Wii’s Virtual Console is essentially a MAME-like emulator for various consoles allowing older console games to be downloaded (for a price) onto the Wii. It’s a great product that makes the Wii even more fun to use. I often play the Virtual Console games more than the Wii games itself. Daft when it’s a 7th generation console being used to play antique games from more than a decade ago, but the beauty is it’s everything in one box. No need to dig out an old console and games, or fire up a PC with a MAME emulator (and likely be playing illegal copies of ROMs).
The interesting thing with the Virtual Console is they haven’t just stuck to Nintendo consoles. Sega’s MegaDrive for example is on there too.
As it appears to be, like MAME, an emulator for many platforms, then this raises the possibility of supporting MAME itself. By doing so this would open the Virtual Console up to a wealth of arcade games, many of which are superior to console ports over the years.
Now the stumbling block to this is copyright. An official MAME port to the Wii would never happen if the user could just download illegal ROMs and play them on it, so we can forget that. However it does seem a lucrative possibility for both Nintendo and the publishers of the original games to offer their arcade games officially (for a price) via the Virtual Console with MAME as the back-end emulator. Both parties could then regulate what is offered via the Virtual Console and even tweak games to work best with the Wii. The bonus of using MAME is the hard work of emulation is done already.
That however is a problem when it comes to MAME’s licence as it doesn’t allow commercial use. Although the idea behind this restriction apparently is to prevent arcade owners from installing MAME cabinents, profiting from the games without any of that money going to the original publishers of the games.
If however Nintendo were to do a deal with MAME’s authors and the original publishers of the games then it becomes a good possibility, along with a high turnaround for publishing classic arcade games in their original form. If set at a price of 500 Wii points it would be quite attractive to those who don’t mind paying a small amount for classic games. Of course there are obviously many who would rather go for illegal downloads for free, which may be the sticking point with anyone adopting MAME commercially. On the other hand it may help MAME get an official status and reputation (but then deals with MAME’s authors may include requiring restrictions on other MAME ports to block illegal games).
Anyway, it’s just a thought. Another is that Nintendo could easily just go and write their own emulator for arcade platforms and use that in the Virtual Console. Just that as MAME is there and works, it’s something out there they could use.