Nintendo Switch Online has been a premium service for close to a year now, and it’s changed very little in the time since Nintendo started charging $20 a year for it. That investment nets you access to online play, cloud saves, some free NES games and … that’s about it. Although Switch Online is inexpensive compared to similar services on other systems, it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re now paying for something that was previously free because Nintendo figured out they could start charging money for it.
Yes, we do get those aforementioned features, but cloud saves and a few NES games feel like minimal efforts at best. Nintendo could be doing a lot more with Switch Online to turn it into a great service that doesn’t feel like a cynical cash grab. To get the ball rolling, here are 10 ways Nintendo can fix Switch Online right now.
While Trophies and Achievements aren’t as big a deal as they were in the early days of the PS3 and Xbox 360, they’ve become an expected part of a console’s ecosystem (or even PC, as Steam has had its own achievement system for years). Nintendo has had three generations to introduce its own goal system, but for whatever reason hasn’t bothered.
Compared to most of the other features on this list, adding trophies/achievements/NintenGoals - whatever you want to call them - isn’t all that important. However, there is a subset of gamers who value this sort of feature. If this weren’t true, we wouldn’t have sites like PlayStation Trophies or Xbox Achievements. It’s about time Nintendo acknowledged this and put their own version out for fans to enjoy.
The app situation on the Nintendo Switch is, in a word, pitiful. Yes, we finally got YouTube last year but outside of that, there are precious few apps available on Nintendo’s hybrid console. Back when the Switch launched, Nintendo explained away the console’s lack of third-party apps by claiming that they were positioning it as a “game-playing device” but this argument holds little water.
Whether Nintendo wants to admit it or not, the Switch is not just competing with other game consoles but mobile devices and ultimately, people’s time. Putting Netflix, Hulu, and some other streaming apps on the Switch would help boost the console’s functionality and maybe even make people less likely to reach for their tablet when they want to watch a movie or TV show.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Nintendo somehow took a step backward this generation with voice chat options, to the point where its mobile app became the brunt of many jokes. The worst part about this situation is that the Switch does support a straightforward voice chat option … for exactly one game.
In Fortnite, gamers can simply attach a headset with a microphone to the Switch’s headphone jack, boot up the game, and they’re good to go. For every other Switch game that’s voice chat-enabled, you have to go through the mobile app. The reason? We have no idea! This should be a no-brainer, frankly. Heck, voice chat on the PlayStation 2 was more straightforward. In 2019, there’s no excuse for a setup like the one Nintendo has.
If Nintendo continues to refuse to put a proper Virtual Console on the Switch, the least they can do is let us play the classic games we already own. It’s frankly absurd that the titles we purchased on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS aren’t accessible on the console where they’d arguably play the best.
Put this one firmly under the “would be nice to have” category. Nintendo can’t even be bothered to let us access its incredible back catalogue of titles on the Switch, so it’s hard to believe they’d engineer a solution to this problem that really shouldn’t exist in the first place.
You can find weekly sales under the eShop’s “Great Deals’ tab, but the games and discounts themselves are often disappointing. Pretty much every other online game storefront, be it Steam, PSN or Xbox Live, has frequent sales with deep discounts on big games. And in the case of PSN and Xbox Live, subscribers often receive additional price reductions.
Nintendo is historically pretty stingy with discounting its own first-party offerings, to the point it’s practically a given that something like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will stay at its original price point for the Switch’s entire lifecycle. Now that Nintendo is charging a premium for its online service, more frequent (and better) sales would be a nice show of goodwill for its fans.
This isn’t a problem with Switch Online specifically but it’s one that needs to be addressed all the same. Simply put, the eShop has been a mess for some time. For a console that launched with so few games, the Switch sure has seen an avalanche of software hit its storefront over the last couple years. Most of it is trash.
Outside of the Best Sellers list, which provides a decent snapshot of the games people are currently enjoying, it can be difficult to discover lesser-known indie titles that could very well be worth your time. Allowing less shovelware on the eShop would be a good start but there needs to be a better way of curating software going forward.
One of the biggest criticisms leveled against the Switch at launch was the system’s lack of cloud saves. Without this very basic feature, users could lose hours of saved data at any time and there was nothing they could do about it. Thankfully, cloud saves are one of Switch Online’s biggest selling points but in typical Nintendo fashion, there’s a caveat.
See, certain games like Splatoon 2 and Dark Souls: Remastered don’t support this feature. According to Nintendo, this was done to “prevent cheating” but seeing as how both PS4 and Xbox One support cloud saves for games with online components, this excuse hardly holds up. Nintendo really needs to read the room, realize that hacking leaderboards is an issue other systems don’t deal with (or care about), and let us back up our saved data on ALL Switch titles.
In terms of layout, the Switch’s Home Menu is easy to navigate and quite intuitive. It’s also pretty barebones, to the point where it doesn’t even have menu music. Now, there’s no reason for Nintendo to drastically overhaul the system dashboard but would it kill them to give us ways to make it a little more … fun?
Both Sony and Microsoft have offered themes and other menu customization options since the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, so it’s a bit strange Nintendo has yet to follow suit. Why not offer a few free themes each month as part of a Nintendo Online subscription. And while we’re on the subject, some basic folder implementation would help those with large game libraries keep things better organized. Nintendo, let’s make it happen!
Yes, Nintendo already offers three free NES games with Switch Online. Let’s be real though: outside of a handful of classics, the majority of NES titles are hardly worth playing for more than 5 minutes total. Nintendo acts like its doing us a favor by releasing these games at a drip-feed but who out there is seriously investing time in 1986’s Volleyball? At a third of the price, it’s unfair to expect Nintendo to dole out as many free monthly games on their service as Sony or Microsoft does.
On the other hand, they can certainly do better than a few NES games no one wants. Offering a monthly midtier title like Fast RMX would go a long way and maybe every now and then we could see a first-party game thrown in for good measure. Basically, Nintendo needs to get in the habit of giving away actual Switch games; not poorly-aged retro junk.
Nintendo has a decent idea going with the NES app but why stop there? As mentioned above, Nintendo is sitting on a goldmine of classic games, with the Super Nintendo era, in particular, providing dozens upon dozens of incredible gaming experiences. One assumes it wouldn’t be difficult for Nintendo to get SNES emulation up and running on the Switch, and giving subscribers access to games like Super Mario World and Super Metroid would help justify the asking price of Switch Online.
Out of all the suggestions on this list, this is the one that feels the most realistic. Hopefully, Nintendo is on the same page here because getting to play A Link to the Past on the go sounds like a dream come true!