Nintendo Switch Online – Some Thoughts

UK information

USA information

Use the links above to visit the official Nintendo Switch Online websites for further information.

I touched on this topic when I posted my Daily Sketch yesterday, and wanted to expand on my initial views on the announcement this week about the Nintendo Switch Online service.

I’ll start by saying I won’t be paying it. There is no value in it for me – I already have all the NES games I will ever want to play, I’ve paid for several of them more than once and I don’t feel inclined to pay again for a subscription service that takes the games from me when I stop paying. It’s why I don’t pay for Adobe software any more, and won’t pay for services such as Xbox Game Pass. I am a fan of “owning” the things I pay for, not renting them. Additionally I don’t play games online. I’ve dabbled in Splatoon 2, and I suppose I’ll have to trade that towards something else when this plan goes live. Then someone can buy it pre-owned and not give Nintendo any money for it.

The list of NES games is interesting, in that it is basically the list of games that everyone who wants NES games already has. They know this, and seem to be offsetting this by adding in online multiplayer to them. This actually sounds like a nice idea for any cooperative titles, and a nice alternative to couch coop for those who can’t do that. For games like Super Mario Bros though, does anyone get excited by the prospect of staring at your TV as someone on the other end of the Internet plays until the die, then it’s your turn? I don’t!

Voice chat will be handled by a smart phone app. As things stand I can’t see any alternative to this. The Switch, nor the Pro controller, nor the Joycons, have a microphone, nor connections for a headset so there’s no obvious better way to get this functionality – at least without an additional hardware accessory. Most people have a smart phone, and particularly those likely to have a Switch and want to play it online I’m sure a majority will have access to the required hardware one way or another.

The cost… in Europe, Nintendo Switch Online will be €19,99 per year. This sounds like a great price, especially when compare to the Sony and Microsoft equivalents at three times the price. The thing is, the other two consoles have tens, hundreds, of games to enjoy online. Switch has a mere handful. This may change in the future, though my gut tells me it will not, not significantly in any case.

Of course for that €20 you also get 20 NES games. €1 each huh? Well that’s all they’re worth, if we’re honest. They’re ancient games that, whilst still important in the history of gaming, are a niche item. The only reason you might feel the price is right is because you’ve been used to paying a lot more. The second side to that, don’t forget, is your renting the games. If you stop paying your subscription, you lose the games. In years to come when Nintendo discontinue the service, you lose the games. It’s just not worth it to me.

The final thing to say about the cost of the service is something that truly upsets me, and is relevant to many of today’s subscription plans. €20 gets you a year. Not everyone can pay that up front. You know, like people who don’t have a great disposable income. Well it’s ok, because they can have it for only €4 a month! Wow that’s just a cup of coffee at an overpriced cafe! It’s also €48 a year, or 240% of the annual fee. Of course there should be some incentive for paying for a year, but 240%? That’s a bit steep.

Lastly, we have the addition of cloud saves. Not all games are compatibles say Nintendo. I’m not quite sure what that means at this point. Some people are suggesting that Nintendo deliberately shipped Breath of the Wild with one save slot so you’d have to pay to access more options. I’m not sure of this logic, but it is very odd that they won’t provide the means to backup save games offline, to the SD card that is required in every Switch console already. At least then there’s less opportunity for someone’s data to disappear and piss them off.

So, as you see my thoughts on Nintendo Switch Online are characteristically negative. I don’t do it deliberately, I’m just incredibly skeptical, particularly of a company that since the Gamecube a decade and a half ago had been ignoring every improvement to online play that has come to other platforms. Paving their own way, perhaps. But they’re slow learners and I’m not sure they’re going to get it right with this one.

What about you, dear reader? How do you feel? Of course these words demonstrate my opinion, nothing more, and there will be some people incredibly excited by this announcement for whatever reasons – even if that reason is only that it’s Nintendo and some people won’t say a bad word.

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