You’ll have to wait to play old Nintendo games on your Switch

Virtual Console, the subsection of Nintendo’s online eShop that sells downloadable games throughout the company’s history, won’t be available to Switch owners at launch.

The news is confirmed in a February 23 email that also lists the three indie games that will be available in the eShop at launch. Two of these games are shovel knight.


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It’s unclear when the Virtual Console titles will be available for Switch. Nintendo’s email clearly states that it will “share more information in the future”.

With a bit of luck the delay can be attributed to Nintendo’s continued efforts to transfer Virtual Console purchases on earlier consoles to the Switch. The company never fully embraced the cross-buy/cross-play features that have become commonplace for PlayStation 4/PS Vita users and Xbox One/Windows 10 PC users.

There are also concerns about what a Switch Virtual Console will look like in the day. In the past, every new Nintendo device logged online – whether console or handheld – would reset to their Virtual Console catalogs. The games you might buy for a device wouldn’t necessarily be immediately available for its next-gen replacement.

While it’s not unusual for competing hardware from Microsoft and Sony to reset their own online stores at launch, Virtual Console is a bit different. These are not “new” games; they are emulated versions of old Nintendo games, from the NES era.

The questions that revolve around Virtual Console and other Switch launch issues stem from Nintendo’s drop-by-drop approach to detailing how core features work. It’s still unclear, for example, how well Switch’s subscription-based online services – which, to be fair, will be free for the first six months – are performing.

The lack of clarity is particularly confusing as Nintendo continues to release Virtual Console titles for the Wii U. The company official site notes that production of the console – which launched in 2012 – has ceased in Japan.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s Nintendo Switch/Virtual Console email was followed shortly by another, announcing the release of the Nintendo 64 game. Harvest Moon 64 for the Wii U Virtual Console.

With the Switch launching on March 3, there’s not much time left – although Nintendo probably isn’t too worried. Switch pre-orders have sold out at most retailers, and the console launch is further bolstered by the day one release of a much-hyped new Zelda Game.

In other words: the company can rest safe – apparently – knowing that its legion of die-hard fans will be out in force from day one.

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Timothy C. Mayo