I don’t pay for online services anymore. Not frequently, anyways, since almost all of my online gaming is done on my PC. If I’m getting a new co-op game or multiplayer shooter, it’s exclusively going to end up in my Steam library, because I don’t have to shell out a single extra cent to properly play the game.
But I can still at least acknowledge that some online services are worth the $60 they charge each year. Xbox Gold gives players free games, and so does PlayStation+. Nintendo Switch Online, on the other hand, has never felt worth the $20, and now Nintendo’s asking players for $50 for the service’s upgraded version, Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. I’m not sure if the company has been listening to its users for the past three years.
When Nintendo Switch Online was initially announced, I remember being somewhat excited. The service hardly cost anything, and users would get access to online multiplayer and an ever-growing library of old NES games. Sure, those games aren’t anything new, but it would be fun to play them on a mobile console. The exclusion of multiplayer voice chat was strange, but I figured it wasn’t a surprise, since I wasn’t going to be playing any games that required it on the Switch.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was the first time I realized how underwhelming Nintendo Switch Online was. The game’s multiplayer was atrocious, and since it was the only game I was really using Nintendo’s online service for, I couldn’t help but Ask myself, “is this really worth $20?” Other Nintendo fans were getting tired of the retro game library’s slow (and often unexciting) growth. Players wondered why Nintendo wouldn’t add games from other systems to the service, like Game Boy Advance or GameCube titles.
Some of those features were finally announced for Switch’s online service with Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. The new service includes Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, along with Animal Crossing: New Horizon‘s latest DLC. Sure, that’s not exactly what fans were looking for, but it is enough to get people excited again.
The announcement that access to those games will cost players $50 for an individual plan or $80 for the family plan, though, comes from an ignorant standpoint. Simply put, a curated selection of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games isn’t worth an extra $30 a year. For years, subscribers have hoped that the company would add content, making the relatively inexpensive service one of the best around. Instead, Nintendo took some of the games fans were hoping for and locked them away behind a paywall. That now includes Super Mario 64, which the company was selling as part of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars bundle. That bundle is no longer available, as it was, for some reason, and is only available until March 31, 2021.
It makes sense from a business standpoint. But for a company that used to pride itself on consumer friendliness (a department it’s been lacking in for a while now), it’s sad that well of goodwill is quickly drying up.
The content coming with Switch Online’s more expensive version is still lacking, and I also just don’t have a reason to trust that Nintendo will expand on it in a meaningful way. The Expansion Pack’s library of Nintendo 64 and Genesis games will grow, just like the base version’s stale buffet of games has. If I’ve learned anything over the course of the past three years, it’s that players are going to ask for specific games and won’t get what they ask for. That’s the trend that Nintendo’s set up to this point, and there’s no reason to believe it’ll do anything different.