The recent release of the Octo Expansion for Splatoon 2 gave fans two things they'd been waiting for: an expansion of the weirdly deep Splatoon lore and some hardcore single-player challenge. Yet even as players revel in the Octoling life, multiplayer has always been Splatoon's greatest draw. It's Nintendo's answer to military shooter fatigue, one of its biggest eSports, and perhaps the Switch's most played online game. So when Nintendo Switch Online appears to charge a mandatory fee for online games later this year, Splatoon 2 players have reason to worry. What happens to Nintendo's multiplayer hit when multiplayer stops being free?
“We don’t think it will have no influence,” Hisashi Nogami, the game's producer, said in an interview with Polygon. “We imagine it will have some sort of influence or effect by the addition of Nintendo Switch Online. [But] we want to use Nintendo Switch Online’s addition as a way to redouble our commitment to the community and reaffirm for them that we’re going to support this game more and more.”
This "redoubling" will likely take the form of constant small updates. It's the way things have been done since the first Splatoon. A few weapons here, a new stage there, additions every few weeks that keep the game healthy for a long time. And all at no additional cost. The hope now is that these updates will come more frequently to coincide with the launch of Nintendo Switch Online. This would certainly be a way to ease people into accepting the paid service, especially when playing Splatoon 2 has been free for about a year now.
Single-player content, however, is getting less attention after the Octo Expansion. Nogami told Polygon that his team has no plans to release more single-player DLC at the moment. Which makes sense. The Octo expansion is $19.99, a good deal for the challenging new story missions and addition of Octoling multiplayer characters. But to ask gamers to pay for another DLC just as paid online memberships launch? Not a sound business strategy.
So Splatoon 2 players should expect to see free updates to the game for a good while longer. It, along with Super Smash Bros Ultimate, will no doubt be the pillars of Nintendo's online service when it launches. But squids and kids alike should also temper their expectations. It's not likely that anything in the future will match the scale of the Octo Expansion.