Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy and Nintendo Online: Pricing Old Games

On 12th August this year, rumours that there would be a Grand Theft Auto Remastered Trilogy (containing Grand Theft Auto III, GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas) were confirmed to be true.

On 23rd September, Nintendo revealed that during its Direct showcase that its Nintendo Online service would be getting an upgrade, allowing subsribers to play selected N64 and Sega Genesis games, alongside the already released NES and SNES games.

What connects these two? Well, both of them recently announced how much their products would cost: Grand Theft Auto: The Definitive Edition will cost $59.99 in the US (£49.99 in the UK), while Nintendo Online’s upgrade will cost $49.99 a year.

Let’s start with the Grand Theft Auto collection. Nowadays it’s not uncommon for old games to be re-released with a new coat of paint: we’ve already seen Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Nier Automata, Death Stranding and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword get remasters in 2021 alone, usually at the same price as brand new games. On one hand, at least Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy contains three games as opposed to just one. But on the other, with the oldest of the games turning twenty years old this year, are they even worth roughly £15 each? Nowadays, you can buy the original games second-hand for a couple of pounds, or even emulate them for free. Grand Thet Auto: The Trilogy doesn’t offer anything other than HD graphics to make the extreme price-hike worth it.

For context, paying the $19.99 base fee for Nintendo Online got you access to online play for games like Animal Crossing and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, cloud saves for your in-game data, use of the Nintendo Online app, and two Netflix-esque libraries of classic NES and SNES games. While the base service has its own issues (the app only exists because of the Switch’s limitations, it’s not exactly a selling point), the only thing the expansion offers is two new emulators: the N64 ad Sega Genesis ones. The quality of the online play is the same, there isn’t another app for expansion-payers.

The pricing is also confusing: included in the package is the paid DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which is also being sold individually for £25. Will there be a version of the Expansion Pass without the DLC that’s priced accordingly? Or do players who don’t have Animal Crossing / want the DLC just have to deal with the inflated price? If you cancel your subscription, do you lose access to the DLC? It’s not very clear.  

Both examples are indicative of a problem within the games industry: the preservation of retro games. Because technology evolves so quickly, and consoles are upgraded and replaced every six years or so, games that could only be played on those consoles suddenly become inaccessible to many players. Some consoles, like the recent Xbox Series X, have good backwards compatibility, but other like the Nintendo Switch don’t, instead opting to re-releasing their best games on a more current system: whether or not they’re still worth the price.