When Nintendo revealed that EarthBound would finally be coming to the Wii U’s Virtual Console, it was the culmination of years of fan petitioning to see a re-release of the revered title. With a vague 2013 release date established in April’s Nintendo Direct, it was with more than a little surprise that people found EarthBound waiting for purchase and download in the eShop. With zero marketing for the game’s release since that initial announcement, it was incredibly odd to see a title with such enthusiastic fan support to be released so unceremoniously. While the Nintendo Direct Mini on Thursday at least partially made up for the lack of pre-release buzz, Nintendo took the strangeness a step further and is selling the game at $9.99, $2 higher than your average SNES title. While I’m thankful to finally have the game on the Virtual Console, it’s incredibly irksome that Nintendo has taken such an unconventional approach to EarthBound’s return.
What makes Nintendo’s moves here so frustrating is that they look completely arbitrary on the surface. The $2 premium is most likely related to the free, Wii U-optimized strategy guide available on Nintendo’s website, but a person would only know that if they watched the Nintendo Direct Mini. The reality is that your average consumer is just going to see a SNES game that costs more than the others and thus be less inclined to purchase it.
That’s the worst case scenario, of course. $2 is $2, and for the most part people aren’t going to be dissuaded by it. Still, there are some people who will, and with a game as good as EarthBound getting a rare second-chance like this, it seems foolish to create any sort of barriers for no reason. The pricing is further confusing when you consider the fact that Japan’s version of the .30 cent sale featured EarthBound prominently!
It’s just a bit insulting as a Nintendo fan that EarthBound couldn’t hit the eShop in a normal way. Other games get build-up, marketing, and don’t see premiums attached for no apparent reason. EarthBound has been a game struggling for acceptance and a second chance for years, so why Nintendo felt the need to take this approach is perplexing to me. I have to say, though, that $10 is a heck of a lot better than $200 on ebay and that supporting the re-release of EarthBound is a big deal. Nintendo doesn’t do this sort of thing often, so to help ensure that we hopefully see more of the Mother series, please do go out and download a copy! (I had to pay for two copies on Thursday!).