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Opinion: Nintendo is past due for cross-buy

Nintendo has started taking tentative steps into cross-buy, but it's already so late to the functionality that we need to see more of a commitment.

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Last week in a fit of nostalgia spurred on by Shovel Knight, I picked up Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse as well. It's a classic of the NES era, and I was happy to pay $4.99 to experience it again. But twice that amount just to have it across both of Nintendo's platforms? No thanks.

Nintendo has made some strides in its online services lately. The Nintendo Network ditched the separate stables for console and handheld and lets players use one account, with shared currency, across both platforms. Mario Kart 8 had some forward-thinking ideas about sharing videos. With so much ground gained in the last few years, why hasn't it caught up with an initiative that Sony has been running for almost two years?

When it was introduced in 2012, Sony's cross-buy system seemed revolutionary. One purchase gains you a game across multiple parts of the PlayStation eco-system. Sometimes it even extends to more than two platforms, as games are available across PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Vita. The initiative is arguably one of the few things keeping Vita afloat as it flounders for new content. After two years of precedent, though, cross-buy seems entirely ordinary. Gamers expect it, and feel put out when a publisher charges separately across PlayStation platforms.

Publishers seem chastened, even apologetic, in response to fans wishing for the functionality. In cases when it does happen, Sony must be brokering the terms in some way. Nintendo's own shaky relationships with publishers may make the company reluctant to put itself in a similar position.

Whatever the reason, that decision is hurting the appeal of its platforms. Just as cross-buy has helped bolster Vita, a similar effort could be a boon to Wii U. Even if limited only to Virtual Console games, imagine if your library were shared across devices. No more purchasing classics like Super Mario World or The Legend of Zelda several times. You've bought it, you own it, and you'll be able to play it on your new systems too.

Nintendo has taken tentative steps in this direction. It offered an upgrade program on Wii U that would let you play Virtual Console games directly through the Wii U interface, instead of the "Wii Mode." You would have to upgrade already-purchased games for $1 or $1.50, but that's certainly much more generous than repurchasing them entirely. If Nintendo can manage to be even slightly more generous, it would make a massive difference in both how they are perceived, and in the libraries of their customers.

Just today, as I was planning to write this, we learned that Nintendo has taken yet another step forward. Gamasutra reports that in Europe, the third-party game Squids Odyssey is cross-buy on 3DS and Wii U. You'll need both devices to be registered with the same Nintendo Network ID, for obvious reasons.

This is in many ways a massive step forward. Not only is a game finally using the functionality, but it's a third-party game at that. But it's also very limited. This is only one game, in one region, and the announcement didn't detail if we're going to see more efforts like it. For a functionality that should have been offered across all Virtual Console and some new third-party releases by now, a single game is incredibly incremental.

Now is the time for Nintendo to send a clear message that Squids Odyssey isn't a fluke. If this is a sign of a future trend, as it should be, the company needs to say so. We should be hearing detailed plans for how this will be implemented, both for future releases and retroactively on older titles. If this remains relegated to a single European release, that doesn't bode well for Nintendo's commitment to the idea on the whole. It's already late to offer cross-buy, and we need to see a sign that it won't continue to drag its heels.

Editor-In-Chief
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From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 30, 2014 12:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Opinion: Nintendo is past due for cross-buy.

    Nintendo has started taking tentative steps into cross-buy, but it's already so late to the functionality that we need to see more of a commitment.

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 12:05 PM

      [deleted]

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 12:15 PM

        Step 2.5: Cloud-based savegames to swap between platforms.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 12:25 PM

        I've been screaming about this for days. The fact that i have to run a wiiu in wii mode to play the fucking ROMS i bought for my wii is making me not want to buy a wii.

        Make the fucking software run in the actual wiiu, no whacky bullshit, grab Entity's cloud stuff, let me xfer between my 3ds. I'll buy a god damn wiiu!

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 12:48 PM

        [deleted]

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 1:04 PM

        I read somewhere that Nintendo was looking into making the wii u play 3ds games. Would be nice.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 3:55 PM

        They should just release a Roku-sized retro box for $100 that can play up to N64 games. So basically, a Nintendo Ouya.

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 12:08 PM

      Hell, I just want them to make purchases account-bound, not device-bound. Have they changed that yet?

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 12:19 PM

        I lost a dozen or so games when my original Wii died, and haven't moved to the wiiU yet. If they get everything account bound, I might actually make that jump.

        • reply
          June 30, 2014 3:40 PM

          Did you call them?

          When my Wiii U was recently stolen, I called them to disable my account on the old Wii U and then after I bought a new Wii U I called them again and they moved all the purchases to the new Wii U. Granted, it took longer than I would have expected, but I got all my purchases back.

          • reply
            June 30, 2014 4:56 PM

            I haven't, I emailed and never heard back. Calling is a good idea though, thanks.

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 12:43 PM

      Please, Nintendo isn't that smart to do this. That's why Smash was going tobe released at separate times

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 12:44 PM

      This would get me to buy more VC games. I mean I own them on the original consoles already, but having to buy them on the 3DS and WiiU is just dumb. I could understand a $1 fee or something.

    • Zek legacy 10 years
      reply
      June 30, 2014 2:50 PM

      Their handling of the VC has been a disgrace almost since the beginning, it's amazing to me that they really have no idea just what they have there.

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 3:26 PM

      Nintendo will always be two steps behind. That's kind of their thing. But hey, they made Mario/Zelda/Metroid.

      • reply
        June 30, 2014 3:30 PM

        They were a step ahead on motion controls but probably too far ahead with the virtual boy.

    • reply
      June 30, 2014 5:52 PM

      Right now I'd just take an option to backup Wii U game saves. Thankfully my Wii U came back without being wiped. My Wii back in the day wasn't so lucky.

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