Is the Nintendo Switch Online expansion pack worth it?



It was in March 1997. I was 15 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I got my pocket money, the hard-earned savings from a grueling paper print run, and the change I picked up between the cushions on my parents’ couch. I nervously walked over to the counter of a Comet retail store in Glasgow, Scotland, and shelled out ridiculous £ 350 and more on a brand new Nintendo 64 and two games, Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64.

Nintendo 64 was just released and cost me everything I owned on this earth. He sent me to the cleaner.

Hilariously, just two months later, in May, Nintendo announced a price cut of £ 100. I was heartbroken.


it brings you back!

Yvonne Hemsey, Getty Images

If you had told me that 25 years later it would be possible to play Super Mario 64, alongside a library of classics for the ridiculous price of $ 5 per month, I don’t know how I would have reacted. Violently? May be. Most likely, I would have collapsed into a pathetic fetal ball, shedding real visceral tears for the exorbitant amount of money I had just poured down the drain.

What a time to live. Tuesday of the glorious year 2021, Nintendo fans can easily access the glorious past for next to nothing.

In September 2018, Nintendo launched Nintendo Switch Online, a service that, like Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus, allowed users to play games like Fortnite or Mario Kart 8 online. In addition to the ability to play current games online, it provided access to a host of retro NES and SNES games, all for the fairly low price of $ 20 per year.

Since Tuesday, Nintendo has extended this offer. You can now register for a Expansion Pack to the online service that gives you additional access to a selection of Nintendo 64 and Sega Mega Drive games (alongside – oddly – the new DLC for Animal Crossing). The trap ? The service costs more. A significant amount more. Instead of $ 20 for an annual subscription to the service, the extended plan costs $ 50 collectively per year.


The initial Nintendo 64 game offering.


Is it worth it “? That’s a loaded question and I don’t even know where to start. If you had asked me a 15 year old, in line at Comet, to put his savings for a Nintendo 64 and two – just of them – video games, he would have pulled this deal out with all the power his slender teenage arms could muster. But when I asked on Twitter if the price of the expansion pack was unfair, people went buckwild.

The broad consensus, at least in my Twitter mentions, was that an additional $ 30 for access to a rotating distribution of N64 and Mega Drive games was way too much. Many have complained about the extra cost or compared it to the value of competing services like Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus. Some took issue with the quality of the games available and wondered how often Nintendo would add new titles. All points correct. For me, the ability to easily access a large library of games that I love, across multiple retro platforms, for what comes down to less than $ 5 per month makes total financial sense. The ability to play games like Splatoon 3 online when it finally arrives is a bonus.

But the value is subjective. An answer struck me.

In particular this point: “the way people perceive the value of entertainment products is fundamentally shattered”.

I would go a little further. I would say that the way people specifically view video games is completely and totally shattered. Beyond repair.

Right now, we are all over the store. On Xbox Game Pass, we have access to the entire library of cutting edge video games for $ 15 per month. Yet only one video game not available on Game Pass could potentially cost you $ 60. Then we have the question of the games themselves. Smaller-scale indie games like, say, the all-new Inscryption on PC, should be cheaper by default than AAA productions like Deathloop on PS5. Why?


All Mega Drive games available on Nintendo Online at launch.


Should video games really cost more because they cost more to produce? Nobody pays more money to see the latest Marvel movie in theaters because it has a bigger budget than an Oscar-winning independent film like Nomadland, so why do the same with video games? Consider major titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends that you can literally play for free and you have an assortment of confusion. In this wild environment where anything goes, who can say what individual video games are worth?

It’s complete chaos.

By most metrics, $ 50 for 12 months of access to dozens of rotating classic video games should be good value for money. Does this package have no value because the games are old?

The Nintendo Online Expansion Pack is a strange and messy package deposited in a rapidly changing marketplace where the rules and concepts of “value” are constantly changing or – worse – at odds with each other.

Is the price of the Nintendo online expansion unfair? If you think so, then yes. Is it also an incredible offer that gives you access to a multitude of classic video games? Yes too. There are values ​​at every point in the spectrum because in video games value rules don’t make sense.

The same people who are reluctant to pay $ 30 more for classic video games could easily shell out the same amount on Fortnite skins. And it’s good. Your mileage will vary. Are you the type to play Mario 64 for 10 minutes and then never use the service again? Maybe it’s not for you. Maybe you’ll spend the next month replaying Ocarina of Time in its entirety. If so, it’s the best money you’ll ever spend.

Me? I’ll be happy to fork out some extra money. The 15-year-old who has already lined up at Comet to deposit his savings on a Nintendo 64 is happy – and angry – at the same time.

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