Gaming News

Why the NSO Classic games service is lacking

I want to preface this by saying that this is just my humble analysis. I’m sure there are multiple factors as to why Nintendo is choosing the their business strategy, but haven’t heard anyone talk about this perspective anywhere yet.

In 2017 when the Switch was announced, Nintendo also revealed that their online services would no longer be free with this generation. Features included a smartphone companion app through which you could communicate with your friends while playing, and also a free NES game each month. The reception to this wasn’t great. Not only we’re Nintendo now charging for playing online, you had to use a separate phone on your app to talk to your friends. It’s obvious that Nintendo knew this and tried to use NES games to sweeten the deal. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us at that point were hopeful that NES games were just the start, and that Nintendo would add more platforms along the way. This would be the new, subscription based Virtual Console, right?

Well, It took 18 months for Nintendo to release NSO and start charging for the service. The price was, compared to competitors, very cheap. $20 for an entire year, or even $35 for a year for 8 people to share with a family membership. If you had 7 friends you could potentially have NSO for 50 cents a month. It released with a few NES games and promises of new releases every month. However, it took another year for them to add SNES games in September of 2019 at which point they stopped doing monthly releases and it really felt like they were purposefully sluggish with their trickle of games. Games that many times were far from any retro classics. The latest release includes Jelly Boy, Claymates and Bombuzal. And while I know some people have a nostalgic love for Claymates, a lot of people would also say Nintendo is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Why is that?

I think Nintendo, at some point, realised that retro titles might compete with the Nintendo eShop.

If people had access to not only NES and SNES titles, but also Gameboy, GBA, N64, Gamecube and maybe even DS and DSi titles for less than a dollar a month, would they buy as many games in the eShop? The entertainment business is always competing for not just our money, but our time and attention. If you have time to play games 20 hours a week, game developers want to catch your attention for some of that time. They want you to buy their games or services, and this is were Nintendo faces a couple of problems.

  1. Nintendo wants their plattform to be attractive for developers. So, the platform need so sell games.
  2. Nintendo makes more money off the sales of decently priced third party games than low priced retro titles.
  3. If the Classic Games Service takes time and attention away from new or third party titles, they risk losing a lot of revenue and developer interest in the platform.

NDA’s keep us from knowing exactly what Nintendo takes of the revenue of games sold on their platform, but generally platforms charge around 30%. A third party game that sells for $20 on the eShop gives Nintendo $6. That is $2 more than the most expensive monthly charge of NSO. A $60 third party games gives Nintendo $18 – almost as much as a yearly subscription to NSO.

Nintendo could possibly solve this by adding tiers to online. Keep the NES and SNES with standard NSO for now, and add more platforms with more games to a higher tier and charge more. I’m sure a lot of people would pay up if that gave us N64 and Gamecube games.

However, I still think Nintendo has but themselves in a tricky position. They need something to sweeten the deal of their bare bones online service, but they can’t make it too good either as it will compete with their main revenue, which is sales of new games.


Nintendo needs to make the NSO less shit by adding classic games, but risks competing with the eShop and third party titles if the classic games service is too cheap and too good. They rather have people buy new games because that makes them more revenue.


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