Is Gameboy coming to Nintendo Switch Online?

 Could handheld retro games finally be coming to the Nintendo Switch?

Around a month ago, news started to spread that we could see Gameboy, Gameboy Colour and Gameboy Advance (GBA) games come to Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) sooner rather than later. The addition of Gameboy titles to Nintendo’s subscription service has been rumoured and speculated about for quite a while now but nothing has been so big as this: Nintendo developed emulators for Gameboy and GBA games leaking online.

I didn’t have time back then to dedicate an entire article on the matter, I was busy with switching the blog over to a new hosting service just to name one thing, but I have the time now. Even if is old news, I feel like giving my two cents about this leak. If only for the simple reason that when the official announcement is made I can come back to this post and compare notes.

Now, without further ado, let’s dive in.

The leak; is it even trustworthy?

First off, a quick explanation of the leak and why I, and many others, find it trustworthy. On April 18th, files containing a Nintendo-developed Gameboy and GBA emulator appeared on 4chan. Codenamed “Hiyoko” and “Sloop” they are, or at least heavily appear to be, developed by the Nintendo European Research & Development team (NERD). NERD is a Paris-based subsidiary that is responsible for many of the company’s recent emulation efforts, including the Classic Mini consoles and the emulation for Super Mario 3D All-Stars.

These leaked emulators were reportedly taken from a working development kit and also include a bunch of games that have been tested. From expected ‘big’ titles such as The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap to ‘in-demand’ games such as Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion to even the obscure Golden Sun and Golden Sun: Lost Age titles.

Now the big question: is this leak ‘real’? Is it trustworthy? Many feel it is. This leak is more than just some vague pictures after all. Could they, however, still be fake? Be open-source emulators made to look like it’s official? It certainly could be, but it doesn’t appear to be. YouTuber and game developer MVG made a video in which he dives deeper into why the emulators are likely real even if there are some odds things here.

An important takeaway for right now though: it would be a lot of work to make open-source emulators look like the ‘real’ deal. How likely is it that someone would go through all that work and trouble just to troll?

Now that we’ve established what was leaked and why there is a very good chance that it’s all real, when and how could we see it come to NSO? I’ve got some ideas.

When can we see them added?

Let’s start with the when. NSO launched in September 2018 with a handful of Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) titles. A year later, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) titles were added to the line-up. 2 years later, in October 2021, the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack (a more expensive subscription tier) was launched with Nintendo 64 (N64) games as the big selling point. Sega Genesis/Mega Drive titles are also a part of this tier but, let’s be frank, this hasn’t been a selling point for many.

Based on this data, the earliest we can expect Gameboy games on NSO is September of this year. A 4-month wait, at the very least. However, it is likely that Nintendo doesn’t feel the need to introduce Gameboy games in 2022 and could wait until 2023 to drop them on the service. N64 and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive titles only came a year earlier after all.

On the more optimistic side for us, the consumer, the relatively small number of N64 titles compared can lead to Gameboy games coming this year after all. To keep the drip-feed of ‘new’ titles going, if you will.

I´d say that this would make a good launch line up for GBA online, no? Credit: wccftech.com

How will they be added?

How do I think will Gameboy and GBA games come to NSO? The way I see it, we’ve got three options here. Both will be added to the standard subscription, both are put in the expansion pack or they’re going to split the consoles up between the two tiers. The 2nd option is what I think they´ll do.

NSO is not a terrible service but that´s not particularly great either. A lot of this has to do with its value. A yearly membership for the basic tier will cost you €19.99 / $19.99 / £17.99 and nets you online play, cloud saves, missions and rewards and the NES and SNES retro games. The Expansion Pack tier comes in at a whopping €39.99 / $49.99 / £34.99 and adds N64 and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive games as well as 3 DLC packs.

In the eyes of (corporate) Nintendo, this is good value. In the eye of the general public, it’s not. The online isn’t anything to write home about while the NES and SNES are so old and have been re-released so much that at this point the novelty has worn off. If it wasn’t for the relatively low price compared to what Xbox and PlayStation ask for their online service, I think the subscription numbers of the base NSO would’ve been a lot lower.

It’s for this reason that I think Nintendo would more likely throw Gameboy and GBA games in the expansion pack. The basic tier has ‘value enough’ so put them in the more expensive tier. Might also get more people to upgrade to the Expansion Pack tier.

I, however, think that option 3 is the better play. Gameboy games have seen plenty of re-releases and with their simplistic and monochromatic nature, I honestly don’t think they’re worthy of being put into the expensive tier. We’ve seen them so much already, what makes them special at this point?

With GBA games, none of these issues is are a problem. GBA games have only been re-released once, on the Wii U virtual console, and match SNES games in overall quality. There are also more games in the console's library that people want to have the chance to play (again). The titles I mentioned in the leak portion are a good example. If they add these to the Expansion Pack, I think fans will swallow this move better than with Gameboy games.

..........

With what appears to be Nintendo produced Emulators out on the internet, all signs point toward Nintendo planning on bringing Gameboy, Gameboy Colour and Gameboy Advance games to the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service. With a little luck, we’ll see them arrive before the year is over. With even more luck, they’ll decide to throw fans a bone and put Gameboy and Gameboy Colour in the normal tier instead of the more expensive Expansion Pack tier.

Only time will tell.  

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