You are all aware that Earthbound has formed one of the biggest video game cults in history. As expected, this was one of the most requested games on the Virtual Console. However, on February 16, 2009, fans like me were up for an rude awakening when we heard that Earthbound might not be coming to the Virtual Console, due to potential legal issues. As a result, people gave up all hopes for anymore exposure of the franchise, be it new installments, remakes, complimations, or even Virtual Console releases. However, instead of following the crowd, I decided to give my spin on the situation. I'll give out my opinion if we'll see the game on the Virtual Console.
A Virtual Console release is not as unlikely as you think it is if my theory turns out to be correct.
When it comes to discussing if that particular game will be made available on the Virtual Console, no game has been more controversial then Earthbound. Take a look at the Virtual Console section of the Nintendo Life Forums and you'll find numerous arguements regarding the game VC release.
Okay, let's get on with the facts first.
1. Earthbound is rumored to be under legal issues. This can (Not will, but it can) prevent an Virtual Console release, and I can no longer denide that if true.
2. Nintendo has not confirmed Starmen's source. Right now, we should leave the source as unconfirmed, because Starmen.net, while is an huge Earthbound site, is not official news site for Earthbound-related games on Nintendo's consoles. Therefore, they are not entirely creidable in that section.
3. The game has an ESRB rating. Sure it's been there since May, 2008, but it's still there. Check out the webiste and type in "Earthbound" and you'll find an ESRB rating for the Wii, suggesting that Nintendo might be using it for an Virtual Console release (Most likely since the franchise is dead).
4. This is one of the most requested games on the Virtual Console. This has been the case since it's announcement at E3 2005, which brings me too...
5. It was announced at E3 2005. Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo announced at Nintendo's E3 2005 that Earthbound, along with Punch-Out!, Excitebike, and another title (Can't remember) would be released on the Virtual Console.
6. All three Super Smash Bros. games featured Ness as a playable character. Ness is an vetern character in the series and has grew in popularity as the series continued. All of the original characters except Ness at least gotten a game with an Virtual Console release, so they probably want to put Ness on the spotlight on the Virtual Console too now that they got the other series covered.
7. Super Smash Bros. is available on all region on the Virtual Console. This is an crucial evidence here. Ness is an unlockable character here, so this is an perfect oppertunity to get people to familize with him if they haven't already and this could increase demand for Earthbound to be put on the Virtual Console.
8. The game is very expensive. Most copies are more then what you see on an Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games and that's quite sad. Luckily, Virtual Console has been proven an efficent way to bring down cost of previously expensive games (See Bubble Bobble) or at least gave them an cheap option to experience the game previously mostly unaffordable (M.U.S.H.A. for example). The longer the game goes without an Virtual Console release, the the more expensive the game will get. Releasing the game on the Virtual Console would really help bring down the cost and give us an cheaper solution to finally experience the game.
9. The franchise is owned by Nintendo. Do I need to say more?
Nine facts that we all need to know that could be related to a Virtual Console release. Now what is my opinion on the situation? You might be surprised to here this, but I actually think the game has a good chance of being released, providing that unsolved legal issues doesn't get confirmed by Nintendo. Now legal issues would (Not will, would) prevent a Virtual Console release, but we don't know that right? All but the first fact leads me to my general conclusion. As a matter of fact, I think if Nintendo pulls the right strings, we could see the game in the latter half of 2010. And also, because I have no plans to give up hope on an Virtual Console release of this game. As a matter of fact, I think I have an interesting theory. Take a good read at this.
Like I said before, there has been rumors of legal issues. Even if this is true, it's not like Nintendo didn't know of it just yesterday. They probably did a lot of research regarding potential legal issues and as you might expect, they got a ton of them. However, for all we know, they might not have done this shortly before we heard the news about the game not coming to the Virtual Console. They could have done this shortly after Nintendo came up with the idea of the Virtual Console. Knowing this, they could have asked Nintendo of Japan to change the music, but they rejected the request sent by NOA. And even before E3 2005, Nintendo of America would have decided to start fixing the legal issues. They could have discussed this with Nintendo of Japan and they would have given them the OK to start fixing them and release the game unaltered. In return, Nintendo of Japan announced Earthbound for the Virtual Console at E3 2005. Fixing the legal issues like this probably took a couple years or so to do, if not more. If they did start shortly before E3 2005, then they should have fixed it sometimes in late 2007/early 2008. Then they went to the ESRB to approve it and they did, thus we have an ESRB rating for the game. Then for some oddball reason, someone at Nintendo of America wanted the version to more resemble the original Japanese version or add something like multiple lanugages in the game, so NOA might have approved it and maybe that's why a release is taking like forever to happen here. Then some dedicated member from Starmen.net on February 15th, 2009 dedcided to search for news relating to Earthbound and he found that Nintendo of America were trying to change music, of NOJ denide their request. As a result, he got devastated and decided to tell Starmen.net about it, thus giving us a rumor about the game not ever coming to the Virtual Console.
These are the squares that Earthbound might be in. Which square do you think they're in?
Square 0: The game is never coming to the Virtual Console, no matter how many people want it.
Square 1: The game can be made available on the Virtual Console, but it's going to be difficult to do, due to legal issues, and the ESRB rating doesn't mean anything.
Square 2: The ESRB rating does help and it will likely be made available on the Virtual Console, but the game might have legal issues.
Square 3: The game will be made available on the Virtual Console, above should explain why the game is taking so long to get released.
According to this, I believe Earthbound is under Square 2. It can move either way.
The theory is just my opinion, nothing more. We don't really know if the game is coming or not, all we can do is speculate until (A: We heard from Nintendo that it's not coming or (B: The game gets an Virtual Console release.
Will we ever see Earthbound again?
The Earthbound/Mother fanbase has been met with nothing but massive disappointments for the past decade. Nintendo ignored the petition for an Mother release on the Game Boy Color, Earthbound 64 was cancelled (Which eventually turned into Mother 3), we didn't receive the Mother+Mother 2 complimation, and we will most likely never see Mother 3 and more disappointments. I really can't imagine how the fanbase didn't give up already and move on, no offense. However, Earthbound, if released on the Virtual Console, can be a turning point for the franchise and people should finally be able to recognize why this game is so well beloved by it's fans.