Nintendo has never been shy about selling their older games on modern systems, which really took off with the Virtual Console on the Nintendo Wii. The Virtual Console continued to do business on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, which allowed gamers to purchase titles that originally appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo, the Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance, and several other non-Nintendo systems.
The Virtual Console's absence on the Nintendo Switch has been noted, with only a handful of Neo Geo and arcade conversions appearing on the Eshop since the debut of the Switch in 2017.
Reggie Fils-Aimé has finally confirmed that the Virtual Console is no more and that the upcoming Nintendo Switch Online service will be the official successor and future platform for Nintendo's retro titles on the Switch.
Reggie Fils-Aimé confirmed in an interview with IGN that the Nintendo Switch Online service that is launching in September will succeed the Virtual Console with its offer of free games in exchange for a subscription fee.
Reggie Fils-Aimé has confirmed that the Nintendo Switch Online service will be adding more free games as time goes on and that some of these games will include added online functionality. He did not specify the rate at which these games will be added to the service, or if we will see games from different systems.
This news is likely to irk many fans, who would prefer to pick the games they wanted to purchase, rather than paying a set amount for a group of titles that they may never play. The Nintendo Switch Online service will be launching with games like Soccer and Tennis, which are hardly a high priority on the list of games that fans would like to see being offered for free.
The other issue with the Nintendo Switch Online service is that it will likely only offer first-party games, which means that third-party games will either not appear on the Switch or will be offered in separate collections, like the one for the first three Secret of Mana/Seiken Densetsu games that is available in Japan.
The Japanese version of Dragon Ball Z FighterZ will come with a free download code for a copy of Dragon Ball Z: Super Butdoen, which originally appeared on the Super Famicom. If Namco Bandai can offer free Super Nintendo games as incentives for buying games, then we may see similar deals being offered by other publishers in the future.
This announcement also seems to be the final nail in the coffin of an official English-language version of Mother 3, as the Virtual Console was the most viable platform for the game to make any kind of profit. The only hope for Mother 3 is some kind of EarthBound collection or remake, both of which seem unlikely.
The Nintendo Switch Online service is due to launch with twenty games from the Nintendo Entertainment System in September.