Nintendo, Music & Embracing The Streaming Future

The popularity of streaming music cannot be understated, and it’s done well to bolster the popularity of video game music. Spotify has had a gaming hub for years, and the service has embraced by publishers, developers and composers. However, it hasn’t been until this year where several beloved Japanese publishers finally released parts of their backcatalogue onto streaming, embracing the future and finally making their music legally available and easily accessible. Yet with more publishers making their music backcatalogue more accessible, it’s becoming apparent that one particular publisher is still frustratingly behind the times.

Nintendo are a publisher that while they’re kicking goals on the software front, have had a contentious relationship with soundtrack releases. Just like their many attempts at trying to understand the internet, for every step forward, they’re five steps backwards. For years, they made their soundtracks available via their Club Nintendo loyalty program up until it was discontinued in 2015. The program stopping also meant that Nintendo soundtrack releases have slowed, with the most accessible these days being sampler discs included with some of their games.

That’s not to say they haven’t stopped releasing their music in full. In recent years, Nintendo have released the soundtracks to Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon and its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Fire Emblem: Fates on CD, plus recordings of Zelda orchestral concerts. The catch is that these are only available in Japan, which while not entirely inaccessible, remain a far costlier offer than a service like Spotify or Apple Music. And naturally, none of the above is available for purchase on any digital storefront, let alone streaming.

Don’t expect to buy or stream the excellent Cadence of Hyrule soundtrack anytime soon.

The closest that a Nintendo game has had to a legal soundtrack release on a digital storefront has been via the efforts of The Pokémon Company, who have released the soundtrack to nearly every game in the series as purchasable on the iTunes Store. It’s the sole exception to the rule however, as The Pokémon Company are an independent entity from Nintendo.

As I’m writing this, two of the biggest music rippers on YouTube have had their accounts terminated, which comes as Nintendo are cracking down on Fire Emblem: Three Houses music uploads. There is no soundtrack release as of yet for the game, and I am confident that I would not be alone in wanting to support an official release; especially one that is far more accessible and affordable than a Japanese CD release. There is no reason why the only way I can listen to Calamari Inkantation from Splatoon on Spotify should be through cover versions, and not the official version.

Nintendo have some of the most passionate fans in the world that will happily drop money on official releases on iTunes or Google Play, and will happily support streaming options. I want to give Nintendo money for the amazing remixes present in Super Smash Bros Ultimate and listen to them wherever I want. The best solution offered by Nintendo is to buy the game and use Ultimate’s built-in music player to do this, which is a horribly impractical solution that nobody should have to resort to. I want to be able to recommend and share some great music, and there are legal options out there that support the original IP owners, not just fund someones AdSense account.

If Square-Enix can somehow release virtually every Final Fantasy soundtrack on all streaming platforms worldwide, and consider it big enough to justify an E3 announcement, then there’s absolutely no reason why Nintendo can’t do the same. It’s 2019, and the world is more than Japan or Tower Records.