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Wii’s Virtual Console

I'm calling this "The One in Which John Misses the Point." The first comment nails why.

If you have a working N64, by all means, play the darn games you still have on it. Otherwise, fork over 1000 points ($10) for your N64 game, $8 for an SNES or Genesis game, or $5 for an NES title.

The Wii will play GameCube games free, of course, if you have the disc.

I don't see myself buying a lot of Virtual Console content, but I may spend five bucks a time or two to re-live Duck Hunt or something. I got rid of my NES a LOOOONG time ago, John.

28 Responses to "Wii’s Virtual Console"

  1. I just found my old NES in a closet last week! It's a great feeling.

    Virtual Consoles are going to be a hit, IMHO. Of course Nintendo is competing with ROMs and emulators, but I think they're still complicated enough to use that most people would happily pay a few bucks for something guaranteed to work.

    While I'm quite disgusted with the face that we must re-buy vinyl, cassette tapes, and CD's (just like video tapes, DVD, HD-DVD, Blue-Ray), video games are a bit different. Besides the obvious lack of improvement in these games versus the originals, how would you prove to Nintendo that you actually own the original cartridge? Maybe they could offer a discount for people who own the Mario 64 cart, but I can't think of any nearly-foolproof way for you to easily identify your old games to Nintendo for half price.

    And to say that something "raised you" doesn't mean you have it anymore...as you pointed out. I was raised on a Mac 128k, wish I still had that. πŸ˜‰

  2. It struck me (while driving home from GameStop) too that $5, $8, and $10 is about what you'd expect to pay for the NES, SNES, and N64 catridges (with no guarantee as to their fidelity, unlike with downloads). The prices seem more than reasonable.

  3. I'm calling this "the one where Erik misses the point in exactly the same way as the first comment poster." I'm frankly amazed that anyone who actually read the article could miss the point so entirely, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you did. If so, try reading the rest of the comment thread where the same points from the article are reiterated, perhaps in a form that is more digestible for you πŸ™‚

  4. Oh, and FWIW, I do still have my Mac 128k πŸ™‚

  5. John said on November 6, 2006:

    I'm frankly amazed that anyone who actually read the article could miss the point so entirely.

    Perhaps you could re-iterate your point in a single sentence, because clearly it's lost quite a few people, many of whom are reasonably intelligent. You said:

    But I'm still troubled by how few people seem to even notice what's going on here, regardless of whether or not they're bothered by it.

    I know what's "going on" here - I'm being given the opportunity to buy and play - for $5 to $10 - games I haven't played in years but might enjoy playing again. I'll buy a few such VC games. Just because I'm not "bothered" by it (in fact, I welcome it) does not mean I don't know what's going on.

    If you want to go for the "you're renting games" approach, that's wrong too. You're no more renting these VC games than you were when you bought a cartridge. In fact, one could argue these are a bit "safer" because you can re-download and store on a memory card. Break your old NES cartridge (or wear it out) and you're out of luck. As long as your Wii works, you'll be able to play the VC games you purchase. That's no different than "If your N64 works and you still have your GoldenEye cartridge, play away."

    "Forever" is a stupid word in this context, but in general, I've found Perrin Kaplan to be an annoying twit that has the remarkably easy job of selling a video game console in the United States. She comes off as snide and even somewhat evil in her interviews with Matt Casamassina over at IGN. I put no faith nor stock in most of what she says.

    Your central point seems to be that we're being ripped off by being charged - again - for "old content in a new arena." I know what's going on, John, and again I welcome it. I didn't keep my NES. $5 to relive something from 10 years ago? I'll decide on a case by case basis if it's worth it to me. But don't presume I'm ignorant enough not to know what I'm buying. I'm buying - as you said - the ability to play an NES game on my Wii. Nothing more. I understand that.

    If somehow I've still demonstrated to you that I've missed the point, by all means, enlighten us in a sentence: what is the point?

  6. I'm tempted to copy and paste from the article or the comments thread, but I'll be nice and give you your own summary.

    Nintendo is selling NES, SNES, and N64 games individually. I already own working copies of several old games. I want to pay for the ability to play those games on the Wii. I do not want to pay for the games themselves again. I want to pay for what I do not already own.

    Furthermore, regardless of how widespread my situation and desires are, I believe that this business model (selling the individual games and rather than the ability to play them) sets a dangerous precedent. It sends the message that re-purchasing the same game (meaning, literally, the same exact bag of bits) is okay.

    That's the summary. Here's some more more verbose clarification. Obviously, Nintendo has to sell the individual games since most people do not have existing, working cartridge versions of them. Those people are not re-purchasing something they already own. They're purchasing something they used to own, but lost or threw out or broke (or perhaps never owned at all).

    But for people who do still own working copies of those games, it's a lot more appropriate and equitable for Nintendo to *also* sell the ability to play the games they already own on the Wii. IOW, sell the emulator software itself (either one for each console, or one for all supported consoles) plus a hardware device with cartridge slots on one end and a cord that plugs into the Wii on the other. Insert a cart and dump its ROM into the Wii; repeat for each cart you own.

    Why doe the lack of such a thing bother me? After all, there's only a price advantage to paying for the emulator software and the cart adapter (~$30-$80, I'd imagine) for people who have many still-functional game carts. If someone just has one old N64 cart, it's cheaper to re-purchase the game and get the emulator for free (i.e., paid for incrementally by all the other "normal" VC game purchases) than to spend $30-$80 on the emulator and adapter.

    What bothers me is not so much what's being paid, but what it's paying for. The only legal way to play an older game that I already own a working copy of on a Wii is to re-purchase the game itself--the thing that I already own.

    This may all seem like splitting hairs to you. "Who cares what you're buying? If the price is right, just 'pretend' you're buying what you think you should be buying." That's a seemingly pragmatic stance, but consider the precedent set by the Wii virtual console business model. Think about the Wii's successor. Will Nintendo allow the virtual console games purchased on the Wii to continue to work on the "Wii2"? Do you think they should? If so, why? Answer those questions and I think you'll get a better idea of where I'm coming from.

  7. John said on November 6, 2006:

    I'll be nice and give you your own summary.

    Your kindness is very much appreciated.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Nintendo is selling NES, SNES, and N64 games individually. I already own working copies of several old games. I want to pay for the ability to play those games on the Wii. I do not want to pay for the games themselves again. I want to pay for what I do not already own.

    Here's why we don't agree on what the point was: because I understand that that's not Nintendo's goal. You're doing a bit of a straw man thing here, IMHO, and saying that Nintendo should be offering you something.

    You want something the company doesn't offer, and you're trying to shoe-horn in what they are offering as fulfilling your need. The product they are offering - VC downloads for $5 to $10 - is not intended to satisfy your needs. It's intended to satisfy the needs of gamers like myself. Gamers who no longer have working carts from the NES. I would guess that cart-less gamers like myself make up 95% of the market of gamers who want to play "older" games, while you - a guy who wants to pay for an emulator and some hardware to read your old carts - make up 5%. You may be in an even smaller minority than that.

    So it's not so much a matter of disagreeing with the point, but more a matter of not even agreeing on the premise. Nintendo is solving the problems of a vast majority, and you're wishing they'd instead solved your problem.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Furthermore, regardless of how widespread my situation and desires are, I believe that this business model (selling the individual games and rather than the ability to play them) sets a dangerous precedent. It sends the message that re-purchasing the same game (meaning, literally, the same exact bag of bits) is okay.

    That's the thing, though. I once owned a lot of games. I no longer own them. Naturally, I have to re-purchase. And my case is the same as 95% of the rest of gamers (again I'm making that number up, but I bet it's not too far off).

    I agree that the precedent for purchasing digital copies of games is unusual. But this is the first iteration - the "phsyical product" to "virtual product." If Nintendo releases the Wii2 in three or four years and tells everyone they must re-purchase games, then that would indeed suck.

    But again, that's not the precedent being set here. The precedent Nintendo is setting here is transforming old games to digital, downloadable games. They'll have "me" on record now as officially owning whatever games I purchase digitally. If the Wii4 has the ability to emulate current-gen Wii games, I'd expect to re-purchase those, too because I'd again be crossing the physical/digital threshhold.

    But if when the Wii4 is sitting in my entertainment center I can't play the games I purchase in a year on my Wii, by all means I'll join you in crying out that I've already purchased the games and Nintendo knows it.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Obviously, Nintendo has to sell the individual games since most people do not have existing, working cartridge versions of them. Those people are not re-purchasing something they already own.

    And again, I think they probably make up for the vast majority of people affected by this. Arguing that Nintendo should come up with a hardware emulator to load your old games onto an SD card for play in the Wii for what is likely a very small target market is an entirely separate argument. Personally, I don't know how Nintendo could do that and recoup the costs. Even people who owned carts might still rather purchase copies of the games, and Nintendo would have to charge a pretty penny to recoup their R&D costs to develop and sell the cart-reader hardware.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    IOW, sell the emulator software itself (either one for each console, or one for all supported consoles) plus a hardware device with cartridge slots on one end and a cord that plugs into the Wii on the other.

    The emulator(s) are clearly already included in the Wii. You don't have to download an emulator to play VC games.

    And again, I don't see how Nintendo could price such a system to at least break even on the R&D and marketing and packaging costs such a hardware device would entail.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    it's cheaper to re-purchase the game and get the emulator for free (i.e., paid for incrementally by all the other "normal" VC game purchases) than to spend $30-$80 on the emulator and adapter.

    … further shrinking the market for the hardware unit you want Nintendo to develop. I think $30 is pushing it. I think Nintendo would likely have to sell it for $99 to $149 to recoup the costs.

    Thought experiment. Let's assume each device costs only $25 in materials, packaging, and marketing. Let's assume a profit of $75 ($100 price point). Let's assume it costs Nintendo only $200,000 for R&D and construction of a plant to churn these out, etc.

    Nintendo would have to sell nearly 3000 of these devices to break even. I don't think there are 3000 people out there willing to pay $100 to get a few old carts onto their Wii. This rules out anyone with less than 10 old N64 games that they want to play on their Wii (or 20 NES games they want to play, etc.). Add in the convenience factor of not having to hassle with all this to begin with and the market shrinks again.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    What bothers me is not so much what's being paid, but what it's paying for. The only legal way to play an older game that I already own a working copy of on a Wii is to re-purchase the game itself--the thing that I already own.

    Because you're (and yes, I'm still guessing here) in a very small minority. Another way your market shrinks? The fact that you can go buy an N64 with a few controllers for about $15.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    This may all seem like splitting hairs to you. "Who cares what you're buying? If the price is right, just 'pretend' you're buying what you think you should be buying."

    I'm not taking that stance at all. I'm taking the stance that you're asking Nintendo for something that doesn't make sense to Nintendo.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Think about the Wii's successor. Will Nintendo allow the virtual console games purchased on the Wii to continue to work on the "Wii2"? Do you think they should? If so, why?

    They'd better, because they'll have definitive record of who owns what. Just as I expect my iTunes purchases to play in the next version of iTunes (as they have) and to work with all later iPods, I would expect Wii VC games to work with subsequent Nintendo home consoles.

    But we're not there yet. If Nintendo shuts Wii VC downloads out of Wii2, I'll join you in complaining. Right now, you're asking Nintendo to do something that doesn't make sense.

  8. I just thought of this, too: what would stop you from selling your cart-reader to someone else after you've loaded all of your carts onto your Wii, thus further narrowing the market for Nintendo to sell that very same piece of hardware?

    And what would stop you, once you've "digitized" your old carts onto an SD card or the Wii's internal storage, from selling all of your old carts. You no longer "own" them yet you're able to play them?

    Neither of those help your case that Nintendo should offer this hardware cart reader.

  9. Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    I agree that the precedent for purchasing digital copies of games is unusual. But this is the first iteration - the "phsyical product" to "virtual product." If Nintendo releases the Wii2 in three or four years and tells everyone they must re-purchase games, then that would indeed suck.

    I'll try to post more later, but here's one place where we definitely disagree. NES, SNES, and N64 games have always been "digital products." How the bits are transferred and stored is irrelevant. (And really, it's all silicon chips in plastic cases anyway.)

    You think it'd suck to have to pay for the same bits again for the Wii2, but not for the Wii, because you see the bits in the cart as somehow "less digital" than the bits in the flash RAM in your Wii. I see the bits the same in both cases.

  10. it occurs to me that you no more "bought and own" the software on the cartridge than you "bought and own" your copy of Mac OS X. I'll be a shiny nickel that while you own the cart, you only licensed the software it contains, and that was, sad to say, limited to one bit of hardware. Maybe two in the case of say a GameBoy and the GB adaptor for the GameCube. You own the plastic and the metal, you license the software.

    But I'll bet you don't have a license for an N64 game playing in the VC on a Wii. You may not like that, and that is your right, but as with all other sorts of legal bits, your 'liking' is not germane here. I don't like the speed limit. Doesn't seem to get me out of tickets. If that N64 cart was licensed to the N64, then you can play it all day. On an N64. If you want to play it on a Wii, you must alas, purchase a new license. I have a copy of Oblivion for Windows. Care to take a guess how much luck I'd have persuading the people in charge of such things that because I already own it, I should be able to play it on an Xbox or (when it comes out) a PS3?

    The word "none" would apply as an answer.

  11. John said on November 6, 2006:

    because you see the bits in the cart as somehow "less digital"

    I don't see them as "less digital" - Nintendo sold you a game that would work in one system. If I want to push further, I could say that technically you bought a license to use that software in that format (on a cart). (Edit: John C. Welch beats me to this with a far better rebuttal than my own one comment up.)

    And while "fair use" laws may allow you to shift those bits (if you figure out a way to do so) from a cart to an SD card, that doesn't obligate Nintendo to provide you the means to do so, particularly when doing so would cost them money and lead to piracy.

  12. None of us know how control mapping works from N64 to Wii (N64 specifically because it's the only console where the control mapping is a significant hurdle). There's two guesses: done in a sort of Virtual Console settings channel or done individually per game. My money is with "individually per game", which would pretty much invalidate the existance of the "magic box" you suggest, since there's no way this could be handled well.

    There are far too many problems with the magic box:
    You have five formats (NES, SNES, N64, TurboGrafx16, Genesis/Mega Drive). It'll need five sockets and the know-how to turn each cartridge into something usable. There are also extra add-on chips (and whole console addons) needed for some games. When you have the cartridge, that's fine, but it's not something that's transferable.

    Now we have another problem - we can either fingerprint the cartridge and get a ticket for a VC download or actually try to dump it anyway. Either way is very suboptimal for a number of reasons (VC: low availability; try to dump it anyway: the emulators don't support every possible mapper, extra chip or console addon). There's a very small chance you're going to get a complete and perfect replica of the game in the end.

    Do I think it'd be nice if there was a magic box available? Certainly. But I also see actual unsurmountable technical difficulties standing in its way.

    All in all, if Nintendo were to make such a magic box, I think they'd have to make it so expensive you wouldn't want to buy one anyway, because it'd be easier (and probably cheaper) to just buy the few VC games available.

    It'd also show a stunning lack of aim on Nintendo's part; I'd rather they put R&D into good uses for the Wiimote, more actual VC games and the VC SDK for small developer teams that they've been talking about.

  13. It strikes me that the whole "iTMS is like the VC" thing is accurate.

    I still have a bunch of old cassette tapes. I can go buy a $10 device that will play them. If I want to play them on my iPod, I have to go through a complex series of steps to do so. Apple won't really stop me, but they won't really help me either. If I have a CD, I can use Apple-supplied tools to play the music on my iPod.

    I still have a bunch of old game cartridges. I can go buy a $10 device that will play them. If I want to play them on my Wii, I have to go through a complex series of steps to do so. Nintendo won't really stop me, but they won't really help me either. If I have a GameCube game, I can use Nintendo-supplied tools to play the game on my Wii.

    John, of all the articles you've written, this one seems to be generating the most disagreement. Nintendo has said that you can delete VC games and re-download them. It's a logical leap you'll be able to play your VC games on Wii2 (and if they don't - again - millions of gamers will join you in voicing displeasure and vitriol).

    You think a million people would want some hardware doo-hickey that ties into non-existent serial codes on cartridges that are 15+ years old? I'm not even sure 1,000 people would buy such an item.

  14. John C. Welch said on November 6, 2006:

    it occurs to me that you no more "bought and own" the software on the cartridge than you "bought and own" your copy of Mac OS X. I'll be a shiny nickel that while you own the cart, you only licensed the software it contains, and that was, sad to say, limited to one bit of hardware.

    I don't recall a EULA coming with any of those carts. I'd be very surprised if what you said is true. Do you have any basis for this belief, or are you just being pessimistic based on the state of today's PC software EULAs?

  15. Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    You want something the company doesn't offer

    Clearly.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    and you're trying to shoe-horn in what they are offering as fulfilling your need.

    I'm doing two things, at the very least. One is complaining that they're not offering something I want πŸ™‚ The second is that I'm trying to make people aware of the implications of the current business model. What's happening to me today could happen to them tomorrow, and they'll have themselves (partially) to blame for not caring about it the first time around because it didn't affect them.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    The precedent Nintendo is setting here is transforming old games to digital, downloadable games. They'll have "me" on record now as officially owning whatever games I purchase digitally. If the Wii4 has the ability to emulate current-gen Wii games, I'd expect to re-purchase those, too because I'd again be crossing the physical/digital threshhold.

    I'll just reiterate that I think the whole "physical/digital threshold" thing is totally bogus. It was digital before and it's digital now.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    But if when the Wii4 is sitting in my entertainment center I can't play the games I purchase in a year on my Wii, by all means I'll join you in crying out that I've already purchased the games and Nintendo knows it.

    If you had, say, a working N64 cart today, you'd be in the same situation: you'd have already purchased a games, and you can prove this to Nintendo. (More on that below.)

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    Personally, I don't know how Nintendo could do that and recoup the costs. Even people who owned carts might still rather purchase copies of the games, and Nintendo would have to charge a pretty penny to recoup their R&D costs to develop and sell the cart-reader hardware.

    Cart reader hardware and associated software is incredibly simple. Just ask the hundreds of pirates that manufacture and sell this stuff today for low, low prices πŸ™‚ (And that's without access to all the internal technical details that Nintendo obviously has about the cart specs.)

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    IOW, sell the emulator software itself (either one for each console, or one for all supported consoles) plus a hardware device with cartridge slots on one end and a cord that plugs into the Wii on the other.

    The emulator(s) are clearly already included in the Wii. You don't have to download an emulator to play VC games.

    Sure, they're bundling it for free with the idea that it'd be paid for incrementally by the individual game purchases. But if I don't need to purchase the individual games (because I already own them) it's only fair to charge me for what I do need (the emulator itself) since I would not be participating in the subsidization of the emulator through game purchases.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    Nintendo would have to sell nearly 3000 of these devices to break even. I don't think there are 3000 people out there willing to pay $100 to get a few old carts onto their Wii.

    With the right (but still profitable) pricing, I think they'd sell 1 million of these devices over the Wii's lifetime. I think there are at least that many hardcore Nintendophiles who still have their carts and would like to play them again without paying $5-$10 per game. Obviously, we disagree wildly over the size of this market. I suspect we're both just going by gut feelings.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    Another way your market shrinks? The fact that you can go buy an N64 with a few controllers for about $15.

    Hell, I have an N64 now, but I'd still pay to play these games on the Wii. Why? So I don't have so many devices and wires connected to my TV, so I don't have to get up to swap carts, etc. etc. People will pay for convenience.

    Anyway, in the original comment thread, I pointed out that the cart adapter ROM dumper thing is just one possible way to sell the ability to play older games, rather than the older games themselves. In the actual article, I didn't commit to a particular implementation for this very reason. Some people have expressed concerns about piracy with the ROM dumper adapter, and that's reasonable (assuming there isn't some sort of unique serial number in the carts that Nintendo can verify over the network).

    This all gets back to your earlier comment about how, when you buy a VC game for the Wii, you've "purchased the game and Nintendo knows it." IOW, how do you prove that you own a game and would therefore just like to pay for the ability to play the game in a new context, thanks, rather than paying for the game itself again?

    Well, here's another way to implement this business model that avoids the ROM dumper pitfalls and cost. Nintendo could institute a cart trade-in program. Go to your local GameStop (or whatever) and hand in your original cart. Presumably, the GameStop employees can be trained to recognize a legitimate Nintendo cart, and they could even have old consoles on hand to verify that the carts work, if you really want to be persnickety.

    In exchange, you get a Wii Points card that you can use to purchase the "standalone" VC version of that game. The "standalone emulator" would still be a required purchase for those that want to participate in this trade-in program, as a way for Nintendo to get paid for what they are offering: the *ability* to play old games that customers already own.

    Such a system would certainly make less money for Nintendo than charging per game, but it'd be fair and equitable, and it'd set a perfect precedent for the Wii2's VC business model.

  16. Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    I still have a bunch of old cassette tapes. I can go buy a $10 device that will play them. If I want to play them on my iPod, I have to go through a complex series of steps to do so. Apple won't really stop me, but they won't really help me either.

    Rest assured that Nintendo will not look kindly upon your efforts to dump your own carts and hack the emulator to work with them. (For that matter, today's RIAA would probably not be happy about you transferring your cassette tapes to your iPod either. They've already tried to claim at least once that ripping a CD to an iPod is a violation of copyright.)

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    John, of all the articles you've written, this one seems to be generating the most disagreement.

    I think you have a short memory πŸ™‚ Yes, my recent Nintendo posts have generated some noise, but that's mostly because few readers know what to make of me as someone who writes about games, and end up knee-jerking in response. It reminds me of my first articles on Mac OS X (what, six years ago? I feel old), after which I was roundly condemned as a Mac-hating "PC luser." That response was much more vociferous and long-lasting. I can handle a few "enthusiast," let's say, Nintendo fans.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    Nintendo has said that you can delete VC games and re-download them.

    Yeah, you can re-downlaod them to your Wii. They kind of have to allow that because of the limited storage space on the Wii. Nintendo wants to sell you as many games as possible. They never want to you forego a purchase because your 512MB of flash (plus SD cards plus whatever) is full.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    It's a logical leap you'll be able to play your VC games on Wii2

    I think it's quite an optimistic leap, considering Nintendo's attitude today towards "already purchased" games, and the more reasonable explanation (above) for the ability to re-download VC games on the Wii.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 6, 2006:

    (and if they don't - again - millions of gamers will join you in voicing displeasure and vitriol)

    And then I'll say, "See? You were all silent when it happened last time because you said it didn't affect you! Now Nintendo just assumes you'll keep buying the same bags of bits over and over!" πŸ™‚

  17. John said on November 6, 2006:

    If you had, say, a working N64 cart today, you'd be in the same situation: you'd have already purchased a games, and you can prove this to Nintendo.

    No, John, because I was talking about VC games I'd purchased on my Wii. Not Wii games (discs). A bit unclear on my part, I grant you that. I meant to say this:

    But if when the Wii4 is sitting in my entertainment center I can't play the VC games I purchase in a year on my Wii, by all means I'll join you in crying out that I've already purchased the games and Nintendo knows it.

    When you buy a CD you don't expect to have licensed that song forever. The same was true of cassette tapes and 8-tracks before that. You're purchasing the media, not the bits on it.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Cart reader hardware and associated software is incredibly simple. Just ask the hundreds of pirates that manufacture and sell this stuff today for low, low prices πŸ™‚

    I disagree with the premise that it'd be inexpensive for Nintendo to make the device and that there are enough people out there to warrant such a device. Furthermore, the quality of a homebrew ROM-reader is nowhere near as high as you'd expect from Nintendo. They'd have Quality Testing, several versions, various aesthetics designs, etc. And all to serve a market of four people.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Sure, they're bundling it for free with the idea that it'd be paid for incrementally by the individual game purchases. But if I don't need to purchase the individual games (because I already own them) it's only fair to charge me for what I do need (the emulator itself) since I would not be participating in the subsidization of the emulator through game purchases.

    That's based on premises that make no sense, John. Why aren't you faulting Apple for not selling you a multi-function digitizing device to import your old vinyls, eight-tracks, cassette tapes, and whatnots into digital music for play on your iPod? That'd be a similar thing. You don't own the games - you own the media. "Fair Use" helps you get around the "you've licensed this content on this media" thing, but companies aren't obligated to help you exercise your fair use.

    You're asking for a product that Nintendo will not bring to market because it would make no sense to do so. A product that would encourage theft, benefit an incredibly small number of people (well, there's… at least you, I guess, and… uhhh…), and cost a substantial amount of money, resulting in a loss for Nintendo. Companies don't like doing things they know will lose money.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    With the right (but still profitable) pricing, I think they'd sell 1 million of these devices over the Wii's lifetime.

    And I think you've lost your gourd. I don't think the market for such a device is as large as 1000 people. And again, the piracy would be a very real issue, and once you'd "imported" all of your old games, you'd simply sell the darn doohickey, robbing Nintendo of yet another sale.

    Your idea makes absolutely no sense, John, and I think you're way, way off on the estimates. One million? Lost your gourd. Yeah, we're both guessing… but I haven't seen anyone else agree with you.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    I think there are at least that many hardcore Nintendophiles who still have their carts and would like to play them again without paying $5-$10 per game. Obviously, we disagree wildly over the size of this market. I suspect we're both just going by gut feelings.

    Not just gut feelings, John, but common sense. And again, you've got no plans to curb the piracy that would be not only easy, but virtually (no pun intended) sanctioned by Nintendo.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Some people have expressed concerns about piracy with the ROM dumper adapter, and that's reasonable (assuming there isn't some sort of unique serial number in the carts that Nintendo can verify over the network).

    There are no unique serial numbers. And it's not only "reasonable," it's blatantly obvious and a rather large impediment to implementation. The (non-existent) size of the market is the other.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Nintendo could institute a cart trade-in program. Go to your local GameStop (or whatever) and hand in your original cart. Presumably, the GameStop employees can be trained to recognize a legitimate Nintendo cart, and they could even have old consoles on hand to verify that the carts work, if you really want to be persnickety.

    Now you're just copy/pasting from your thread. I respect you, and I think you're often brilliant, but you're off the mark here. Why would Nintendo care to lose money on a program such as this? Why would GameStop care to have their employees spending their time doing something for free? What would stop me from trading in a bunch of carts that don't work and buying popular games I never owned?

    I'm not being persnickety, John, and I don't care for the implication. But if you feel I'm persnickety, don't get all up in a lather when I suggest you're not living in the real world here. The world where businesses don't wish to condone piracy, don't wish to lose money, and don't wish to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to appease an incredibly small market.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    The "standalone emulator" would still be a required purchase for those that want to participate in this trade-in program, as a way for Nintendo to get paid for what they are offering: the *ability* to play old games that customers already own.

    Except, John, that you don't own the game. You own some plastic and some memory chips. You don't own the bits on those chips. Look at your old instruction manuals. There's your EULA. There's your license.

    And now you want to have two separate Wiis. "I'd like the Wii with the emulator built in, please, for VC games." "I'd like the emulator-less Wii, please - I'm gonna import my old games and buy the emulator." You don't download an emulator with each VC purchase - it's already on the Wii. You buy the Wii knowing you can play VC games.

    It strikes me that you wouldn't have even had a complaint if the Wii only played GameCube games and didn't offer any support for VC games. It'd just be "the next Nintendo" with the nice perk of one-system-ago backwards compatibility.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    Yes, my recent Nintendo posts have generated some noise, but that's mostly because few readers know what to make of me as someone who writes about games, and end up knee-jerking in response. It reminds me of my first articles on Mac OS X (what, six years ago? I feel old), after which I was roundly condemned as a Mac-hating "PC luser." That response was much more vociferous and long-lasting. I can handle a few "enthusiast," let's say, Nintendo fans.

    I don't care for the dismissal of those voicing opposition to your article as "knee-jerkers" or "enthusiast fans." I think your idea has serious holes, and I'm neither a knee-jerker nor a big Nintendo fan. You're getting a lot of flak, and a lot of it is well-reasoned. You're taking the time to push your side - you wouldn't do so if it as all knee-jerk enthusiasts.

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    I think it's quite an optimistic leap, considering Nintendo's attitude today towards "already purchased" games, and the more reasonable explanation (above) for the ability to re-download VC games on the Wii.

    It's not the same thing, John. The tape cassette analogy works pretty well. You can get your tape cassette content onto your iPod, but Apple is in no way obligated to help you get it there.

    You are moving from a physical object that happened to contain a game to purchasing a game. (And they're not literally the same bytes, either. Not all of them anyway. Some games are "enhanced," others will have their control schemes updated, etc.)

    And that aside, do me a favor. Take a really, really strong magnet to your carts. Zap 'em with some electricity too while you're at it. Guess what? You still own the cart. That is what you purchased. You didn't purchase the bits that happened to be stored on the cart just as me buying a record or a tape or a CD didn't entitle me to lifetime rights to "Inna Gadda da Vida."

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    And then I'll say, "See? You were all silent when it happened last time because you said it didn't affect you! Now Nintendo just assumes you'll keep buying the same bags of bits over and over!" πŸ™‚

    I get that that's what you think is the issue. You've managed to convince yourself that you own some games.

  18. Nintendo's always been really clear on the fact that unless they do it, you're not allowed to download the software off the cart. They've been quite enthusiastic in pursing people who enable this to happen regardless of reason.

    So that rather limits your options with regard to to old cart. games. I don't see any value to Nintendo dealing with the PITA that hardware for nigh-20 year old cartridges or even 7 year old cartridges would create. Any theoretical sales based on this would be more than offset by support/return costs for people griping that their NES Zelda carts don't work with the Wii. (before you protest, think about the nimrods bitching about the obvious in any GameStop in the country. Yes, they WILL return stuff based on that stupidity and in large numbers.) It doesn't take a lot of returns to erase a lot of profit.

    The Exchange idea is silly. Care to take a guess at the costs involved in shipping and disposing of hundreds of thousands of carts? "Cheap" is not the word i'd use. Yeah, bye-bye profit, and unlike Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo actually makes money on their stuff, pretty much from day one. Without that profit, you don't have to worry about what your Wii will play for very long.

    that's the problem with a lot of ideas that are in the "Boy, this would be GREAT customer service." They usually translate to "Boy, this would save me a ton of money, and that's all that matters, even if it's fiscally stupid on a large scale".

  19. John, you seem to believe that all the VC games will be exact, bit-by-bit copies of the games on your cartridges when in fact none of them will be. Every single game has been modified. And I don't just mean the wrapper around the game (to include meta information like a little picture, some title, etc.). The game itself - the bits themselves - have changed.

    Engineering had to go into certifying all these games to work on the Wii. QC testing too. Bandwidth. Think of yourself as paying for that and getting a free emulator with your Wii purchase.

  20. Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    John said on November 6, 2006:

    If you had, say, a working N64 cart today, you'd be in the same situation: you'd have already purchased a games, and you can prove this to Nintendo.

    No, John, because I was talking about VC games I'd purchased on my Wii. Not Wii games (discs).

    I know what you meant, believe it or not πŸ™‚

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    When you buy a CD you don't expect to have licensed that song forever. The same was true of cassette tapes and 8-tracks before that. You're purchasing the media, not the bits on it.

    In the case of digital media, I most certainly am purchasing the bits (and yes, also the physical media they come on). No, that doesn't mean I get free HD-DVD versions of all my DVD movies. Why would I? That's an entirely different set of bits.

    Let's consider a bit-buying realm closer to home. When you purchase a copy of MS Office, are you purchasing just the plastic disc, or are you also purchasing the bits on them? Even with all the crazy EULA stuff in the PC market (and putting aside the "licensing" stuff for now), the bits themselves are still clearly the focus of the exchange. You can totally destroy the plastic disc and still have the product. You can even still prove to MS that you legitimately own it ("own a license to it," whatever), provided you remembered to write down the serial number. The plastic disc is gone, but the bits you purchased remain.

    Take those same bits and move them to a USB thumb drive. Now it's on a silicon chip. Do you still own MS Office? Throw your computer away and buy a new one. Do you have to buy Office again, or do you still own it? What if MS said you have to buy a new copy of Office? "Hey, I still have Office! It's on this thumb drive! Here's my original box and serial number! See, I own it!" MS says, "Sorry, you bought the media, not the bits on it. If you don't have the CD anymore, though luck."

    PC software is perhaps the most draconian market in the world when it comes to "ownership," and yet even there, the bits themselves, plus some proof of legitimate ownership, are clearly recognized as the lynchpins of the exchange. The media itself, the plastic disc, is nothing. It's trash.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    Why aren't you faulting Apple for not selling you a multi-function digitizing device to import your old vinyls, eight-tracks, cassette tapes, and whatnots into digital music for play on your iPod?

    Er, because Apple's not the only one that can legally sell me such a thing. I can buy that stuff, legally, from hundreds of companies. Nintendo, OTOH, is the only company that can legally sell me the ability to play its games in a new context (whether it be on a PC or on the Wii or something else).

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    One million? Lost your gourd. Yeah, we're both guessing… but I haven't seen anyone else agree with you.

    How many gamers who have old NES, SNES, or N64 carts and plan to buy a Wii have you asked about this? Find some, and ask if they'd like some way to ply a one-time fee for an emulator and then dump or exchange their carts for a VC games on the Wii. Then ask how much they'd be wiling to pay for that.

    Of course, sometimes people say one thing but would actually do another--and that works both ways. I think you'd need a real announcement of such a product from Nintendo to accurately gauge the interest. Hypotheticals are notoriously inaccurate. Maybe stage a fake news story then watch the comments thread? πŸ˜‰

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    Now you're just copy/pasting from your thread.

    Yeah, and vice versa. I can't rely on everyone reading everything everywhere πŸ™‚

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    Why would Nintendo care to lose money on a program such as this? Why would GameStop care to have their employees spending their time doing something for free? What would stop me from trading in a bunch of carts that don't work and buying popular games I never owned?

    Nintendo would do it as a a way to foster long-term loyalty. GameStop would do it because they'd get a cut (the same reason GameStop does anything). Carts could be tested on trade-in, but I'd actually advise against that and just have the cart's authenticity verified.

    Why does Craftsman guarantee their tools forever? Why can I go in there with my grandfather's broken socket wrench that's older than I am and get it replaced, no questions asked? Why would Sears ever implement a money-losing program like this?

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    And now you want to have two separate Wiis. "I'd like the Wii with the emulator built in, please, for VC games." "I'd like the emulator-less Wii, please - I'm gonna import my old games and buy the emulator." You don't download an emulator with each VC purchase - it's already on the Wii. You buy the Wii knowing you can play VC games.

    No need for two Wiis, just two kinds of VC games: the ones that are purchased on the VC and work with the bundled emulator, and the ones that refuse to run on the bundled emulator until a "standalone" activation is purchased. Same games, just different (cryptographically secured, yada) metadata.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    It strikes me that you wouldn't have even had a complaint if the Wii only played GameCube games and didn't offer any support for VC games. It'd just be "the next Nintendo" with the nice perk of one-system-ago backwards compatibility.

    Sure. But a more analogous situation would be if the Wii could play GC games, but could not play them from GC discs (because of a physical incompatibility, say), and then Nintendo offered to sell me GC games to play on the Wii for $20 each. What I'd say to that is: No, just sell me a disc drive or some way to play the GC games I already own. (They're too big to dump into flash, obviously, so it'd have to be a drive or some sort of adapter.)

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    I don't care for the dismissal of those voicing opposition to your article as "knee-jerkers" or "enthusiast fans."

    It's not all of them, obviously, but I think the signal/noise is lower than average.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    You're taking the time to push your side - you wouldn't do so if it as all knee-jerk enthusiasts.

    Probably not, but you never know πŸ™‚ Anyway, I never said it was "all" knee-jerk enthusiasts.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    And they're not literally the same bytes, either. Not all of them anyway. Some games are "enhanced," others will have their control schemes updated, etc.

    If they're "enhanced," (e.g, like Zelda::OOT Master Quest, which I paid for BTW) then I agree with you, they're not the same bytes. Also, as was pointed out out in the article comments, if it's not an emulator at all and the VC games are actually ported to the Wii instead (i.e., code and/or assets modified, recompiled), then all bets are off and what I wrote is irrelevant. But I'm assuming it's an emulator, and so are most people.

    As for alternate control schemes and such, they're more likely implemented at the emulator level (an emulator that I'll gladly pay for) rather than through alterations to the games themselves.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    And that aside, do me a favor. Take a really, really strong magnet to your carts. Zap 'em with some electricity too while you're at it. Guess what? You still own the cart. That is what you purchased. You didn't purchase the bits that happened to be stored on the cart just as me buying a record or a tape or a CD didn't entitle me to lifetime rights to "Inna Gadda da Vida."

    See my earlier comments about digital ownership. I'll add here that a song and a particular encoding of it are obviously not the same thing. I don't own SACD versions of all the CDs I own. I just own the CD versions--that is, the 44KHz 16bit PCM audio. I own those bits. I'll purchase a SACD version of the same song, however, because I don't own those bits. It's not even a superset of what I own. It's a completely new thing, digitally speaking.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    I get that that's what you think is the issue. You've managed to convince yourself that you own some games.

    A post or two ago, you seemed pretty convinced that you'll own those Wii VC games. At the very least, you seemed annoyed about the prospect of having to re-purchase them for the Wii2. Why would that bother you if you don't think you owned those bits in the first place?

    (I almost cringe at what I imagine might be your reply: that you own the VC bits because they came across a network, but don't own the Wind Waker bits because they came on a plastic disc. Please say it ain't so! :))

  21. Super Mario said on November 7, 2006:

    Engineering had to go into certifying all these games to work on the Wii. QC testing too. Bandwidth. Think of yourself as paying for that and getting a free emulator with your Wii purchase.

    Work has to go into certifying the Wii to play GC games too, but I don't expect to have to repurchase those.

    Super Mario said on November 7, 2006:

    John, you seem to believe that all the VC games will be exact, bit-by-bit copies of the games on your cartridges when in fact none of them will be. Every single game has been modified. And I don't just mean the wrapper around the game (to include meta information like a little picture, some title, etc.). The game itself - the bits themselves - have changed.

    Like I said, if they're not "ROM dumps with wrappers plus metadata" running on an emulator, but are instead ports where code and/or assets were altered and the games recompiled, then yes, my points are totally irrelevant. But I've not read anything from Nintendo that has indicated that the games are actually altered or enhanced in this way.

  22. John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    The Exchange idea is silly. Care to take a guess at the costs involved in shipping and disposing of hundreds of thousands of carts?

    I was assuming the game store would throw them out in the trash (after marking them permanently or punching a hold or something to indicate use), just like the individual cart owners would (eventually) do in the absence of an exchange program. Is that not feasible?

  23. Wait...so let me get this straight. You want Nintendo to deliberately create a black market of cartridges for the Wii? Because that's what just throwing them away does.

    Even better, you want to jack up landfills even faster with carts? I suppose recycling costs are only for stuff that doesn't directly affect you?

    Dude, you simply have not thought out the implications of your ideas, and are running entirely on "I want it so therefore it's a good idea".

  24. John said on November 7, 2006:

    In the case of digital media, I most certainly am purchasing the bits (and yes, also the physical media they come on). No, that doesn't mean I get free HD-DVD versions of all my DVD movies. Why would I? That's an entirely different set of bits.

    So are the VC games. Put it this way: the "Super Mario" commenter posted from an email address and has a name that I recognize as being someone who "knows" what he's talking about.

    They're not the same bits, unless you want to suggest you purchased a collection of 1s and 0s named "Super Mario Brothers" and their order and quantity doesn't really matter.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Take those same bits and move them to a USB thumb drive. Now it's on a silicon chip. Do you still own MS Office?

    No, you don't. You own a license to MS Office. A license that allows you to use the CD to install software. You don't "own the bits." You own a license to use the bits.

    You owned a license on your NES cartridge to use the bits in an NES to play a game. A game that, like MS Office, was not warranted nor granted to you exclusively.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    PC software is perhaps the most draconian market in the world when it comes to "ownership," and yet even there, the bits themselves, plus some proof of legitimate ownership, are clearly recognized as the lynchpins of the exchange. The media itself, the plastic disc, is nothing. It's trash.

    And yet PC software has "registration codes" - something your NES game and even your N64 and even your GameCube and even your Wii games don't have. You don't have the luxury of being able to prove so easily (by typing in a registration code) that you own them.

    They're two entirely different discussions. The closest you could get to marrying the two analogies would be "If Windows Vista breaks your 20-year-old copy of Microsoft Word, they should sell you an emulator to run it." Microsoft is under no obligation to do it, even though in that case you would be using the "same exact bits." No - you're free to keep your old computer or version of Windows or buy an updated copy of Office.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    How many gamers who have old NES, SNES, or N64 carts and plan to buy a Wii have you asked about this?

    Not very many. And even if there were 1M, your plan creates so many troubling scenarios it wouldn't happen. Fortunately the number is so small, Nintendo didn't have to worry about it.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Nintendo would do it as a a way to foster long-term loyalty. GameStop would do it because they'd get a cut (the same reason GameStop does anything). Carts could be tested on trade-in, but I'd actually advise against that and just have the cart's authenticity verified.

    How exactly would GameStop profit when no money is being made? And why would Nintendo spend millions of dollars to "foster long-term loyalty?" They do that - and make money at it - by creating good games.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Why does Craftsman guarantee their tools forever? Why can I go in there with my grandfather's broken socket wrench that's older than I am and get it replaced, no questions asked? Why would Sears ever implement a money-losing program like this?

    That's not the same thing and you know it, John. It's not even close to the same.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    No need for two Wiis, just two kinds of VC games: the ones that are purchased on the VC and work with the bundled emulator, and the ones that refuse to run on the bundled emulator until a "standalone" activation is purchased. Same games, just different (cryptographically secured, yada) metadata.

    Thus saddling Nintendo with even more costs. Brilliant, John. You should go into business. You'll make a lot of money losing money hand over fist.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Sure. But a more analogous situation would be if the Wii could play GC games, but could not play them from GC discs (because of a physical incompatibility, say), and then Nintendo offered to sell me GC games to play on the Wii for $20 each. What I'd say to that is: No, just sell me a disc drive or some way to play the GC games I already own. (They're too big to dump into flash, obviously, so it'd have to be a drive or some sort of adapter.)

    Except that it wouldn't be analagous at all.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    If they're "enhanced," (e.g, like Zelda::OOT Master Quest, which I paid for BTW) then I agree with you, they're not the same bytes.

    John, if your entire point rests on the fact that you believe they're the same bytes, I can unequivocally say they're not the same bits. I suspected they weren't earlier when I said what I said, but further discussions with Nintendo have convinced me.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    See my earlier comments about digital ownership. I'll add here that a song and a particular encoding of it are obviously not the same thing. I don't own SACD versions of all the CDs I own. I just own the CD versions--that is, the 44KHz 16bit PCM audio. I own those bits. I'll purchase a SACD version of the same song, however, because I don't own those bits. It's not even a superset of what I own. It's a completely new thing, digitally speaking.

    Your PC software analogy doesn't fly. Audio CDs (and NES, SNES, etc. cartridges) offer no means of entering a license code. Software does.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    A post or two ago, you seemed pretty convinced that you'll own those Wii VC games. At the very least, you seemed annoyed about the prospect of having to re-purchase them for the Wii2. Why would that bother you if you don't think you owned those bits in the first place?

    Because in that case I've purchased a "VC" game. What if the Wii2 offers no virtual console at all? What if this is all a bust? Nintendo is making no guarantees at this point. But if there is a way to play "VC" games, I'm confident in the fact that they would suffer horrible backlash if they decided to make everyone pay again, and thus I'm confident that they know that and wouldn't make the mistake.

    But if the whole VC thing ends up being a bust, and there is no VC at all on the Wii2, so be it. I couldn't argue that Nintendo sold me the right to forever play purchased Wii VC games on newer consoles.

    There are two arguments here. Technically and legally, I'm buying a VC game to play on my Wii. Nothing more. The other side of the argument is a whole let less… factual. It's a "feeling" that I've purchased some mythical "virtual" game to which I now own perpetual rights. That's nothing more than a feeling based on what I would hope Nintendo would do in the future.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    (I almost cringe at what I imagine might be your reply: that you own the VC bits because they came across a network, but don't own the Wind Waker bits because they came on a plastic disc. Please say it ain't so! :))

    That's not my response at all. It has nothing to do with the actual bits for me. Since it appears to be all that matters to you, your case falls apart as soon as a single bit changes.

    Even as Super Mario says above, they're adding meta-information to the games. That alone changes the series of bits. So if you're intent on sticking to this "I own the bits," go ahead. They're not the same bits anymore, John.

    Come to think of it, how you can claim to own a sequence of bits when millions of other gamers at one point owned the same exact sequence of bits is beyond me. That alone smacks of having a license to use the bits, not owning the bits themselves.

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Like I said, if they're not "ROM dumps with wrappers plus metadata" running on an emulator, but are instead ports where code and/or assets were altered and the games recompiled, then yes, my points are totally irrelevant. But I've not read anything from Nintendo that has indicated that the games are actually altered or enhanced in this way.

    First off, the addition of wrappers and metadata creates a new product. It still doesn't obligate Nintendo to create a hardware unit, regardless of how simple it may be or how large the market may be, to allow you to import your old games.

    Second, I have heard from Nintendo. And while I don't expect you to take my word for it, I'll do what I can to encourage Super Mario to email you personally. My feeling is that this person already thinks commenting may have been overstepping some bounds, but I'll do what I can.

    For me, your side of the discussion (and thus mine, as it's a counter-argument) has come to a close. You no longer have a point because I'm convinced the bits are different and you've based everything on "I own the bits."

  25. John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    Wait...so let me get this straight. You want Nintendo to deliberately create a black market of cartridges for the Wii? Because that's what just throwing them away does.

    Ha, as if every ROM doesn't already exist on the net. The carts are useless as trade-ins after they're "marked as used" with a hole-punch or whatever. The trade-in program would not significantly increase piracy of any kind.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    Even better, you want to jack up landfills even faster with carts? I suppose recycling costs are only for stuff that doesn't directly affect you?

    Then let the customer take the hole-punched carts home again, where the problem of disposal goes right back to where it was to begin with: to the individual users.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Take those same bits and move them to a USB thumb drive. Now it's on a silicon chip. Do you still own MS Office?

    No, you don't. You own a license to MS Office. A license that allows you to use the CD to install software. You don't "own the bits." You own a license to use the bits.

    Earlier you said, "You own some plastic and some memory chips." My point with the Office example was that you don't have to buy it again to use it. You "own" it just as much as you did when you had the original CD. IOW, the plastic part is not what is owned.

    (The license is not really what is owned either. To test this, destroy all your copies of the bits and then try to get MS to give you another copy of those bits when you present them with your license code.)

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    You owned a license on your NES cartridge to use the bits in an NES to play a game.

    (Emphasis added.) You keep saying that, but I haven't seen the supporting evidence yet. I'll go take a look at some of my game boxes in the attic when I get a chance. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'd at least like to see it confirmed.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    PC software is perhaps the most draconian market in the world when it comes to "ownership," and yet even there, the bits themselves, plus some proof of legitimate ownership, are clearly recognized as the lynchpins of the exchange. The media itself, the plastic disc, is nothing. It's trash.

    And yet PC software has "registration codes" - something your NES game and even your N64 and even your GameCube and even your Wii games don't have. You don't have the luxury of being able to prove so easily (by typing in a registration code) that you own them.

    Ownership can still be proved, however. Maybe it's not as easy as a registration code, but presentation (and subsequent modification) of the cart may be more secure, depending on how rigorous the verification process is (i.e., everyone connecting to a central database vs. simply "checksumming" (not really; you know what I mean) the registration code itself.)

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    How many gamers who have old NES, SNES, or N64 carts and plan to buy a Wii have you asked about this?

    Not very many. And even if there were 1M, your plan creates so many troubling scenarios it wouldn't happen. Fortunately the number is so small, Nintendo didn't have to worry about it.

    So you have asked "not very many" and yet you're certain that "the number is so small." Obviously this is still all guesswork on both our parts. I'm firmly convinced that any device or opportunity to exchange carts for Wii VC games would be wildly popular among those to whom it applies. We'll just have to agree to disagree here.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    How exactly would GameStop profit when no money is being made?

    It depends on how the deal is structured. Nintendo could pay a small amount for each exchange. Or Nintendo could promise larger allocations to retailers that participate. Or Nintendo could withhold allocations to retailers who refuse to participate. Or GameStop would do it for free because it puts bodies in the store. Etc. etc. Business is not nearly as cut and dried as the zero-sum, balance-sheet math you've been fretting over.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Why does Craftsman guarantee their tools forever? Why can I go in there with my grandfather's broken socket wrench that's older than I am and get it replaced, no questions asked? Why would Sears ever implement a money-losing program like this?

    That's not the same thing and you know it, John. It's not even close to the same.

    It's an example of a business practice that "makes no sense" according to the short-term balance sheet, but may be a net win in the long term. That's why it's relevant.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Sure. But a more analogous situation would be if the Wii could play GC games, but could not play them from GC discs (because of a physical incompatibility, say), and then Nintendo offered to sell me GC games to play on the Wii for $20 each. What I'd say to that is: No, just sell me a disc drive or some way to play the GC games I already own. (They're too big to dump into flash, obviously, so it'd have to be a drive or some sort of adapter.)

    Except that it wouldn't be analagous at all.

    You should expand on that, because I think it's almost exactly analogous. Watch this search and replace:

    "...a more analogous situation would be if the Wii could play N64 games, but could not play them from N64 carts (because of a physical incompatibility), and then Nintendo offered to sell me N64 games to play on the Wii for $10 each. What I'd say to that is: No, just sell me an adapter or some way to play the N64 games I already own. (Maybe even dump them into flash, if they fit.)"

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    if there is a way to play "VC" games [on the Wii2], I'm confident in the fact that they would suffer horrible backlash if they decided to make everyone pay again

    Why?!? Why would there be a backlash, and why from you in particular? Assume that the Wii2 includes a way to pay for, download, and play NES, SNES, N64, and GC games (big internal HD, say). Further assume that, as you're sure of in the case of the Wii, those games are *not* "exactly the same bits" as the Wii VC versions of those same games (nor are they exactly the same as the original ROMs or the original GC discs). Why would you, personally, be bothered by the fact that you can't play the Wii VC versions of these games on your Wii2? Why do you think others would, causing a backlash?

    Finally, how do those reasons (yours and the public's) not apply to the current situation?

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    There are two arguments here: technically and legally, I'm buying a VC game to play on my Wii. Nothing more. The other side of the argument is a whole let less… factual. It's a "feeling" that I've purchased some mythical "virtual" game to which I now own perpetual rights.

    Heh, you've been complaining about my claimed ownership of bits, and yet you have a "feeling" that you've purchased "perpetual rights" to the game itself!? πŸ™‚

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    Even as Super Mario says above, they're adding meta-information to the games. That alone changes the series of bits. So if you're intent on sticking to this "I own the bits," go ahead. They're not the same bits anymore, John.

    The wrapper and metadata is not worth the purchase price. Clearly, the $5-$10 price is almost entirely paying for the game itself. If that game is a ROM dump of a cart I already own, then I balk at buying it again. If not, well, then I'll have to reconsider.

    Erik J. Barzeski said on November 7, 2006:

    John said on November 7, 2006:

    Like I said, if they're not "ROM dumps with wrappers plus metadata" running on an emulator, but are instead ports where code and/or assets were altered and the games recompiled, then yes, my points are totally irrelevant. But I've not read anything from Nintendo that has indicated that the games are actually altered or enhanced in this way.

    I have. And while I don't expect you to take my word for it, I'll do what I can to encourage Super Mario to email you personally.

    I'll take your word for it just to try to wrap up this thread! πŸ™‚ If it's really the case, then I find the purchase of the "same" game much less onerous. It's more akin to buying Quake 4 for the PC, then buying the Mac port. Maybe I still don't want to do it, but it's not as scary a precedent as selling ROM dumps to people who already own the carts from which they're dumped.

    It'd still be nice if Nintendo offered some sort of recognition of previous ownership of an earlier incarnation of the same game, but that's probably about as wishful as your desire for perpetual rights πŸ˜‰

    I also still think the ability to import ROMs and run them in an emulator would be wildly, insanely popular. If the VC is not an emulator, well, then Nintendo has decided not to create such a thing, so they can't very well offer that ability. It's just a shame that they're probably the only company that can legally do so. This is another example of something the market wants, but that those with the rights to do so are unwilling or unable to offer.

  26. I'll attempt to be brief here, as both John and I have gotten far too deep into minutae to really add much value to the discussion.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    (The license is not really what is owned either. To test this, destroy all your copies of the bits and then try to get MS to give you another copy of those bits when you present them with your license code.)

    That doesn't mean you don't still own the license. What you're claiming is that you need to own two things to use Office: the license to do so and the media with the bits.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    I'll go take a look at some of my game boxes in the attic when I get a chance. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'd at least like to see it confirmed.

    I don't think it's on the box. I believe Nintendo ships a standard little license with all their games, and so far as I can remember, always has. It explains what that "Nintendo Seal of Quality" (or whatever it's called) is and so on.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    So you have asked "not very many" and yet you're certain that "the number is so small."

    Have you asked a million gamers? No.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    I'm firmly convinced that any device or opportunity to exchange carts for Wii VC games would be wildly popular among those to whom it applies.

    And after Nintendo sells 10 such devices to all of those to whom it applies, then what? πŸ˜› Heh heh.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    It depends on how the deal is structured. Nintendo could pay a small amount for each exchange. Or Nintendo could promise larger allocations to retailers that participate. Or Nintendo could withhold allocations to retailers who refuse to participate.

    Sound like borderline illegal practices to me. Didn't Microsoft get in trouble by charging OEMs more for Windows if certain conditions weren't met?

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    It's an example of a business practice that "makes no sense" according to the short-term balance sheet, but may be a net win in the long term. That's why it's relevant.

    Craftsman tools cost more to begin with and rarely break. It makes sense. You're attempting to compare a warrantee with some unusual, unwritten right to forever use a game you bought 20 years ago. Had Nintendo charged you $150 for the game and promised you that if it ever broke, you could get a new cart with the game on it, you'd have a point.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    Heh, you've been complaining about my claimed ownership of bits, and yet you have a "feeling" that you've purchased "perpetual rights" to the game itself!? πŸ™‚

    No. I said it's a whole lot less factual, that "feeling." It's just a feeling, with no legal or technical basis. Nintendo would suffer a backlash from people who clung to this feeling, but technically and legally they'd be well within their rights to charge you anew for Wii2 VC games.

    They're not suffering the backlash now because they've never sold VC games before. They've never had anything close to an iTunes/iPod like model before. It's all been physical product with physical impossibilities.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    The wrapper and metadata is not worth the purchase price.

    Sez you. That's a judgment call, John. And seriously, if we're talking about this, I know we've gotten away from the actual discussion.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    I'll take your word for it just to try to wrap up this thread! πŸ™‚

    Fair enough. Both of us have gotten too far into the minutae. I assure you I'm just as leery of Nintendo trying to pull a fast one on us when the Wii2 comes out… But at the same time, if I pay $5 or $10 for a game that lets me re-live my youth, and I get five years out of it on my Wii (or more if I, you know, don't throw away my Wii when the Wii2 comes out), then technically and legally, that's all Nintendo has promised and all I can technically and legally expect from them as an educated consumer.

    Would that be evil or "bad" of Nintendo? Yeah. Is that what's going on now? No, I don't think so.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    If it's really the case, then I find the purchase of the "same" game much less onerous. It's more akin to buying Quake 4 for the PC, then buying the Mac port. Maybe I still don't want to do it, but it's not as scary a precedent as selling ROM dumps to people who already own the carts from which they're dumped.

    Yeah, they're not selling you straight ROM dumps. Of that much I'm certain.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    It'd still be nice if Nintendo offered some sort of recognition of previous ownership of an earlier incarnation of the same game, but that's probably about as wishful as your desire for perpetual rights πŸ˜‰

    Indeed. You're asking for something you were never promised. Nobody thought the NES would be the only game system ever, and we've all had 20 or so years to realize that new game systems rarely play the games of yester-year. We don't buy games expecting to be able to play them forever (unless of course we maintain the original hardware and software to play them).

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    If the VC is not an emulator, well, then Nintendo has decided not to create such a thing, so they can't very well offer that ability.

    To the best of my understanding, it's still basically an emulator, but it's using slightly updated and modified game code. It's not like NES games are re-written for the Wii. There's still some layer of emulation. But it doesn't mean it's an exact ROM-dump either.

    John C. Welch said on November 7, 2006:

    It's just a shame that they're probably the only company that can legally do so. This is another example of something the market wants, but that those with the rights to do so are unwilling or unable to offer.

    It's something you want. Remember, we still disagree that "millions" of gamers will shell out for a one-time-use ROM-dumper or that Nintendo could overcome some major hurdles or that it could be profitable for anyone involved.

    With that, I agree that we're about done here.

  27. Not quite! I'll just add one final bit. All that stuff that's been written about Nintendo being "obligated" to do something, or the "right" to have some ability regarding older games on the Wii are far afield from my actual position.

    I've never claimed that Nintendo is literally, legally obligated to do the things I've talked about, nor that I have some sort of "right" to play old games in a new context, etc. I thought that was pretty clear, but the concepts of "legally justified" and "obligated" and "right" keep coming up anyway. That's not what any of this is about.

    Instead, it's been about varying degrees of my willingness to purchase things, my opinion about the appropriateness of what's being sold vs. what I actually want, and the precedent set by the offer and potential reaction of the market. At no point do consumers have any legal or technical standing to "demand" anything of Nintendo regarding previously purchased games an the Wii. I figured that was so obvious it didn't bear expressing explicitly, here is is just in case.

  28. i notice that this thread hasn't had a post in quite some time, but i think it necessary to have the point that the games are indeed well modified and should be considered ports for the wii. i'll just get the point out of the way that an emulator would be impractical as it would require a single program already made capable of running all games successfully. that's a LOAD of testing for games that may not even be planned for release. an update to the emulator every time a game is released? you mean i gotta download the game AND an update? nah... there are articles that mention some of the modification the games go through in the porting process. for example better frame rates and sharper graphics. also they are modifying the region coding. the downloads themselves will be restricted to certain regions, but there will also be games available for different regions than they were originally released. to think that a one for all emulator is doing the job is a bit absurd with all that in mind. so yes, these are different bits and you are not paying for the same software. also why would nintendo create new servers for new online accounts and make our accounts only system specific? the idea to not allow us to use our previous VC downloads on the next system is simply not an idea nintendo would have, especially after the migration of xbox live gamertags to the 360. this is a market of competition, not swindling.


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