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.


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.


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?


  1. “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.”

    Agree with all of this!

    The fee for online play is pretty reasonable, but if Switch owners have been used to playing Mario Kart and Splatoon for free then this is a bit risky.

    I really don’t understand Nintendo on the Virtual Console thing. Insert meme of Fry – “shut up and take my money”. Gamers like me will re-buy the classics like Ocarina of Time and Super Mario World, so why not give us the option?

  2. The Kotaku article mentioned that Virtual Console’s banner was going away, but I still forsee Nintendo just releasing their classic games in the eShop among the current stuff — just not lumped into a separate Virtual Console marketplace. That or they’ll just keep releasing their line of mini consoles, but I don’t see that happening for more modern stuff like Gamecube and Wii.

    1. I’m fine with whatever name they want to give it as long as we have an option to purchase games we want. I’m not fond of the idea of games tied to a sub that vanish as soon as you stop handing over money. I’ll do that for something like Netflix, since movies come and go for me, but I’m the kind of person who still purchases physical games when it’s reasonable.

      1. I’m torn, really. On one hand, I’d really like to play certain classics on my Switch, particularly older RPGs in handheld mode. On the other hand, I don’t want to repay for games I’ve already bought on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS VC. Hopefully this Netflix-style service isn’t the only method they plan on releasing their classic library. If this ends up as something similar to Xbox One’s Game Pass, I guess I’d be fine. It’s a reasonable monthly fee for access to a lot of stuff. But, as you said, losing access once you stop paying the subscription makes me feel like I’m paying for a service rather than a game. I don’t mind renting games at Red Box and the games I’ve played through Game Pass are things I wouldn’t necessarily buy, but still ended up enjoying. It’s.. weird.

  3. As it is right now I personally don’t have much incentive for the Switch Online Service. Not to mention it is likely that it won’t be available in my country (Brazil) like the e-Shop…. -_-

    The news that Splatoon 2 will require it to play online is pretty sad for me though. I always thought it would be just like the first one where no fee was ever required. And I get the servers costs money to keep running and there also costs to make new updates. I also wouldn’t have minded it if they said they would require some form of subscription at a later date when the game launched. But they way they did just doesn’t feel right to me.

    And my thoughts about the Virtual Console are the same as Nick the Gent.

    1. Yikes! They’ll have to do something for countries that don’t have the service for things like Splatoon 2, then. Maybe you’ll just continue to play that online for free? It doesn’t make sense that they’d sell a game and take away access to most of it like that! Let me know how it works out for you. 🙁

      1. I should know this would cause some confusion so let me clarify a few points.

        1) Right now Nintendo does not officially support my country. All games and consoles currently sold here are imported.
        2) I have a second account, a canadian one, that I use to play Splatoon 2. I don’t like this but it was a way to bypass the region restrictions. The odd thing is I can play Mario Kart 8 online with my regular account and Splatoon 1, on the Wii U, didn’t have this restriction either. I don’t know if it this issue exists with other online games though as I don’t have any other I’d like to try it with.
        3) There may still be hope. Although I can’t access the Nintendo e-Shop with my regular account they did add the ability to claim item codes to it at some point. So maybe they are planning to support online functions to my country eventually.
        4) If I ever get desperate enough I could see about trying to subscribing with my Canadian account and see if I can pay it with Paypal. Not sure if they will support that payment option though….

        But yeah, it would be nice if they announced that at some point any kind of online gameplay would eventually require a subscription.

  4. I think they are missing oportunity here : they should offer 3 months of online subscription with all online games : this would be such an incentive to buy more games. And this will alsi newcomer to also taste online subscription each time they buy a game.

    1. That’s true. I wonder how this is going to effect someone new who is buying an online game like Splatoon 2 for the first time. I’m sure there will be notices on the game that a separate fee will apply. But still, that could turn away potential customers from trying games that have a primarily online function.

      I also wonder how many other games this will apply to. For example, when Stardew Valley gets multiplayer mode, do you have to have the online service to enjoy it? I’m thinking probably yes.

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