Posted in Gaming, Nintendo Switch

Thoughts: Nintendo Switch Online Announcement, No Virtual Console

I’ve been waiting to hear information on the Nintendo Switch Online service, like many gamers, since last year. This was originally supposed to launch sometime last fall, but now is set to go this September.

Until that point, we’ll be able to enjoy online multiplayer in games like Splatoon 2, Mario Kart and ARMS without having to pay for a service. We were told from the beginning this would eventually change, but the price point would be affordable.

Now keep in mind that I don’t own any of the new Playstations or a single XBox, so I’ve not been a console gamer where paying for online services costed me extra.

The Cost

The cost is per account, not per system, but there’s a pretty affordable yearly family option.

  • One month: $3.99
  • Three months: $7.99
  • Twelve months: $19.99
  • Twelve Month Family Membership: $34.99 (Up to 8 people)

I personally don’t have a problem with the cost of the service, and will be handing over my $20 without hesitation.

What You Get

Paying for the service provides:

  • Online play
  • Access to free NES games  (only NES? – don’t know yet)
  • Nintendo Switch App
  • Save Data Cloud Backup

I want to take a look at each of these.

Online play. We knew it was coming, the day when we’d need to pay to be able to play games online. I never had any illusions about this, but the fact of the matter is that releasing this service renders games like Splatoon 2 unplayable without it.

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It was nice of them to let us play for free during this period of time, but I still feel this should have been in place before these online-required games released. I dunno. Maybe I’m a little sad that I’ll probably never play online Mario Kart with my sister again because she’s not going to pony up the cost to play online. This was never a problem with older Nintendo systems.

I can only imagine how it’s going to hinder things like Pokemon games, which traditionally are greatly enhanced through online features.

I know I sound wishy-washy because on one hand, I don’t think the cost is outrageous. On the other hand, I still question having the cost at all.

Access to free NES games. This is a nice little perk… however… it leads to something that I was afraid was going to happen.

Nintendo has announced there will be no Virtual Console for Switch.

This is a big bummer for me. I mean, Virtual Console was pretty much the selling point that got me to pick up a Wii U back in the day.

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Instead of a Virtual Console, they are giving us a Netflix-like service for NES games. Looking at the list, these are all Nintendo-developed games, too.

The games are supposed to have online and even multiplayer features, though I have no idea how they’d add that to a game like Legend of Zelda. I guess that only applies to games where online play makes sense.

It looks like they want 3rd party developers just to put their retro games in the eShop. Some have already, but I still feel the lack of a label like Virtual Console won’t encourage devs to do this quite as much as they would have with the label. I’d love to have some oldskool Final Fantasy and JRPGs on the system, but will companies bring them over to the Switch without the Virtual Console label?

I kinda don’t know how to feel about renting the games instead of owning them. I guess I own most of these in their original format, and do have an NES Mini if I really want them.

I’m choosing to look at this as an extra perk, but still miss the idea of the Virtual Console.

Nintendo Switch App. I have it on my phone somewhere. It’s pretty lackluster at the moment. Theey talk about enhancing gameplay with voice chat, but I’d just as well use Discord, honestly.

Not to mention none of my close friends/family are going to be buying into the service, and I don’t willingly voice chat with strangers, so I doubt I’ll ever have a use for it. I’m sure someone will.

Save Data Cloud Backup. Ah. This is the huge one. The one that everyone has been asking for.

I guess I can understand that save data in the cloud probably costs something for storage. But I still feel like putting a feature like this behind a paywall is a little crummy. I really do think this is a feature that should have been built in and available to everyone from the start… especially since I hear the horror stories of people sending in their Switches to get fixed, only to have their device wiped and returned to them with all content lost.

Or, at least give people the ability to back saves up on a separate drive somewhere if the cloud can’t be free. This is just basic needed functionality… I’ve been able to do this for yeras on other systems without problems.

Not only that, but it’s been hinted that not every game will support cloud saves. So, we’ll see.

TL;DR Final Thoughts

Wow, this all came off sounding a lot more negative than I meant it to be. Please don’t misunderstand… I absolutely adore my Switch. Overall, I like Nintendo bunches. But I still think that there are some things that should have been done differently.

Let me recap: 

  • I’m willing to pay the cost for the service. I feel the price is affordable.
  • If you offer a service for free, even with good will, but then stamp a price on it, some people are going to see that as taking service away. Especially when it deals with games you play pretty much 100% online. If you’re planning on doing that, do it from the start.
  • I’m going to miss the Virtual Console. I do appreciate the offer of renting free old games added in to the service, but I’d rather just buy my games outright. I feel a little squirmy about the direction that’s going.
  • The app is meh to me and remains meh.
  • Being able to back up save data is something everyone should have. If it’s not in the form of cloud saves, at least allow backing up to another drive.

Do you have any thoughts on the Switch Online service?