A crucial feature of Nintendo’s new game console will not be available at launch

Nintendo’s new console, the Switch, launches on March 3 for $299.

But when it arrives, it will be missing a crucial component: the Virtual Console service, which enables owners to buy games from Nintendo’s decades-old catalog of classic games.

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Games like the original “Super Mario Bros.” are sold on the Virtual Console. It won’t arrive with the Switch on March 3.
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Nintendo

Nintendo revealed as much in a press release on February 23.

“Virtual Console games will not be available on Nintendo Switch at launch. We will share more information in the future,” the Japanese game company said.

And that’s a tremendous letdown for a few reasons: Most notably, this will not help the lackluster launch lineup for the Switch. A small handful of games are available on March 3, and just one marquee title (“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”).

Things improve as the year goes on:

    An updated “Mario Kart 8” arrives in April. A new “Splatoon” game is planned for the summer. A new, 3D “Super Mario” game is planned for “holiday 2017.”

But that’s pretty much it (at least so far).

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This is “Super Mario Odyssey,” an excellent-looking Super Mario game coming to the Switch in “holiday 2017.”
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Nintendo

It’s also tremendously disappointing because this is far from the first game console where Nintendo’s long-running Virtual Console service has launched. The service existed on the Nintendo Wii all the way back in 2006, which was over a decade ago. It also existed on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2011, and the Wii U back in 2013. It’s seemingly ridiculous, from a consumer perspective, that this isn’t ready for the Switch in 2017, especially with no real explanation from the company. Imagine if the next iPhone that launched couldn’t access Apple’s App Store – that’s how ridiculous this is.

The Virtual Console was expected to bolster the thin line-up of games on the Switch by using Nintendo’s incredible catalog of gaming’s classics. Instead, it’s entirely missing from launch; Nintendo isn’t even saying when it’ll arrive.

One thing that seems certain: The Virtual Console should arrive before this fall, when Nintendo’s new, paid online service launches. It’s not clear how much that service costs, but Nintendo’s promising a classic game each month – games from the Virtual Console – as part of the service.