The cult classic SNES game EarthBound was released on the Wii U Virtual Console last week for $10. That's $2 more than most SNES Virtual Consoles games cost. A couple days later, we posted a feature on what makes the game so special. The comments exploded with debate about how games should be sold, what they're worth, and what consumers should do with their time and money.
One question still left unanswered was exactly why Nintendo priced the game the way that they did. We didn't get a detailed answer, but we did learn that "As for EarthBound, Nintendo sets prices in the Nintendo eShop and Virtual Console on a game-by-game basis. Different games will be offered at different prices." That makes sense, given the flexibility that Nintendo has shown with Wii U/3DS eShop pricing so far, allowing for sales and mark downs at any time, but it's good to get the official word on that. From there the Nintendo representative went on to add that they "...read [the] piece this weekend and really liked it. I love EarthBound so much, and you did a great job of explaining that appeal." Thanks Nintendo! You're pretty nice.
So the exact reasons why EarthBound costs $10 remain a mystery, but the game is currently #2 on the Wii U Virtual Console sales chart (right under Donkey Kong, currently on sale for $.30), so it looks like they may have known what they were doing.
My guess was that the additional coding that it took to change the game so it'll be less likely to cause seizures, the release of the original strategy guide online in both computer and Wii U friendly formats, and the new trailer that helped to jack up the price a bit. Most SNES releases on the Virtual Console don't get that kind of treatment.
My hope is that Nintendo was testing the waters to to see if today's game consumers, most of whom don't see this EarthBound re-release as an opportunity to double dip, would find the game compelling enough to take a $10 chance on it. If they see that there is an audience for games like EarthBound, then they're more likely to release other games from their "smart, quirky, subversive" library of games that never made it to North America., like Tingle's Freshly-Picked Rosy Rupeeland, Captain Rainbow, and (of course) Mother 3.
Would you feel better about buying EarthBound if you knew that it was sending a message to Nintendo about what kinds of games you'd like to see from them in the future?