There's been a surprising amount of chatter recently about some sort of "Christmas surprise" coming out of Nintendo on Monday, Dec. 25. The source of all this speculation, as far as we can figure it, is a Nov. 30 post on RumorReporter.com that coyly suggests "you might want to keep an eye on your Wii's WiiConnect24 service leading up to this Christmas. Nintendo's sending a nifty gift... a surprise."
The only cited source for this information? "A friend of mine from Germany, who works for a very legitimate gaming production and publication." And really, if you can't trust some guy's unnamed German friend who works for an unnamed "legitimate" gaming company, who can you trust?
The extreme sketchiness of this tip hasn't stopped the 'net from rampant speculation on what the big surprise might be. The current leading contender seems to be free Virtual Console games. As GamersReports notes, a little Firefox hacking can turn up Wii Shop pages for upcoming games Super Mario Bros., ToeJam & Earl and R-Type that list the price as "0 points / Free." The report is careful to note this as a rumor, but still holds out hope for "a real Christmas miracle, though."
We don't buy it. As noted on the original hacking guide on Following Revolution, "any unreleased game says free for now, as it's just a placeholder for price" which will be set later. Some might say that the "free" message where the "download" button usually appears proves that the games are indeed going to be offered gratis, but it would be a relatively simple process for Nintendo to set that message as the default for any page with an unset price. At best, this proves that the virtual console has the functionality to offer products for free -- something we've long known was planned for the system's Opera browser.
But the greatest argument against this Christmas surprise is that it's bad business. Giving away Super Mario Bros., a title that is likely to be one of the Virtual Console's biggest sellers, is not a smart move for a company that obviously values profits. The positive PR for the move likely wouldn't offset the hundreds of thousands of dollars lost to the free downloads.
We suppose we could be wrong here, and that some huge surprise could show up on our systems come Christmas morning. Just don't get your hopes up, is all.