For some, digital distribution is a blessing – it gives them a means to buy and enjoy video games without the worry or hassle of interacting with (or even looking at) another human being. For others, it’s a curse, robbing them of their physical possessions and threatening to steal away their games for account violations or inappropriate comments made to level two tech support.
Though, like it or not, digital distribution is here to stay. Not only that, there is a literal bevy of services to choose from, each with its own perks and drawbacks. Choosing who you want to throw your money at can be something of a commitment, so this review series is dedicated to helping you – dear reader – decide which one is best for you.
Nintendo hasn’t been in the digital distribution business for very long. In the past, they’ve faced criticism for their inability to adapt with the times, and no part of their services has come under fire more than their online offerings. The Wii in particular suffered from a slow, overpriced, underdeveloped online store that made buying games an absolute chore. You must remember: it was the first such service from a company that, 50 years ago, was pedaling love hotels.
With the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo finally had a second chance. A chance to get it right, and to show pompous internet critics that they’ve got what it takes to compete with Sony and Microsoft. Have they succeeded?
3DS – The 3DS’s eShop has a Virtual Console section that features games from the GameBoy, GameBoy Color, Game Gear, and NES. There’s a wide array of games ranging from popular first party exclusives such as Wario Land and Link’s Awakening, to ports such as MegaMan 1-5 and Avenging Spirit, and third party titles like Ninja Gaiden and Sonic Triple Trouble. Members of the Ambassador Program (that is, those who bought their 3DS before the price drop) received many GameBoy Advance games for free. Currently there are no Advance titles available for non-Ambassadors, and I feel Nintendo should be making them available to purchase. God knows I’d kill to play Wario Land 4 on a handheld system again. There’s at least one new virtual console game each week. There are also many games exclusive to the 3DS such as Pushmo, Liberation Maiden, and Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger. You can also purchase some retail games.
Wii U – The Wii U’s eShop doesn’t have much original content yet, but some retail and indie games such as Little Inferno and Trine 2 are available for download. NES and Super NES titles have been released recently, though considering the hardware of the Wii U I’m wondering why they haven’t already released some Gamecube or even Nintendo 64 games. It’s been confirmed that GameBoy Advance, GameCube, and N64 games are on the way.
3DS – Gameboy titles take up about 25 to 40 blocks (for reference a 3DS with a standard SD card usually can hold about 18,000 blocks, give or take) GameBoy Color titles take up about 50-70 blocks, retail games are around 4,000, and the eShop exclusive titles have a vast range.
Wii U – The issue with both the 3DS and Wii U downloadable games is they don’t tell you how much storage space you need until right when you’re confirming your order. The basic Wii U you’ll only have 8GB of storage, which is nowhere near what you need for even basic storage. The Deluxe version has 32GB of storage, comes with Nintendo Land, and you get 10% on all digital purchases back in points that can be used in the eShop. It should be noted that both versions support external storage media via the USB drive, but loading a game via a USB2.0 port normally feels pretty slow.
3DS – Updates are available for some games and even demos.
Wii U – Virtual console titles can only be played on the gamepad, which I personally love using. If you have transferred Virtual Console titles from your Wii to your Wii U, you can spend $1 or $1.50 to have these titles playable.
Value for cash money
3DS – The Virtual Console games range from $2.99 to $7.99 with Gameboy titles usually being the cheapest, and GameBoy Color the most expensive. The games exclusive to the 3DS range in price from $1.99 to $39.99. Retail games are not cheaper when purchased digitally, a common practice but one that still annoys me.
Wii U – Things get worse. Strangely, most of the downloadable retail titles cost far more than their boxed counterparts. For example, New Super Mario Bros costs $60 from the eShop, even though it can be found for $45 online. In non-US countries, this price difference is often even more egregious. That being said, there’s good value to be found here as well – there have been many classic NES titles released for only $0.30. This is the best thing about the Wii U’s eShop.
Both eShops suffer from taxation, outdated Virtual Consoles, and a lack of demos. Sure the classics are always great, but I’d like to see the emulation capabilities of the systems. Surely the 3DS and Wii U could push to run GameCube titles? I have a smartphone that’s already capable of running even GBA games. I want to feel impressed with these supposedly next-gen systems.
The library is always growing and Nintendo has announced that N64 and GBA games are coming to the Wii U, but not GameCube. GameCube still has emulation issues on PC, most retail game stores don’t sell GameCube games anymore and GameCube games aren’t playable on Wii U. Yet Nintendo has not done anything to rectify the situation. What the hell kind of business sense does that make?
Overall, Nintendo clearly still has a way to go if they want to build a competitive storefront. The design has improved, but (with a few exceptions) the prices and selection have not. These aren’t just minor niggles, either – we’re almost a year down the line, and Nintendo is still severely lacking good, original downloadable games. While the Wii U and 3DS both offer a much better experience than the Wii or DS, there are a lot of issues that make me hesitant to recommend them.
That’s all for this hoedown, dear reader, but next week we’ll be looking at Google Play and Android, and why you’re better off just playing with rocks.