Nintendo Switch Online

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Nintendo Switch Online
Nintendo Switch Online logo.svg
Satoru Iwata was right when he said that online multiplayer on Nintendo consoles couldn't stay free forever...
Genre(s): Cloud gaming service
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Release: NA: September 18, 2018
WW: September 19, 2018
HK/KOR: April 23, 2019
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo


Nintendo Switch Online is an online service provided by Nintendo that allows the user to use the Nintendo Switch's online functions for a monthly subscription. It was announced with the release of the console, but the service wasn't properly implemented until September 18, 2018.

It provides two methods of payment: a monthly individual fee which ranges from $3.99 a month to $7.99 per three months to $19.99 per year and a yearly family subscription for $34.99 which allows up to seven people to share the service.

Services it provides

Overall

  1. Online Play
  2. NES and SNES games
  3. Cloud Save
  4. Smartphone App
  5. Special Offers

Expansion Pack

  1. N64 and Genesis games
  2. Free access to certain DLC

Why It Sucks

Online Play

  1. The Nintendo Switch (much like most other Nintendo consoles with online multiplayer) uses peer-to-peer connection, an archaic connection method which doesn't use dedicated servers (which both PS Plus and Xbox Gold's respective online services use), however, it depends on the players' connections. In short, players are paying an extra fee for their internet connection.
  2. Because of this, Nintendo's netcode is subpar compared to what other services provide, which gives less reason to pay for their online service.
  3. To prove that Nintendo is focusing on the trend of making online not free, it was already free a year and a half before the service was released, and there was literally no difference between the free period and the paid service now, despite a long delay when Nintendo claimed that the service was "not ready yet" and that they were "trying to increase its quality".
  4. Nintendo's ad for the service doesn't even give you a reason at all on why online isn't free anymore, they just say that you need to buy a subscription.
  5. Even though they could have to make the subscription more worth it, Nintendo never put an online mode for most of the Wii U games that were ported.

Classic Games Service

  1. It's somewhat inferior (and a disgrace/insult) to the Virtual Console, which allowed players to buy games from a wider variety of consoles, instead of just a few titles, and unlike the Virtual Console (where you can play any game you want à la carte without paying for ones you don't want), the service acts as a Netflix of sorts, where they give you a random pre-selected queue of games that slowly increases every once in a while through the form of two-to-six games being drip-fed to the service over time, essentially meaning that you have no choice what games you get to play every month and you have to deal with what they pick for you.
  2. The games won't be usable for players spending a week without internet connection, which defeats the purpose of it being on a portable system, a feature which is emphasized in all of the Switch's advertisements.
  3. You can't remap buttons, which even the Wii U's Virtual Console was capable of.
    • This is especially a problem for the N64 games due to the Switch controller layout being different compared to the N64 and the button mapping changing to compensate. Some make sense like the C buttons being labelled to the right joystick (as those buttons are often used to control the camera), but others do not, like two more C buttons labelled to X and Y.
  4. On top of the Switch not having any backwards compatibility and getting a lot of ports and not new-style games, the size of games library doesn't even come close to that of the Virtual Console, and only NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis games (as of now) are available while the Virtual Console had games from other Nintendo and Sega platforms as well as MSX, TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine, Commodore 64, and even arcade games (including those that run on Neo-Geo hardware).
  5. The NES games on the service used to follow a schedule back when the service launched in 2018 where three games would be added each month, but nowadays updates are very sparse and the number of games added is inconsistent. The same problem applies to the SNES and Genesis games.
  6. Even when new games are added, most of the game choices can range from being outright obscure and forgettable to being blatant shovelware. The worst offenders was the February 2020, May 2021, and July 2021 updates; they were so bad that the trailers for the additions received more dislikes than likes.
    • This is somewhat understandable as other game compilations such as Mega Man Legacy Collection, Mega Man X Collection, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, Namco Museum Archives, and Konami's Anniversary Collection series also feature high requested games such as the original Mega Man and Castlevania games. While bigger brands like Capcom, Konami, and Namco would still release games for this service, their choices aren't as well-known as their other games.
  7. The N64 and Genesis games are exclusive to the expansion pack, meaning you'll have to pay more to get access. What makes this a problem is that Super Mario 64 already saw a release on Super Mario 3D All-Stars for $60, so putting it on this service will make the compilation's existence simply pointless outside of Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. As for the Genesis games:
    • There's a compilation called Sega Genesis Classics already released on the Switch for $30, and contains way more games than what is included in the service.
    • Sega has already released Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the first game as part of the Sega Ages series with additional features such as the Drop Dash from Sonic Mania and a time attack mode.
    • It also doesn’t help that Sonic Origins was also released on the Switch, and that includes not just the first two games, but also Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (& Knuckles), and even Sonic CD, making these other rereleases even more pointless.
    • Finally, several of the games (Altered Beast, Comix Zone, Dynamite Headdy, Golden Axe, Gunstar Heroes, Phantasy Star IV, Ristar, Shining Force, Shining Force II, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Space Harrier II, and Streets of Rage 2) are fully playable on iOS and Android devices as part of the Sega Forever service complete with save states and rewind features for free.
  8. The European version uses the American names and boxart for the Genesis games (I.E.: Contra: Hard Corps was originally Probotector in Europe) even though every Genesis compilation in Europe was renamed and rethemed to match the Sega Mega Drive (the European version of the Genesis) including the service itself. This also happens on trailers and promotional material.
    • This was done probably due to the PAL releases of Genesis games having black borders at the top and the bottom of the screen.
  9. For some unknown reason, the Sega Genesis app is called as 16-битная классика от SEGA (16-bit Classics from SEGA) if the system is running in Russian language. All instances of the Mega Drive name are eliminated, including the logo printed on the system, despite the console being sold officially in Russia.
    • While no proper reason was given, one can assume issues/indirect allusions from Steepler back in the 90s, which distributed the Dendy over the PAL/SECAM NES without authorization of Nintendo, but the reverse for other Nintendo systems and Mega Drive.

Nintendo 64

  1. Some people have reported input lag in some games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The input lag is inconsistent and can vary depending on the game.
  2. When playing multiplayer games online, there’s a high chance of lag and audio stuttering.
  3. Lack of rewind function which is present in the other apps. Though this maybe due to the Z-trigger being mapped to the buttons that would normally be used for rewind functionality.
  4. Just like the Wii and Wii U’s Virtual Console, you can't use any features that require a Controller Pak, such as saving ghost data in Mario Kart 64.
    • You are completely unable to save on WinBack due to the lack of a Controller Pak without having to use save states.
    • The in-game data is only saved when exiting the game normally, so if at any point the emulator crashes for some reason, then all your save data could be lost.

Cloud Saving

  1. Nintendo made the decision of making cloud saves incompatible with part of the Switch catalog to prevent people "cheating their multiplayer scores with it". For this reason, it isn't compatible with games like Splatoon 2 or Dark Souls Remastered, which doesn't make sense since the latter is compatible with Cloud Save in their competitors' systems.
    • Animal Crossing: New Horizons figured it out. While you can't back up via the system menu, if you press the - button on the title screen, you can set up backups in-game. No feature like this exists for Splatoon 2 and Pokémon.
  2. Speaking of Pokémon, it is also not compatible with any of the core series Pokémon games to also prevent people from cloning their Pokémon that way. Although Pokémon Home (the method to transfer and store Pokémon from the aforementioned games as well as Bank and Go) can be used to backup their Pokémon in case if they want to start a new playthrough.
  3. If a player's subscription expires, they lose access to their save data and are given six months to renew their subscription before the data gets permanently wiped (It should be noted that Nintendo was going to make your save files permanently deleted the moment your subscription ends but due to huge backlash, they made it for up to six months). In comparison, Microsoft doesn't force their customers to pay for cloud saves, and unlike Nintendo, both Microsoft and Sony can let you use a flash drive to copy and paste cloud saves.

Smartphone App

  1. The app is not that useful if you already have something like the Steam built-in chat system or some other app with voice chat.
  2. This is mainly due to the chat being through the smartphone and not the controller (though this is somewhat acceptable since none of the Switch controllers have a microphone or speaker) so you might as well use a different voice chat app for playing with your friends since it will be virtually the same, but possibly better quality, depending on the app.
    • Even in some of Nintendo's own ads, the people use voice chat on other services.
  3. There is no way to directly call other users, and you have to be in the same server, which sort of defeats the purpose of the app since you would need to use other software if you want your friends in the server.
  4. As of right now, it is only compatible with 14 games + NES/SNES/N64/Genesis Switch Online.

Special Offers

  1. The console-themed Switch controllers (NES/SNES/N64/Genesis) could easily be sold as normal accessories with a discount for subscribers, and while they can be used with other games the limited amount of buttons results in limited functionality.
    • Unsurprisingly, all of these controllers are being scalped online.
    • The American and European version of the Genesis controller has a Mode button just like the 6 Button Arcade Pad, but the controller itself was based on the standard Control Pad which only had three face buttons and no Mode button at the time, making the button pointless and the controller inaccurate.

Expansion Pack

  1. When the expansion subscription was announced, Nintendo announced that the pricing for the service would be more than double of the current annual pricing, primarily due to the DLC attached to the expansion. With the very little N64/Genesis games available at launch, getting the expansion subscription is a ripoff and not worth the pricing whatsoever.
    • What is worse is that such DLC is not permanently bought upon purchasing the expansion, and the DLC will be inaccessible once the subscription ends. And to further add salt to the wound, Nintendo stated that the Animal Crossing DLC (and possibly the Mario Kart and Splatoon DLC) had no impact on the pricing of the expansion subscription, which only raises further questions.
    • Also, all the DLC can be purchased separately from $20 to $25 each, and you get to keep it, so including them as part of the expansion subscription isn't worth it.
    • The DLC is completely useless for people who don't have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and/or Splatoon 2, or if you already own the DLC

Other

  1. Since this service is making Nintendo tons of money, the company now needs it in order to survive, and if they remove a feature (i.e. online multiplayer) or even discontinue it entirely, they could possibly lose all of their money and go bankrupt.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The price is really cheap compared to their competitors (without the expansion pack at least), especially the family membership, where you get a year of the service for 8 account holders for just $35. That's less than $5 for each account.
    • A month of individual service is 40% cheaper than a month PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold, 3 months is 32% cheaper, and a whole year of Nintendo Switch Online is 3 times cheaper than a whole year of PS Plus.
      • Speaking of a whole year, renewing the service by a year saves you $27.89.
  2. Being able to play classic games online is somewhat impressive and enjoyable and unlike emulators (if you pirate the ROMs) it is 100% legal.
  3. Nintendo listened to fans on occasion (i.e. bringing the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, EarthBound and EarthBound Beginnings, Star Fox 2, and many others to the online membership).
    • They also opted with a monthly schedule for N64 games (one game per month starting in December) like they did with the NES games before, which is understandable considering how hard they are to emulate accurately.
  4. There are Game Vouchers, where you can purchase two at a time for $100 and use them to get two first-party Nintendo games from the Nintendo eShop, which would end up being cheaper than buying them individually.
  5. Like PS Plus (and unlike Xbox Live Gold), you don't need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription for free to play games, with the exception of Tetris 99, Super Mario Bros. 35 (now discontinued) and Pac-Man 99.
  6. The Game Trials program lets you download and play selected games for free for a limited time.
  7. Few of the SNES games were Japanese-only and are released to the public on this service such as Super Puyo Puyo 2, Panel De Pon, and EarthBound Beginnings (aka Mother in Japan).
    • Additionally, some classic games that did not get Virtual Console releases are available now such as Star Fox and it's sequel (The latter of which was initially unreleased and was only available on the SNES Classic Edition), Stunt Race FX, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (All of which use the Super FX chip) as well as WinBack, Banjo-Kazooie, Castlevania: Bloodlines, and Contra: Hard Corps in the Expansion Pack.
  8. The expansion pack version for Super Mario 64 uses the original version instead of the Shindou version like Super Mario 3D All Stars, so this means that you can perform the backwards long jump and Mario says "So Long Gay Bowser!" again instead of "Bye Bye!" like in 3D All Stars.
  9. Even if the classic game selection is poor, they are still plenty of unique and enjoyable titles like Ghosts'n Goblins, Gradius, TwinBee, Star Soldier, Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo Bowl, Solomon's Key, Blaster Master, Double Dragon, River City Ransom, Crystalis, Dig Dug II, Mappy-Land, the first two Breath of Fire games, Demon's Crest, Pop'n TwinBee, Joe & Mac, Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics, Magical Drop II, Operation Logic Bomb, The Ignition Factor, Earthworm Jim 2, Claymates, WinBack, Alien Soldier, Super Fantasy Zone, Strider, and Toejam & Earl.
  10. You can get free exclusive in-game items for Splatoon 2 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
  11. Some of the games run decently online, like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
  12. They occasionally run online contests for selected games in North America, where first place winners get $25 in My Nintendo Gold Points, which can be used to get $25 worth of free Switch games, or significant discounts on games worth more than that.
  13. There's also an achievement/mission system (a highly-requested feature by fans) in which you can complete certain objectives each week (from playing online to trying out the game available on Game Trials) to earn Platinum Points for My Nintendo, which can be used to spend on parts to make custom avatars based on games like Super Mario Odyssey and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Reception

Overall

The service received mixed reviews from critics, but it received a negative reception from players. The Nintendo Switch Online trailer is one of Nintendo's most disliked videos ever. Despite this, the service has been commercially successful with over 32 million subscribers as of September 2021.[1]

Expansion Pass

The expansion pass was panned by players for not adding anything major despite having a higher price.

Trivia

  • In July of 2012, four months before the Wii U came out, Satoru H. Iwata stated that he couldn't promise the online multiplayer on Nintendo consoles would stay free forever. This statement apparently aged rather well, due to the existence of this service, and the fact that Nintendo has completely retired free online multiplayer.
  • It's more than likely that the limited-time release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars was so that players would get to play a special version of Super Mario 64 before it's added to the service.

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