The thoughts in this op-ed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the feelings of The Outerhaven as a whole.
The oft-criticized Nintendo Switch Online service released on the night of September 18th, and much to no one’s surprise: the devil is in the details.
Nintendo Switch Online joins Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Plus as the newest resident in the Games-as-a-Service – GaaS – neighborhood for console gaming. Nintendo, a company much derided for its archaic approaches to things such as online play and friends lists – ugh, friend codes on 3DS and Wii U – hasn’t escaped criticism from day one for their new online service. However, in the interest of fairness, criticism will be avoided as much as possible in the beginning – to give time for all of the facts to marinate in your decision making.
I have already written up a piece in regards to what you should know coming into Nintendo Switch Online’s debut, but let’s go through them one more time, for convenience:
Nintendo Switch Online is needed for MOST multiplayer titles on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo-published titles, such as Splatoon 2, ARMS and Mario Tennis Aces will need the service for you to access online capabilities. Games such as Fortnite, and Paladins, or the Jackbox Party Packs? They can be played online without a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Here is a select list of games that need the service:
Nintendo Switch Online Required Titles
|Puyo Puyo Tetris||Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 for Nintendo Switch|
|Mario Kart 8 Deluxe||Mario Tennis Aces|
|DOOM||Pokken Tournament DX|
|Resident Evil Revelations||Resident Evil Revelations 2|
|Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy||NBA 2K Playgrounds|
|20XX||Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection|
|Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate||BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle|
|SNK Heroines -Tag Team Frenzy-||Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle|
|Super Mario Party||Dragon Ball FighterZ|
|Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition||FIFA 19|
|NBA 2K19||Diablo III|
Nintendo Switch will offer 20 NES Games to start, with 9 more games releasing before the end of 2018. All NES games added to the service will have online multiplayer added and can be played via a 58MB application download, which from there, the games can be loaded up and played in either single-player, local multiplayer or online multiplayer. You can also select to play these games with a CRT filter on, in 4:3 aspect ratio or pixel-perfect.
|Donkey Kong (Arcade Classics)||Double Dragon|
|Ghosts and Goblins||Gradius|
|Ice Climber||Ice Hockey|
|Mario Bros. (Arcade Classics)||Pro Wrestling|
|River City Ransom||Soccer|
|Super Mario Bros.||Super Mario Bros. 3|
|The Legend of Zelda||Yoshi|
Solomon’s Key, NES Open Tournament Golf and Super Dodge Ball will be added in October, Metroid, Mighty Bomb Jack and TwinBee in November and December will see Wario’s Woods, Ninja Gaiden and the Adventures of Lolo.
Voice chat will be available via the Nintendo Switch Online application, available for iOS and Android devices. The app will allow for certain games to be enhanced, such as Splatoon 2‘s SplatNet 2.
Nintendo Switch Online subscribers will get special offers only for them, such as the NES Controller 2-pack for the NES collection of games.
Nintendo Switch Online will cost $3.99 per month or $19.99 per year ($34.99 for families,) with a 7-day free trial. My Nintendo Gold Points can be used to purchase a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Purchasing a $60 game on the eShop will net you 300 Gold Points, which equates to $3, so with one purchase of a $60 game, plus a $20 eShop purchase every month, you can pay for your Nintendo Switch Online subscription without spending any additional money out of pocket. You just can’t use it to pay for auto-renewals.
Now that we have all the details out of the way, here’s the fun part: the critique.
I’m being as fair as I can be, but truthfully speaking: Nintendo Switch Online isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t hurt to say this, because this is something that Nintendo has come to be known for in recent years. Nintendo as a company is definitely a “there’s something for everyone” company unless you’re a snob – and that’s the nicest way that I can say it. Personally, the devil is truly in the details.
For $19.99 per year, Nintendo Switch Online – on its face – is a good deal. Nintendo going low is probably the BEST decision made here. As for everything else, the decision is up to you and what you want out of Nintendo Switch Online.
For gaming families that would like to share a small percentage of their gaming history with their children, the NES collection is perfect if you own a Nintendo Switch, otherwise, you’ll get a far better deal with either an NES Classic or a RetroPie machine, dependent on how much you know about the retro gaming scene. If you play competitive Smash Ultimate, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, Mario Tennis or ARMS, Nintendo Switch Online is a NECESSITY. There are no two ways about it. Casual Splatoon 2 players can maybe get away with single month subscriptions whenever they feel like playing online, but for those who play the game on a near daily basis? You’re not getting out of paying $20 per year, my friends.
Speaking of the NES titles – I got a chance to play a few levels of Super Mario Bros. 3 with my friend Marijchu (www.mixer.com/marijchu) who lives in Belgium via the online play feature in the NES application. I have to say that Low-Latency mode is such a lifesaver when it comes to this mode. Online is purely a peer to peer connection, so if one connection is unstable, both players are affected. However, the novelty does seem to wear on you. It’s not the same as having the homies over playing local co-op.
The rawest deal is the voice app, which, honestly, because of the fact that there are players that do play their Switch exclusively in handheld/tabletop mode, makes sense in a way. However, if Nintendo ever decides to enable Bluetooth headset support, best believe, they’ve thrown any reason for the voice app out of the window. Granted, I’ve made the case as to why Nintendo wouldn’t do it – the increased VoIP data transmission, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, does drain the battery – not unlike with cellular phones – but even with that solid case being made, one could argue that Nintendo requiring a second device for voice chat is still a little suspect, at best.
Nintendo Switch Online is very much the epitome of ‘Your Mileage May Vary.’ Unlike Microsoft, who truly originated and mastered this GaaS game, Nintendo just doesn’t have everything yet. If you’re an enthusiast, you can easily pass on this, especially if you don’t play online multiplayer on your Switch. Nintendo enthusiasts and families will definitely get the most out this service as again, there is something for everyone here. Casual Nintendo Switch players may not even bother with Nintendo Switch Online unless there is something specific they’ll want out of it. Hell, even Electronic Arts offers something worthwhile with both EA and Origin Access. I don’t mind throwing $120 per year to get 10% discounts on EA games on Xbox and PC, as well as full access to Origin games via Origin Access Premier.
Personally speaking? The NES games were enough for me right now. I do wish it was 50 at the start instead of 20, with an additional 9 to come later on. I also believe that adding GameBoy Advance and SNES games would have definitely increased the mass appeal for this service. Seeing games such as Super Mario World, Super Mario RPG, Super Metroid, the Sonic Advance series, the MegaMan Battle Network series, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Minish Cap, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, Super Castlevania IV and more at launch would have opened a LOT more eyes. This is especially painful because of one fact: most of these games were made available on Virtual Console for older consoles. To make matters worse, I invested in an NES Classic Edition and dual booted it with the SNES Classic firmware to get access to both libraries of games, plus some added games that I already own as backups, such as Tecmo Super Bowl NES and SNES, Final Fight and more. Plus, for the GBA games that I enjoy, it’s as simple as modifying a used PlayStation Portable Go or PlayStation Vita (while you can still get one) and loading the legally backed up games that you have to the system and taking that on the go.
As for the actual online gaming portion of things, I don’t play online on my Nintendo Switch to even consider getting a Switch Online subscription. The lack of dedicated servers – something Microsoft has done since day one on the OG Xbox – is a huge turn off for someone like me who would like to invest in games such as Splatoon 2 and the upcoming Pokémon Let’s Go games. Peer-to-Peer connections should NEVER be the standard for everything, especially in the United States, where internet infrastructure is fragmented, especially in the rural Midwest. Not everyone benefits from high-speed internet services from Verizon FIOS, Google Fiber, Optimum/SuddenLink by Altice, Comcast or Spectrum.
It is for that reason that I do not believe that I’ll be sticking with Nintendo Switch Online for a long-term fix, and that is unfortunate because I am a huge fan of the Nintendo brand. Mind you, this could change come the release of Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (the latter for journalistic inquiry purposes only,) but again, it’s very unlikely that I invest in Switch Online much like I will continue to invest in Xbox Live and EA/Origin Access Premier.
Nintendo Switch Online is disappointing…