Nintendo Switch Won't Have Virtual Console At Launch

Nintendo announced that the Virtual Console, which allows people to purchase classic games, will not be ready for the Switch launch on March 3. This means Switch owners hoping to wax nostalgic about titles from the NES, SNES, and other Nintendo console eras will have to wait a little while to do so.

The Virtual Console's delay was revealed in an announcement that three indie titles--Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, and FAST RMX--will debut on the Nintendo eShop alongside the Switch. Another 60 indie games are expected to be released before the end of the year.

Yet even the eShop isn't debuting in a finished form. Nintendo said that accessing the digital storefront will require a launch-day software update that "downloads in the background, is designed to install quickly, and doesn’t disrupt gameplay." (That last point ought to soften the blow just a little bit.)

These issues highlight the Switch's potential software problems. The console won't have a full online service until later this year, doesn't have access to services like Netflix, and lacks the Virtual Console nostalgia mill, even though the NES Classic Edition showed how much Nintendo-stalgia gamers want it.

All of those problems can be addressed in due time. Nintendo fans are used to the company's lackluster online services, so many devices are compatible with Netflix that the service probably won't be missed on the Switch, and the Virtual Console will probably make its debut sooner rather than later.

Nintendo's also fixing some problems with its online accounts and making it easier to purchase digital titles for the Switch:

People who already have funds in their accounts on other Nintendo devices can access them using a shared wallet that works on Nintendo Switch as well. Once they link their Nintendo Network ID and Nintendo Account and then their Nintendo Account to their Nintendo Switch system, this functionality becomes possible.[...] After visiting Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch for the first time, gamers can also purchase Nintendo Switch digital games on Users can purchase the games on Nintendo’s website and have them download automatically to their Nintendo Switch system at home or on the go, wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection.

Still, combined with the shortage of launch titles and the dearth of information we have about the Switch's hardware even after Nintendo published many of its specs, it's hard not to think that the Switch is going to have a bumpier launch than many people might have expected. And that's if anyone who didn't pre-order the console is even able to buy it without having to camp out in front of a GameStop for the retailer's midnight launch parties.

Oh well. At least there's the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and its coming expansions. Nintendo seems to think that will be enough to make the Switch launch a success. It will be interesting to see if Link and Co. are able to carry that burden on their own. We'll find out starting March 3.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • ajpaolello
    Did the Wii launch with a Virtual Console though?
  • bigdragon
    I'm taking a wait and see approach for the Switch. It's odd that so many things aren't ready for its launch. I'm not sure that Nintendo learned the right lessons from the Wii U (or the NES Classic). I hope Switch is a success because I find Nintendo's games more enjoyable than their competitors.
  • sglowats
    While the lack of a Virtual Console at launch is disappointing to me and many Nintendo fans, I'm more concerned about whether or not I will need to repurchase the Virtual Console titles I already have on my Wii U. I wasn't too thrilled to find out I had to repurchase them when I upgraded from the Wii if I didn't want to run the console in Wii Mode, albeit at a discount.
  • targetdrone
    The Switch is going to be a huge boondoggle for Nintendo.

    It's not even out yet and there are already games that require you to buy an SD card because the on-board memory is so small.