If you, like me, have no other personality than being part of the revered class that is The Gamer, then you’ll know that Nintendo has been pretty lax on announcing much of anything this year. Sure, a few new games like Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics and Animal Crossing: New Horizons have come out, but the rest of Nintendo’s release schedule has mostly been ports and remakes, such as Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX and Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. Looking back on the Nintendo Direct archive, there hasn’t been a single full-fledged Direct this year. They’ve all been Direct Minis, with the exception of a Pokémon, Animal Crossing, and Super Mario Direct.
Being alive during a global pandemic means that the options for going outside are fairly limited in many places. Many people have been spending the vast majority of their time at home, finding new hobbies like baking or engaging in their previously established hobbies. For those who enjoy pastimes such as reading and gaming, this hasn’t been too difficult with the rise of digital books and games.
Digital games are a very welcome change in the way people consume games. For people like me who grew up in developing countries that did not offer a varied selection of games, or new games as they came out, it was nice to be able to buy a game for the same price as everyone else, and be able to play it at launch. It seems that many other gamers around the world feel the same way, as digital games made up 83% of total game sales in 2018. Buying games that are tied to an account allows for consumers to worry less about losing all their games in the event of theft or property damage. It’s also much more convenient, and provides an opportunity for smaller independent studios to publish their games without worrying about manufacturing and distribution costs.
The unfortunate caveat of digital media is that you are not paying for a physical item, but for a license. Your license may be revoked at any time at the company’s discretion, or the game itself may not be made available to purchase on digital storefronts after some time. The latter can occur for a variety of reasons, such as rights to IPs or music expiring, issues between the publisher and the developer, inappropriate content, etc. Nintendo has recently also engaged in the anti-consumer practice of removing games being sold at a lower price on older platforms, such as the Wii U, after a port has been announced for the Nintendo Switch. This was seen with the digital versions of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Pikmin 3 on the Wii U. Usually, customers who have purchased a title before it is removed are able to redownload it after its removal, but in the case of the Wii and DSi digital storefronts, any titles not currently on the hardware were unable to be redownloaded after the storefronts shut down.
Nintendo has had a history of making games and applications available to consumers for a limited time, with most of these titles being free to access. In celebration of The Legend of Zelda franchise’s 25th anniversary, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition, a remake of the Nintendo Gameboy Advance title of the same name. This was released on the Nintendo DSi eShop from September 2011 to February 2012, and then again on the 3DS eShop from January 2014 to February 2014. I really enjoyed it, and still have it on my 3DS to this day.
Animal Crossing Plaza was not a game, but an application available for the Wii U from August 2013 to December 2014. I didn’t manage to get this, as I bought a Wii U after it was taken down from the Wii U eShop. It’s actually what prompted me to buy a Wii U in the first place, because I thought that its release meant that an Animal Crossing title would be coming to the system.
Little did I know… alas.
I’m still salty about it.
A more recent addition to the list of limited games was a cute title named Jump Rope Challenge. Released in June of 2020 by a small team of Nintendo employees working from home, this tiny game has you staying active by using the Joy Con to simulate holding a skipping rope in each hand as you jump towards the goal of 100 skips each day. It was free to play, but will not be available to “purchase” from the eShop after the 30th of September. If you have already downloaded the game, you can still redownload it from your list of previously downloaded titles!
Nintendo tends to be quite serious about their anniversary celebrations. Unlike the Four Swords release for the Zelda 25th anniversary, Nintendo did not release any free titles for their Super Mario 25th anniversary. Instead, they re-released the Super Mario All Stars pack for the Wii, Mario-themed Wii and Nintendo DS consoles with Mario pack-in games.
For the Super Mario 35th anniversary, Nintendo unveiled a surprise Direct Mini on September 3rd, 2020. They announced various games and merchandise that would be released into next year, including clothing, mugs, a Game and Watch-style console, a port of Super Mario 3D World, and the two most controversial games: Super Mario 3D All Stars and Super Mario Bros. 35.
Super Mario 3D All Stars is a game collection coming to the Switch on September 18th, 2020 that contains upscaled versions of three Mario classics: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64), Super Mario Sunshine (Nintendo Gamecube) and Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Wii). I pre-ordered the game the day after it was announced. Ordinarily, I’d be excited to play, however… this game is only available until March 31st, 2021. And before you furrow your brow in confusion as to why I’d be upset at an anniversary product being limited – both the physical and digital versions will not be sold after March 2021.
Anyone who buys a Switch after March 2021, perhaps because they may not have been able to spare the money during, y’know, a global pandemic, will have to wrestle with scalpers, or people on second-hand storefronts like eBay who seek to take advantage of people’s FOMO (fear of missing out) and buy limited products just to re-sell them at double or triple the price when it is no longer available in stores.
Super Mario Bros. 35 is another one of Nintendo’s “Battle Royale” genre twists, in the same vein as Tetris 99. People with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription will be able to play this game and traverse through the original Super Mario Bros. for NES with 34 other players. The twist? When you defeat enemies, you can send their ghosts to the other players to thwart their attempts to finish the level. The game is won when one person is left standing. This game will be available through the NSO service from the 1st of October, but like the 3D All Stars collection will only be available until March 31st, 2021. Seeing as it’s an online game, players will not be able to play the title, even if they have it downloaded onto their system.
As with anything on the internet, people were quick to dive into speculation. Some presume that the reason why Nintendo is limiting the sale of Super Mario 3D All Stars because they want to sell each of the three games in the collection separately after March. Others surmise that the reason for the limited availability is to force people to buy the game, even if they don’t have a Switch, to drive up sales as much as possible before the end of the fiscal year (which runs from April 1st to March 31st). The same is assumed for Super Mario Bros. 35, where people think that Nintendo wants to force its customers to buy Nintendo Switch Online subscriptions before the end of the fiscal year.
The limited availability of paid digital content doesn’t sit particularly well with me. Most of Nintendo’s limited time offerings have been for free, which is different, I think. A little nod to an old GBA game, an application, a fitness game to keep people busy in quarantine – these are fine. But a major collection of well-liked – no, revered – 3D Mario games that people have been asking for, for years? I don’t think that should be limited. If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know how much I appreciate being able to buy digital games in regions where physical games aren’t sold for a reasonable price, or at all, even. Given that there is also a global pandemic going on that has severely impacted the financial stability of millions around the world, I also find it quite anti-consumer to explicitly state a cut-off point for the source of someone’s possible joy in a time where people have no financial security. Sure, video games are a luxury, but the psychological effects of these times on the general population suggest that engaging in hobbies would be greatly beneficial to people in such a traumatic time.
I personally would have liked to buy this game sometime in the future. But I ended up feeling forced to pre-order a physical copy (thanks, FOMO) because I can’t predict the supply quantity for this game. Given the low number of amiibo, NES and SNES classics that were shipped during their release windows, who’s to say that brick-and-mortar stores won’t be sent 5 or 6 copies for everyone to fight over? And as it relates to Super Mario Bros. 35 being limited, I can’t imagine any reason why that should be a thing. Sure, it’s another server to keep up, but is it really that taxing?
How did you feel about the direct? Will you be purchasing the 3D All Stars Collection, or anything else that was announced? Comment below!