As you may be aware, Nintendo made a somewhat muted announcement that was to see SNK titles hitting the Wii Virtual Console. No games, franchises or a release date was known. We spoke to SNK US boss Ben Herman to find out more.
"Nintendo is going to be adding Neo Geo games to Virtual Console," Explained Herman. "The games will be available at some point this year. I can't say exactly when. I expect that we'll be putting out a certain limited number of titles per month.
"I can't say which games or franchises will come available right now, though that is being worked out in Japan as we speak. Of all the MVS and AES games in the Neo Geo Library, I'd say that any of them would be available.
"I know that Nintendo has all the code for NES and SNES titles, all of the manuals and so on. They have a pretty good filing cabinet and all they have to do is seek permission from the IP holder to put the game out over Virtual Console, then share the income. When this was announced, I said to you, wouldn't it be great if they could put the Neo Geo system on there. I didn't mean the arcade system, rather the AES home system. Right now I don't know if the focus will be on AES or MVS, even though they are largely the same, but the fact that the Neo Geo is being added is a very exciting thing."
So how will this news impact on SNK's traditional business areas of delivering home versions of its coin-op offerings? We're aware that SNK has encountered some trouble in the US domestic market with platform holders over content issues with modern released of older titles... "It's difficult to say," continued Herman. "If you're dealing with a customer, who wants to download games through Virtual Console, that's great. I think that if anything, it's going to make our consumers who know us, as well as a lot of new players who do not know us, become much more familiar with the SNK franchises."
So no conflict between the boxed SNK releases? "No. I think that if we were to release games that have not been available on modern systems... There are a lot of games that people want from us that we have been unable to release for whatever reason, and it would be a nice opportunity to deliver these games. There'd be a lot of money involved in releasing a version of a game that has limited or niche appeal. This way, if people want to buy something, they can just buy it.
"I think that when we're added to Virtual Console, if people don't know Neo Geo, they're going to see it on Virtual Console, look at it, taste it and in that sense, it's going to be a very good thing for SNK's visibility and the world rediscovering who we are."
How does this impact on the deal with Sony, being penned out right now, for Neo Geo content on the PlayStation 3? Will certain titles be exclusive to one system's online offering?
"What I would say is, right now, I personally have not seen anything to suggest that there will be any exclusivity of titles for either machine. Microsoft has been very selective and is not looking for everything... Sony is just getting started. Nintendo is being careful, with NES and SNES titles, not to over-saturate the market. Microsoft has shown us that online games can be a strong part of a machine's offering. Nintendo is still not letting Wii third-party publishers include online capabilities in their games and it doesn't look like they will during 2007. So the best chance they have at building an online presence appears to be what they're doing with Virtual Console.
"You have two platforms out now that run high-def games and a lot of our catalogue merchandise is not in high-def, obviously. There will be new arcade development, and the arcade development that was announced last year at the Tokyo Game Show, will include high-def content because unless you have a high-def product, you're not going to put out a PS3 of an Xbox 360 game. Right now we have PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo Wii and DS, for which I would like to get more product, though we have the first DS product coming out this spring... These are great platforms and we're participating in many of them."
So, any exciting peripherals for the VC? There's speculation that we might see a huge dirty wireless arcade stick...
"Two things: One, Nintendo has told the games community to go out and developer peripherals that will work with whatever games are coming out for the Wii. Two, there's a number of peripheral companies. It's their job to do this and those are the companies that will work on that. Of course, one nice thing Nintendo did was to release the Classic Controller..."