Can Nintendo’s ‘NES Remix 2’ Boost Sales of Classic Games on Virtual Console?

Nintendo slams the nostalgia button again with ‘NES Remix 2’ for the Wii U, but can it lead to longer-term growth in digital sales?

Apr 21, 2014 at 10:10AM

Get ready for some more retro goodness, gamers -- Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY) NES Remix 2 will arrive on April 25 for the Wii U.

Like its predecessor, NES Remix 2 blends some of its most popular 8-bit NES titles into unusual twitch-based mini games. The combos come straight out of the feverish dreams of a 1980s kid -- Link battles a Hammer Brother, Samus collects coins in the Super Mario Bros. underworld, and Princess Peach battles Bowser in the climax of Super Mario Bros. 3. The game also features a completely mirrored version of the original Super Mario Bros. in which the player runs from right to left. As a result, old games become new again in a surreal wave of nostalgia.

NES Remix evolved directly from the "9-Volt" levels in Nintendo's WarioWare series, in which a player is given mere seconds to complete tasks from well-known Nintendo titles like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and F-Zero. Since 2003, the WarioWare titles have sold more than 8 million copies worldwide and fueled the popularity of "twitch-based" mini-games.

Although NES Remix looks a lot like a continuation of WarioWare, the game also reveals a lot about Nintendo's business sensibilities.

The business of reselling old games
When many investors think about Nintendo, they often overlook the importance of Virtual Console (VC), an online shop on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS that allows gamers to purchase classic games for discontinued consoles. Consoles featured in the past include the Game Boy, NES, Super NES, N64, Sega Genesis, NEC's TurboGrafx-16, and SNK's Neo Geo.


Super Mario Bros. 3. Source: Nintendo.

Nintendo launched VC in 2006 to counter the rise of emulation, which the company considers a form of piracy. Therefore, just as Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) took aim at P2P (peer-to-peer) services like Kazaa and Napster with iTunes, Nintendo introduced VC to offer gamers a legal means of emulating classic games. These games usually cost $5 to $10.

NES Remix is an excellent way to boost sales of older titles on VC. An older gamer who plays NES Remix will likely feel pangs of nostalgia while playing those remixed 8-bit challenges, which leads them to purchase the full game on VC. Therefore, it's no coincidence that Nintendo launched the VC version of Super Mario Bros. 3 for Wii U and 3DS on April 17, as part of a "month to remember" for classic game aficionados.

Simply put, NES Remix is actually a tantalizing sampler platter aimed at generating sales of Virtual Console titles.

Nintendo does not disclose Virtual Console sales. Back in February 2010, research firm FADE (Forecasting Analyzing Digital Entertainment) forecast that VC generated $66 million in sales in fiscal 2009. If FADE's estimates were correct, VC would have accounted for less than 1% of Nintendo's total revenue that year -- indicating plenty of room for growth and improvement.

Other forecasts of VC sales have not been made since then, but we can safely assume that the figure is now much lower, since Nintendo's annual net sales fell 65% between 2009 and 2013.

Could Virtual Console actually be Nintendo's 'mobile solution'?
NES Remix could certainly drive more gamers to purchase older games on VC, but Nintendo has to pave a clear growth path for VC first.

One persistent criticism of VC is that Japanese gamers get a library of 656 titles while North American gamers only get 402. Yet both virtual libraries are dwarfed by their physical counterparts -- to date, there have been over 1,000 NES/Famicom games, almost 800 Super NES/Super Famicom games, and nearly 400 N64 titles released.

In addition, popular titles such as Bionic Commando and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island notably remain missing from VC. Considering that most (if not all) of those missing titles have been successfully emulated by third parties for over a decade, it's bizarre than Nintendo hasn't made more of an effort to fill in those gaps.


Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is still missing from VC. Source: Nintendo.

Beefing up its VC offerings could go a long way toward silencing critics who want Nintendo to release mobile games to generate more revenue. VC is already available on 44 million 3DS units, 6 million Wii Us, and over 100 million Wiis, and the individual games are comparably priced to premium mobile titles. The key difference is that Nintendo can only offer a few hundred titles, while Apple's App Store and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Play can each offer over a million apps.

The bottom line
Although NES Remix is a creative idea that might lead to higher digital sales on VC, it also represents an ongoing problem for Nintendo -- it keeps dwelling on the past when it should be planning for the future.

Over the past decade, Nintendo has been focused on remaking the same game -- Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Mario Party, to name a few -- repeatedly. As a result, it has fallen behind the curve in terms of innovation. In the past, Nintendo's greatest accomplishments always came from thinking outside the box -- Super Mario Bros. revolutionized the platformer, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time raised the bar for 3D action role-playing games, and the Wii took motion gaming mainstream.

Looking ahead, Nintendo must address the fact that the popular 3DS is getting much better software support than the ailing Wii U. NES Remix is a great way to remind gamers why they loved Nintendo in the first place, but the company needs to do more to convince them to love its consoles once again.

Are you ready to profit from this $14.4 trillion revolution?
Let's face it, every investor wants to get in on revolutionary ideas before they hit it big. Like buying PC-maker Dell in the late 1980s, before the consumer computing boom. Or purchasing stock in e-commerce pioneer in the late 1990s, when it was nothing more than an upstart online bookstore. The problem is, most investors don't understand the key to investing in hyper-growth markets. The real trick is to find a small-cap "pure-play" and then watch as it grows in EXPLOSIVE lockstep with its industry. Our expert team of equity analysts has identified one stock that's poised to produce rocket-ship returns with the next $14.4 TRILLION industry. Click here to get the full story in this eye-opening report.

Leo Sun owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google-Class C Shares. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google-Class C Shares. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers