Let’s Talk: NES Classic Edition and Emulation


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Nintendo announced the “NES Classic Edition”, which is a miniature NES, that has an HDMI port, and controllers based on the original designs. It also comes pre-installed with 30 classic NES games, some of which are absolute favorites of mine: Metroid, Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros. 1-3, Star Tropics, Zelda, Zelda II, and the list goes on for a bit. However, while I do want one [and will have one], I don’t really think it addresses the real issue at hand here. And what is that issue? Let’s talk about emulators and emulation. Emualation is a bad word for some people, a foul, odious word. Only thieves and awful human beings emulate, right? For those of you who aren’t privy, emulators are programs that play downloaded versions of video games. Typically NES, SNES, GBA, Sega, all the way up through PlayStation 1 and 2. In almost every instance of these games, the person does not own the game, or sometimes even the console its on. It’s not making Nintendo any money.

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So what did Nintendo do? They released a miniature, portable machine with a bunch of ROMs [the games in question] so that players can have those retro games for a decent price. I think it’s a great idea, and that it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not really addressing the issue of Emulation. The idea behind emulating on a PC is that you can have all the games you want at your fingertips. No worrying about buying a portable like the Vita or PSP or DS [though there have been homebrews for those to play emulated games. . .] and instead you can play them whenever and wherever. Nowadays people can play Pokémon, EarthBound, or a host of other games on their cell phones with the greatest of ease. But it’s not really portable, now is it? You still need something with an HDMI port. What Nintendo ought to do is release something similar, maybe designed like a GBA with the ability to download/purchase Nintendo games? Just a thought, anyway. At least that way, they still make money, and while of course people will still emulate, they will wind up making something out of it. Their idea is really good, and I like what they’re putting out, but I don’t know if it’s enough. Will we get more titles? Or different ‘versions’ to purchase? Or is this a matter of “too little too late”? I love the NES classic again, but ultimately I don’t think they’re addressing the issue of Emulation in quite the right manner.

What do you think? Will you get one? Do you think it’s dumb? Let me know below!

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  • Colton Leighton

    I think this has a lot less to do with handling emulation and a lot more to do with distributing Virtual Console games to people who want them but aren’t willing to spend 300 on a console that’s for better or worse on it’s deathbed. It’s an inexpensive way for people to recreate the feel of the original NES in their home with that console look and feel (additionally made fully compatible with newer TVs without the worry of input delays).

    • Ragachak

      And I agree wholeheartedly with this. That’s one of the things I like about it, but I dunno, a portable, dedicated virtual console appeals to me a lot.

  • Colton Leighton

    Also “something like a GBA that can download and play Nintendo games” already exists in the 2DS/3DS.

  • Eric Marsh

    The biggest issue with emulation was not that it wasn’t making Nintendo any money, but that it was circumventing established economic means to gain access to entertainment. Instead of paying a retailer for their securing of rights to resell published games, you’re cutting out all the middle-men and gaining access to the game without actually paying the producer.

    Nintendo still doesn’t make any money off old NES systems or games. In fact, the only money they made off games were the initial retail sales and a monthly fee (or lump sum; contracts can be weird) for the retailers’ rights to resell. All resales were strictly profiting resellers (after accounting for those contracted fees); stores like Babbages, CompUSA, GameStop, etc. Honestly, when digital distribution is the way of the future, I’d think making the choice to emulate games rather than seek out physical copies and give retail chains a reason for peddling outdated hardware is a vote for the future. It may screw over the retail store, sure, but at the end of the day, they’re concerned with selling unnecessary fluff on-top of the game they’re peddling so they can make enough profit to stay afloat. In reality, their entire existence is owed to the willingness for people to pay more for games than publishers want to charge.

    I say meet in the middle and pay the publishers what they want so you can get the game that you want to play. If you really want to make sure the retail chains stay open and continue their practices of peddling used games for potentially lower prices, buy your games at your nearest game reseller.

    • Eric Marsh

      Besides, I think if we put our wallets where our passions lie, we can bring about an age where a game shop will be a haven for gamers to have fun and see old hardware actually in-use, rather than a short Stop to be effectively harassed by Game peddlers who care more about sales than the games they’re selling =P

    • Colton Leighton

      I’m not sure we read the same article. What are your thoughts on the actual device?

      • Eric Marsh

        I think it’s a decent marketing move. Lots of people would like to relive old gaming experiences and don’t want to go out of their way to set-up their own emulation/download the necessary ROMs, etc.

        If Nintendo can capitalize on that market, more power to them =)

  • Matt Blaylock

    At the end of the day, I want Nintendo to sponsor an exhaustive digital library that can be downloaded at my fingertips. I do not care if they charge for it. It’s not about money versus free, it’s about access. I want to be able to play these games on whichever platform I choose, and I will be glad to give Nintendo (Or Sony, or Microsoft, or whomever) a fair price for those games. I immediately downloaded every Final Fantasy on Steam. I own all of the Civilizations. Gog.com got my money for all of the Heroes of Might and Magic series. I would spend $100 on a downloadable PC version of Final Fantasy Tactics, or Chrono Trigger, or the original Xenogears. I don’t want more limited hardware. I want iTunes-esque level access. It’s not impossible in this world. Microsoft is close with a few titles. But we’re here, and the reason they’re losing this war is not because of emulation’s free stance. It’s because developers don’t want to input the time into developing a platform, or platforms, for consumers to play these on. Cloud-based technology is here. I likely won’t buy a Nintendo NX, because I don’t care about new hardware. I don’t give a shit about new games. I want to play the stuff that I want to play, and there hasn’t been anything super, super great for a decade or so, so I’m just not into any of it. I’ve pondered a number of times buying those retro consoles, but the same thing prevents me from actually biting the bullet and doing it – I don’t want another console. I’ve owned every console since the inception of gaming, and I’ve worked in electronics for long enough to know and understand that hardware breaks. And when that hardware breaks, you can’t play your games anymore. Do you understand how much fucking money Nintendo would make if they started releasing Mario games standalone for PC? Jesus Flapjacking Christ, they’d never have to develop hardware again. Smash on the PC? Game over, man. Game over.