Nintendo Switch Online + expansion pack is not a good deal

A new N64 controller, on a red background, with the Nintendo Switch Online logo below.

Picture: Nintendo

As Nintendo’s rollout of the Nintendo Switch Online upgrade is so bad, there is a bigger question hanging over all of this: even though it had been launched with properly ported games, control schemes that are functional and without input lag, would it be worth the price? And the answer is, pretty much any angle, a tough no.

Nintendo has always had the most disconcerting relationship with the online gaming world. With each generation of their consoles and handhelds, their Internet connections have been downright special. Partly because of the desire to keep their products child-friendly, and partly because it’s a company that just can’t do anything conventionally, going live has tended to involve weird devices, late wifi additions, or, in the case of the Switch, annual fees somewhat justified by access to a hefty bunch of NES and SNES games. classic.

With the launch of “Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack”, the idea was to expand its reach, including access to an ever-growing collection of N64 and Sega Genesis games. Yay! everyone said, just before learning that for that, the price of the Nintendo Expansion Pack service was over double.

For a PC gamer, charging to connect is a pretty crass affair that has unfortunately become normalized over the past few years across all consoles. But Nintendo’s $ 20 a year for the original service was, by comparison, pretty cheap. It’s hard for anyone to have to pay extra just to use the multiplayer features of the game they bought, on the expensive console they paid for, but it’s tithing to be able to play Smash Bros., Mario Kart, Splatoon 2, etc., online. (And even that often falls short, depending on the game.)

This ridiculously titled “Expansion Pack” sees these fees increase 2.5 times to $ 50 per year. Oh, and while you can pay a month or three months for the previous version, the new one can only be purchased for one year at a time. All or nothing.

A selection of N64 games available for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion

Picture: Nintendo

There is a strange psychological effect of such a hike. This suggests that despite what you see, it must be a good reason for it. Surely if it costs this much more, it must be much better than it looks? But the reality here is, all that is added (beyond the late sop of the Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Happy Home Paradise expansion pack) is access to a selection of games for 20-25 year olds. Seriously, this is it.

At launch, these are nine N64 games and 14 Sega Genesis games. Certainly, some of them are icy classics, like Star Fox 64, Mario Kart 64, and Gunstar hero, and it will no doubt be a nostalgic rush to play them again once / if Nintendo fixes the folds of this excruciating service launch. But, again, these are 25 years old games. And whether Nintendo likes it or not, some of these games haven’t been available to legitimately buy new ones for decades, and as such are a very normal feature of the emulation scene.

So long without any legal way to buy some of these games, Nintendo Switch Online’s direct competition here is emulation, and to compete in this market you have to offer huge advantages over what’s already out there for free. Music, movies, and TV have recently caught on, via the magic of streaming services, making it a legitimate way to access classic shows, tunes, and movies often easier and more convenient than less legitimate alternatives. . People want to pay for this ease of access.

To do this for the games of three decades ago, Nintendo had to really go all out, make it something special. Instead, it looks like they rushed in, releasing half-stuffed, buggy, and slow versions of the games, with omissions as obvious as the incredibly demanding Controller Paks of N64 titles.

Worse yet, it was a huge missed opportunity. N64 emulation, while not a big deal on PCs, has long been the bane of the handheld market, with very few games performing well on the PC. RK3326 chips found in most current machines. 2022 should see a new wave of portable emu devices, directed by Odin’s IndieGoGo success, which can provide the power needed to run N64, alongside Dreamcast and PSP. Nintendo could have been ahead of the game here, providing legitimate and proper access to nine (or to shout out loud, dozens) of favorite ’90s games, on the best portable device out there.

A selection of Sega Genesis games available on Nintendo Switch Online.

Picture: Nintendo

Hopefully many of these issues will be resolved, some probably very soon. But even if it had all been launched in perfect condition, it would have remained the most peculiar pattern. $ 50 a year to play a handful of games you might already own (I know I know), while anyone who cared enough about wanting them has been playing them on PC for years and years for free, all with no tangible benefits for anyone who pays these huge costs.

But it will be better, right? More games will be added over time! Which seems like another strong argument, until you consider how it actually works. Pay your first year now and you get fewer games for the same price as someone who waits six months! Buy now, get lost! What an offer.

It’s so obvious that the right approach here was to add the N64 and Genesis games to the already existing online service. Damn, if they had, I think most people wouldn’t have objected to a five-dollar price hike on the next renewal. $ 25 a year to get access to NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis games, plus all of the online gaming features handled by that fee, would have been a lot easier to swallow. Especially in a world where, let’s face it, you can buy a gaming device on Amazon for the same $ 50, preloaded with every Genesis game ever made, to keep forever.

Nintendo must find a way to provide a better service than the cheaper alternatives, to be the Spotify equivalent for its entire catalog. Then people will be happy to set up this recurring monthly / annual fee automatically. Right now they’re weirdly stingy, and right now they’re even doing a bad job.

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