I’m going to start this out by making something very clear: I don’t play games online very often. I much prefer single player gaming experiences, and when it comes to multiplayer, I like sitting on a couch with friends and family face to face. The only game I play online regularly is Team Fortress 2, and I only sporadically play other games online with friends, or jump into a random Mario Kart games on rare occasions. So maybe I’m not the BEST person to be talking about this subject. But regardless, let’s discuss Nintendo Switch Online.
For those of you out of the loop, Nintendo Switch Online is the Big N’s new online subscription service for their smash hit hybrid console, the Switch (as if the name wasn’t obvious enough). For a measly 20 dollars a year, it allows you access to free games, exclusive special offers, save-data backups, and of course online multiplayer for your favorite Nintendo games. Sounds like a good deal, right?
Well, not everyone is happy with the introduction of this new service. Especially considering the fact that the Switch’s online multiplayer has been free to access for well over a year up until this point.
Back in March of 2017, the plan was to have Nintendo Switch Online launch the same year as its home console. Online play would be free for a few months, and then it would be swapped out for the paid subscription. But then the launch of the service was delayed to an unknown date. And as it turns out, it wasn’t ready for the public use for a full year’s time.
During the delay, the Switch became wildly popular and a best seller, having sold almost twenty million units since launch and surpassing it’s predecessor’s lifetime sales by six million. Needless to say, it’s built up quite the player base in a short amount of time. And large majority of those players enjoy playing games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, and Splatoon 2 online with other Switch owners.
So now, after a year and a half of free online for all, that access to the world of internet gaming is being locked behind a pay wall. And people are understandably angry. Splatoon 2 players have been hit especially hard by this, because all of the games events and a majority of people’s playtime with the title takes place in its online environment. Sure, there IS solo gameplay content, but the entire purpose behind the series is to be Nintendo’s take on a multiplayer shooter. And through all this, the previous entry in the series is still free to play online on the Wii U.
Considering how long the service was delayed for, the higher ups at Nintendo had a long time to think about how Switch Online should be handled and how their players would react to the change. But they stuck to their original plan, and now have to deal with the angry backlash. The services’ overview trailer on YouTube reflects this anger, with the reactions to it being astoundingly negative. And players have every right to be negative and angry about the change.
But at the same time, it’s surprising to me just HOW upset people are. Reactions vary between mild annoyance to being absolutely LIVID over the change. They’re acting like Nintendo sent armed infantry to their homes and threatened to kill their parents, friends, and pets if they didn’t hand over twenty bucks.
And that’s the kicker here: twenty dollars a year. People are getting their panties in a twist over what a minimum wage job pays in under two hours. Is it really worth vowing a vendetta against Nintendo for such a small amount of money?
Let’s put this into focus for a second, and compare Nintendo Switch Online to the other leading console’s similar services. For the Xbox One, you have Xbox Live Gold for $59.99 a year. For the Playstation 4, you have Playstation Plus for the same price and the same period of time. All three services offer similar features and similar payment options, with the main differences being that Live Gold and PSPlus are more expensive and have been around for much longer. And yet players have put up with those services for years now. Comparatively, the twenty dollars a year for Switch Online is wildly affordable.
Though I guess the biggest difference between the three gaming giants and their online play is that Nintendo’s online access has ALWAYS been free up until this point. The Wii and the DS had free online play until the service was discontinued, and the 3DS and Wii U still have free online even though the Switch doesn’t. This a big change for die-hard Nintendo fans who have had that freedom of play for a very long time. And having that freedom being taken away is frustrating to say the least.
During the year long delay of it’s launch, Nintendo should have reevaluated Switch Online and what they wanted to accomplish with it. In my opinion, what should have been done is keep basic online play free, while adding Switch Online as an option for a premium service. Switch Online would have provided users with save data back ups, free games, special offers, and extra features to ENHANCE online play, like the use of their phone app for voice chat and unique game features for Switch Online users. (Discussion of the app is another barrel of monkeys that we can talk about, but we’re going to leave it alone for now.)
The Switch Online launch and the reaction to it is a giant mess, to say the least. There are about a hundred ways Nintendo could have gone about creating and introducing the service that wouldn’t strip away features of the console and make their loyal players angry. But I guess my point through all this is that it really isn’t that big of a deal. Shelling out twenty dollars for a year’s subscription won’t break your bank account. And if you don’t have a job or are too young to get one, asking your parent or guardian for an advance in your allowance shouldn’t be too difficult, right?
And even if you don’t have the extra money, there’s still plenty to enjoy about the Nintendo Switch. Considering the system’s portability and ease of play with other Switch owners, the online component to the system is more of a bonus feature, in my opinion. Am I happy that I have to pay for it now? No, not really. But I’m not ANGRY about it either. If anything, I’m excited to see what the fledgling service has to offer and what will be added to it in the future.
Heck, the twenty Nintendo Entertainment System games the service launches with would cost you a hundred bucks if you bought them individually from any other systems’ online stores. And there’s only going to be more games added as time goes on. In no time at all, I’m sure we’ll have a whole slew of classic games with added online play to enjoy. Just imagine getting Nintendo 64 games with online play some day… I like the sound of that!
If you’re upset over the change with Switch Online, that’s okay. You have every right not to like it and be angry. But at the same time, you shouldn’t let your hate blind you to what the service can bring to players. What it offers at the moment may be on the slim side, and it may even feel like a downgrade in some respects. But give it some time, and give it a chance to grow and change for the better. I mean, it’s not like we haven’t known this was coming since the Switch launched. I figured a year and a half would be enough time to prepare for it.
Nintendo Switch Online is most likely not going anywhere, so it’s something we’ll have to get used too. I already have my first year of service payed for, so I’m going to try and enjoy it. And I hope you do as well!
Until next time, keep gaming, my friends! Be sure to let me know your thoughts on the matter, and if what I have to say on the subject makes any sense. But for now, Sparky is signing off!