It's been said that Virtual Console sales are declining-- but VC sales were never that formidable to begin with. I'm poor with numbers, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm fairly sure Nintendo has sold over 6.5 million Wii consoles worldwide-- and prez Iwata recently said there've been 3.3 VC downloads so far. While he didn't provide further details on that number, it makes it more likely than not that more than half of Wii owners have never downloaded a VC game at all.
Ars Technica wisely examined some possible reasons for this earlier this week in a piece titled "Nostalgia getting old?" --Is it? Maybe, but more precisely, nostalgia is not enough. Nostalgia's what makes us, spoiled by the lush bacchanal of current technology, still enjoy a beloved old blankie of a bloopy, buggy 8-bit title even though we've played it a million times before-- and it's what makes us buy that game again. Even if $5-10 bucks per VC download is not generally cost-prohibitive, it's still an opening of the wallet-- something gaming devotees must do often enough as it is.
The fact is, nostalgia alone will not compel the majority us to spend money-- no matter how little-- on an old title just because it's old. I love vintage clothing, but I won't buy a dress that doesn't look good on me even if it is authentic 70's. Sometimes fancy-pants previews and shiny advance trailers lead us to drop $40 or more on a new game-- which subsequently sucks. There's nothing in a dated 2-D pixelfest to mislead us, no squeaky good looks or PR-machine hyperbole to sell us on a title we've never played-- and yes, it's OK to admit that there are some of these old games you've never even heard of.
Best thing to do? Regional market polls. Ask the audience what oldies-but-goodies they would actually pay to play. It surprises me that some of the most iconic titles with the longest play times (hence, stretching the dollar) haven't made it to VC yet-- where's Chrono Trigger, dude? Lunar? Come on. Can I get Phantasy Star II?
And somebody tell Iwata that I would pay $20-- I would pay $30, I would pay $40-- for the TG-16 Falcom double-header Ys Book I & II.