Sony support backwards compatibility or transfer of all XBLA and Playstation Network titles before we start demonizing Nintendo.

  7. SirFatty Says:

    Well said, Joel.

  8. John Says:

    I play at most 4 different videogames over the course of a given year. This is for a variety of reasons but largely comes back to a lack of money and time.

    Their ability to make every step of gaming inconvenient is what keeps me far away from Nintendo.

  9. idisjunction Says:

    @Joel

    "Why anyone would feel entitled to receive the game without paying anything ON A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PLATFORM"

    Because it's not a completely different platform? The Wii U is a faster version of the Wii with a PDA bundled. People don't re-purchase their programs every time they buy a new computer (unless they're rich).

    "Regardless of what you think, it costs money to license, compile, test, and release these games, and I'm baffled as to why you should be able to do so without paying."

    Because he already paid for the game, buying the same game again doesn't add anything of value, the games aren't recompiled because they're ROM images from 2 decades ago, a competent company would have to re-licence the games again (and wouldn't have to license them from itself at all), and the games are already on their servers, so there is no additional cost to them to release them.

  10. syrindigo Says:

    I cant be the only one who dosn't care at all about having to go to Wii Mode to play on my old save files… I mean, who cares… Its still on the Wii U.

  11. matt Says:

    I'm sorry but you are ignorant in every single way. This article screams first world problems. Not a nitntendo fanboy so don't even go there. This article is just pure trash. I don't see anything remotely close to VC from either sony nor M$. Nintendo is the MOST competent out of all gaming console manufacturers. No one can even begin to counter argue that and you will be the first to admit this.

  12. S Says:

    You are an idiot. Why transfer files when you can go into a wii menu on the wii you stupid retard. Is it really that hard to get a wii remote out and sync it up? Your place isn't reviews find something else to do

  13. Brian Says:

    Matt, you didn't notice that you can purchase classic PS games on the PS3 and play them there or on a PSP or Vita without having to pay twice or three times? What about PS games where you start playing on the PS3, save, pick up away from home on the Vita, save, and resume on the PS3 when you return home?

    These aren't features from fantasyland. They exist today. Nintendo once led the industry. Today, people crow about being able to play a couple of games while they are on the crapper and call it a win for the big N. Of course, a year ago you could do the same thing with a couple of games on the Vita.

    I want a strong Nintendo to show game devs what Japanese ingenuity can do and how it's still relevant as Western devs take over. I want them to innovate and teach Sony, Microsoft and anyone else a lesson or two about consoles and handheld innovation. Unfortunately somewhere in the Noughties, they abdicated the throne and we've all been left leaderless. Who'd have thought Microsoft was smart enough to come up with "smartglass"? Why is Nintendo content to sit on their duff while scrappy Vita shows the world how to tie a portable and console together?

    The day we stop expecting more of Nintendo is the day that the company dies.

  14. Joel Says:

    Because it's not a completely different platform? The Wii U is a faster version of the Wii with a PDA bundled.

    By that logic, it's a faster version of the SNES that happens to have a disk drive. And yes, Slick, the games most likely have to be licensed again, as I doubt the original VC agreement with third parties gives Nintendo the right to continually re-release games to customers on future platforms. Also, your assertion that there is no value added by a Wii U re-release is dubious at best. Gamepad play and button mapping will be sufficient reason for me to upgrade a couple of games. Never mind the fact that you seem to be angry about not freely receiving this thing that you consider to add no value to your original purchase.

  15. Joel Says:

    Again, I also want to reiterate that you have lost NOTHING at any point in this process and can play all of your VC games on your Wii U (for no charge) if you do a system transfer.

  16. Neurie Says:

    With Ultimate Monster Hunter Tri Nintendo are allowing you to play, stop, transfer data from WiiU to 3ds, play on the go and the start again from the point on the 3ds when to get back to your WiiU.

    This article was designed to troll and be narrow minded. Ohh and if you do a system transfer all your saved data does go over. If you system breaks and the hard drive is recoverable when you send it to Nintendo during the warrantee the data gets transferred to your new system.

  17. Benj Edwards Says:

    From my point of view, just about everyone arguing against my article is arguing against their own consumer rights. Especially the right to have mobility with your digital purchases without having their fate being sealed in a faulty piece of hardware or in a second-class artificial bubble (i.e. Wii mode) inside another console. (And to free yourself from that bubble, gaining artificial convenience, you have to pay extra.)

    Many are thinking of this in terms of a war of Nintendo vs. Sony, etc. when the real equation is Nintendo vs. You. Stand up for your rights not to be digitally jerked around by incompetence and fear. The result ends up in lost cultural history that only piracy can rectify. We all deserve better than that, and it is neither unfair nor unreasonable to ask for digital flexibility from the companies that essentially own modern culture.

    As an aside, I'd like to thank Joel for arguing against my ideas with a level head. One can always identify an argument made out of passion (rather a point of reason) if it uses profanity and personal insults. And more than a few of those types of comments (not by Joel) have been moderated out. It's so easy to fall back to kneejerk attacks, so it is refreshing to find those who can argue with reason.

  18. Brian Says:

    Joel, you didn't lose anything when you copied PS games to the Vita, but with no charge, they coded the Vita to allow mapping buttons to the rear touchpad. I'm sure it cost them something to engineer that, but not so much they feel the need to charge an additional fee for it. It can and has been done before. Nintendo just appears to have a little less respect for the players. Yamauchi wouldn't have done it.

  19. NA48 Says:

    Nail on the head.

  20. Ooccoo Jr. Says:

    While this article raises some good points, it seems unfair to label Nintendo as a whole as 'incompetent' because of this. Maybe their eShop/VC department has made some dumb mistakes, but that doesn't render the whole company 'incompetent'.

  21. Benj Edwards Says:

    Ooccoo — It's true that Nintendo is not entirely incompetent from top to bottom, inside and out. They make excellent video games and fairly high quality hardware.

    That being said, it's clear that I'm focusing on Nintendo's non-game software and general mishandling of the Virtual Console in this piece.

    A major problem is that even if Nintendo isn't completely incompetent, the issues I mentioned here make them appear to be incompetent (reflected in the title), which is a problem for Nintendo.

  22. Joel Says:

    I don't think it's a matter of respect so much as one of profit, pure and simple. We know there has to be a licensing agreement that controls how many systems any given third party download can be released on. At the same time, that's all we know, because we have no idea what the contents of these agreements is. Both Nintendo and Sony have engineered these contracts to deliver them a sufficient amount of profit while at the same time presenting a perception of value to the customer. If it was financially feasible for Nintendo to enable legacy VC games to be freely re-downloaded on a new platform, perhaps they would have made it happen.

    As it stands, pointing to charges of one dollar and leveling accusations of corporate greed or lack of respect seems to me to be jumping the gun when we have no concept of why these charges were decided upon. Now, if Nintendo declared that everybody had to repurchase VC games and there was to be no consideration of prior transactions, then complaints like these would seem a little more reasonable to me. At the same time, Nintendo would still be fully within their rights as far as I'm concerned because I was never told by anyone that my purchases would be transferable from one console to another (and they are transferable, nice bonus, just not freely upgradeable) . Given that we don't expect the same thing from physical media, I see no particular reason we should expect it in the digital realm (comparisons to PC distribution are trite and miss the point that the very nature of consoles has always meant sacrificing flexibility for proprietary models and expecting anything else is just naive). When we sit around and say "Well, Sony did this and Steam does it this way," we're engaging in a lot of false equivalency because there are numerous differences between these companies and the way they due business differs at multiple levels (pricing, type of platform, availability of sales, licensing practices, choice of titles to release, etc.). We're comparing apples to oranges without making any note of the differences, and we're just being silly and judgmental when we get up in arms about these comparisons that we honestly know nothing about. Why Nintendo chose to charge an extra dollar, none of us can say, but thinking (as some posters have) that they expect to reap huge profits from the miniscule numbers of upgrades they will sell at this price point is just being dense.

    Your statement that I'm arguing against my own rights is meaningless in my view because I have no fundamental "right" to receive a free copy of software on a different system. It was never stated to me that I had this right at the point of purchase, and, therefore, I never expected it. I did, however, get the nice option of a free console transfer and extreme discounts should I choose to upgrade my purchase, so I've really got nothing to complain about.

  23. Joel Says:

    Sorry for some typos there, I wrote that massive wall of text on a phone because I'm a masochist and I find this conversation really interesting.

  24. PirateMan Says:

    This is why I have, since it began, and always will be a strong supporter of Emulation/ROMs.

    Sure, we can debate the morality and legality of them until the world blows up, but facts are facts: The ONLY way to protect and reserve SOME or MOST of the classics is through emulation.

    Some games can't be put on the VC shop because of rights issues, music issues, the list goes on.

    Emulation is the ONLY way to preserve our heritage as a gaming culture.

    Hate me, blame me for bad sales, whatever makes you happy.

  25. Kevin Harrelson Says:

    It is because of the way that Nintendo handles downloads that I will NOT be buying a 3ds or Wii U. I have been a Nintendo fan for many years. However, if in their zeal to treat me like a pirate, they makes things difficult for me, then I will do something WORSE than piracy: I will ignore them entirely. At least with piracy, people are still talking about your products, and some may even buy. Being ignored is far worse.

    I do not really have a problem with having to pay a nominal "upgrade fee" to get an old game from my Wii to the Wii U. What DOES bother me is that if my Wii breaks, I loose all of that content (same thing for Wii U or 3Ds, if I owned one). I cannot stand the though of that.

    Once Nintendo goes to a model that works more like Steam, I may become a fan again. I have owned almost every major Nintendo platform from the original NES, SNES, original Game Boy, all the way to the Wii and DS-Lite. Way to loose a customer, Nintendo.

  26. Eleriel Says:

    @Joel,
    When I buy a PS1 game on the playstation network I play it on either a PSP, PS Vita, or Playstation3 without having to pay for it three times.

    If I pay for a game on my 360, and want to show it to a friend, I can log in to my account on his machine and download, then show it to him.

    Or on PC, I can log in to steam on any computer with an internet connection and start playing where I left off at home.

    So my expectations of Nintendo aren't exactly completely outrageous, more like industry standard.

  27. Joel Says:

    I wasn't talking about accounts, purely about the Virtual Console upgrade complaints. Account complaints are totally reasonable and it will be interesting to see how the upcoming expansion of the Nintendo Network ID responds to those. That is, if it responds at all. As for Sony's cross-platform play, that has long been a selling point of their service, and has never been one of Nintendo's. As to why anyone should feel entitled to have something that was never promised, I have no clue.

  28. PS3D Says:

    I gave up on Nintendo a while back, the Virtual Console from the Wii being an example of why they couldn't hack it. In 2006, it was handled well–three new games a week, all great classics. Then they started to divide that with WiiWare and DSiware, so in a week, you could get some garbage (like an "I Spy" game for DS and some D-list Genesis games). You'd think that the Wii U would benefit with having the entire game library of the Wii up and ready, but nooooo.

  29. Matt Says:

    Like all articles, it's astonishing how many people come out loudly against their own rights. Keep on being victims because you love a brand name, guys. I'm with the above poster: Homebrew Channel on the Wii with the Classic Controller FTW. Nintendo is definitely not incompetent, they've just harnessed Apple's magic of keeping sheep paying too much over and over and over out of misplaced "loyalty".

  30. Someguy Says:

    There's more mistakes that nintendo did. The true it's they are doing nothing to their old fans.
    Most of the comments here are (I'm 99% sure) older guys (like me), the new customers didn't know anything about this mistakes, so Nintendo is more interested on grab new customers instead keep the olders. With all the loyalty than i still have for Nintendo i should say, Please remember us.

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