Nintendo has finally unveiled the details of their upcoming Nintendo Switch Online service. In exchange for a subscription fee, you will be able to play Nintendo Switch games online, as well as receiving access to cloud saves, the smartphone app, exclusive discounts, and an ever-growing library of Nintendo Entertainment System games.
The fan reaction to the Nintendo Switch Online service has been mixed, as the benefits on offer don't outweigh the fact that we now have to pay to play online games, even though they have been free for the past year.
What is it with Nintendo and their shoddy online services? They are one of the biggest names in the video game industry, yet they still seem to struggle when it comes to their online multiplayer service.
So, what exactly are the issues with the Nintendo Switch Online service?
5. NES Games Used To Be Given Away For Free
The Nintendo Switch Online service will offer players the ability to play Nintendo Entertainment System games from an ever-expanding library of games.
The problem with offering these games as an incentive for players to pay for the Nintendo Switch Online service is that Nintendo has devalued them by giving them away for free in the past. You used to be able to unlock NES games in Animal Crossing and Warioware titles. NES games are usually the first thing given away for free whenever Nintendo does any kind of promotion, such as when they gave away ten NES games to early adopters of the Nintendo 3DS as an apology for dropping the price so quickly.
The quality of the Nintendo Entertainment System games will be up to each person to judge, but they are still 8-bit games, some of which were released over thirty years ago. There are a few classics mixed in there, but the NES only has so many great titles that still hold up.
There is also the issue of the popularity of the Nintendo Classic Mini, which comes with a library made up of the best titles on the system. If someone had a burning desire to play NES games, then they have the option of purchasing a machine for that very purpose for the past two years.
The easiest way to improve the Nintendo Switch Online service is to add games from later systems. If Nintendo started adding Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and GameCube games to the service, then it would become a force to be reckoned with.
A datamine of the upcoming firmware update for the Nintendo Switch revealed a controller icon for the Super Nintendo controller, but the fact that Nintendo didn't mention the addition of any SNES games during the last Direct means that they may not be coming for a while, if at all.
4. Nintendo Won't Get Rid Of Friend Codes
The most frustrating aspect of Nintendo's online strategy is its strict adherence to protecting the youngest members of their fanbase. The issues regarding voice chat can be linked to this reason, as Nintendo desperately wants to protect the innocence of their fanbase from a blue shell inspired tirade.
It's commendable that Nintendo wants to give parents as much assurance as possible that their kids are playing in as safe an environment as possible, but it means restricting basic features from the rest of the fanbase.
The Friend Code system is a symptom of this thinking, as it is meant to discourage younger players from sharing their information with strangers. This means that we are still stuck entering long numerical codes when we want to add someone, despite all of the complaints from the fanbase.
The Nintendo Switch has made it easier to add people who you are connected with on social media, but the Friend Codes still linger on.
3. The Cloud Save Feature Is Inferior To The Competition (And Won't Even Work With Every Game)
The ability to back up your saves to the cloud is a feature that fans have been asking Nintendo to include for years and it is finally being offered as part of the Nintendo Switch Online service.
The problem with Nintendo's version of cloud saves is that it is inferior to the services offered by other companies.
The ability to use cloud saves in a Nintendo Switch game is determined by the publisher. This means that you can't actually use cloud saves with certain games, most notably Dark Souls Remastered, Dead Cells, and Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu & Let's Go Eevee.
These restrictions are intended to prevent cheating and save scumming, but they devalue the service when they can't be used with every game.
The Nintendo Switch Online service will also delete your cloud saves when your membership expires, whereas PlayStation Plus keeps them for six months after your subscription ends, while Xbox Live allows you to use cloud saves for free without any kind of paid subscription.
2. The Smartphone App Has Been Abandoned... Yet Nintendo Still Promotes It As If It Was Important
Nintendo originally promised that all of the voice chat for their games would require the use of a smartphone app, which immediately caused a backlash from fans who just wanted to be able to use a Bluetooth headset with the system.
The Nintendo Switch smartphone app is currently free to use, but it will be restricted to subscribers of the online service when it launches.
Nintendo is promoting the smartphone app as one of the key features of the Nintendo Switch Online service, yet it has been all but abandoned. The only game that has used it to any degree is Splatoon 2 and that has only been for pointless features.
The smartphone app has been bare in terms of content since it was launched and most people would likely have forgotten it existed, if it weren't being pushed so hard as a feature of the Nintendo Switch Online service.
It's possible that Nintendo has big plans for the voice chat feature, which brings us to...
1. The Switch Doesn't Have Enough Online Games To Justify A Paid Service
Nintendo consoles have been slacking in the hardware department for the past few generations, which was usually offset by an interesting hardware gimmick that was backed up by some amazing first-party titles.
The problem with Nintendo offering a paid service to use the online modes on many games is that the Switch doesn't currently have many games that will make use of it, while many of the biggest online games don't seem to be coming to the system anytime soon.
It makes sense to shill out for a paid subscription on a system that has titles like Grand Theft Auto V, Destiny 2, the Battlefield and Call of Duty games, and Overwatch, but the Switch doesn't have that kind of library. The Switch can't even run most of those games at an acceptable speed, so we aren't likely to see ports of them in the future.
There is also the issue of several free-to-play games (most notably Fortnite) still allowing you to play their online modes without requiring the Nintendo Switch Online service.
The Switch does have a few awesome online games, such as Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but the question you have to ask yourself is whether it's worth paying a yearly subscription for a system with such a limited library of online multiplayer games.
Why Can't Nintendo Get It Right?
Nintendo has been stubbornly refusing to get with the times since the days of the GameCube. While Microsoft and Sony were refining their online services, Nintendo was sticking their heads in the sand.
The failure of the Wii U was positive in the sense that it forced Nintendo out of their comfort zone, which is partly why the Switch has been such an amazing console. Nintendo is being dragged kicking and screaming into the online arena, which is why the Nintendo Switch Online service seems so inferior to the competition, despite how cheap it is.
The real reason why Nintendo has switched to a paid subscription model for the Switch's online services is due to the fact that they know the fans will pay for it, regardless of what is on offer.
Fans will pay for it, regardless of what is on offer.
When Nintendo started offering online services for their consoles, they were generally of poor quality and barely worked, which was always excused by the fact that they were free. The fans will now be expecting a higher quality service as it is costing them money, which means that Nintendo can't half-ass it anymore... which is exactly what it looks like they are doing.
The fact that Nintendo delayed the Nintendo Switch Online service by a year and waited until a week before it was due to be released to give a release date are huge warning signs, which suggests that they may have bitten off more than they can chew. It remains to be seen whether the Nintendo Switch Online service will finally allow them to compete in the online multiplayer arena alongside Microsoft and Sony.