It’s been a while since Nintendo launched a mini console, so where’s the N64 Classic?
Nintendo has always been an innovator in the gaming industry. Unique hardware like the Wii and Switch are evidence of that, but one of the biggest things Nintendo introduced to the mainstream recently are mini consoles. The house of Mario kicked off this trend with the NES Classic in 2016, launching a miniature recreation of its popular console pre-loaded with 30 games. It then followed that up with the SNES Classic a year later, which featured 20 games that premiered on the original Super Nintendo.
These tiny recreations of classic Nintendo consoles have been massively successful for the company. So much so, they’ve been difficult to find at retailers because supplies are so limited. After the NES and SNES got their dues, many thought a Nintendo 64 would follow. It would make sense to see the N64 join its predecessors on store shelves with a classic release, but two years later, it still hasn’t. So, what do we think is the holdup?
Avoiding Industry Fatigue
While fans are eager to get their hands on Nintendo 64 games, releasing classic consoles annually is a good way to burn consumers out on the concept. Admittedly, it’s also a good way to run out of consoles to re-release if you blow through six generations of Nintendo home consoles in half a decade. Despite the N64 Classic being a no-show in 2018, there wasn’t any shortage of petite retro consoles on the market.
Mosty notably, the PlayStation Classic debuted last year. It was an exciting concept when it was first revealed, but it ultimately found itself on the discount rack quickly. There are a number of reasons why this could have happened. There could have been a bit of industry fatigue, or maybe Sony overestimated the demand for the platform. Whatever the reason, that hasn’t slowed the release of others like the SEGA Genesis Mini, which is set to arrive on September 19th, 2019.
Maybe Nintendo taking a few years off before continuing the trend was the right call, especially when considering the work that needs to be done to license the proper lineup of games.
Getting the Proper Library
One of the biggest criticisms of the PlayStation Classic was its lineup of games. Beloved PS1-era franchises like Spyro, Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider were all left off the platform, much to the chagrin of fans. A lot of what made Sony’s original console special was its third-party software, which is a problem that Nintendo is fortunate enough to largely avoid. A majority of the best games on the N64 were made by first- and second-party studios during the ’90s, but times change and acquisitions are made. If there were to ever be a Nintendo 64 Classic, one outside developer needs to be at the table: the Microsoft-owned Rare Ltd.
Rare’s history with the Nintendo 64 is so substantial, some sort of collaboration for the N64 Classic feels inevitable. The company created everything from Diddy Kong Racing and Donkey Kong 64 to Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark on the original console. Fortunately, Microsoft and Nintendo have been shown to have a blossoming relationship recently. Heck, Microsoft even licensed Banjo-Kazooie to Nintendo for Smash Bros. Ultimate. This deal alone could be taken as a promising sign of things to come.
The biggie in all of this, however, is GoldenEye 007, which is currently sitting in a rights hell of sorts. This game is co-owned by both Rare and Nintendo, which would be easy enough to sort out if that was the extent of the licensing woes. What complicates matters is the rights to both the James Bond license and the fees associated with the involved actors for their in-game likenesses. That’s a lot of hoops to jump through in order to secure one game on a console that would presumably feature many.
You could argue that GoldenEye 007 is a must-have on a Nintendo 64 Classic, so maybe the holdup can be attributed to the logistics of securing it. It’s impossible to say at this time, but it would be a major selling point for the retro platform.
Ironing out manufacturing woes
Unlike the NES or SNES, the Nintendo 64 features four controllers for expanded multiplayer play. The same would be expected of an N64 Classic, requiring that more controllers be made available alongside the retro platform. This could be a very fun concept, as the original console featured a wide range of colourful trident-shaped remotes. The only drawback to all of this would be figuring out the logistics of shipping and production.
Even if Nintendo packaged the SKU with four controllers, the additional cost of plastic and tech would likely impact the final price tag of the unit. In that light, maybe it’s best to wait for the right deal to come along so that our wallets ultimately win out. However Nintendo would choose to sell this hypothetical console, you’d have to think it would be a popular enough item to see a significant return. Provided that the above-mentioned factors are taken into consideration.