Hold The Line: Thoughts On Switch Online and Nintendo’s Online Heritage

With days until E3 2017, Nintendo re-announced its paid online suite for the Switch, clarifying details in newspaper interviews and press conferences.

There are three big takeaways from the announcement: The service will cost $AU29.95 for a yearly subscription; You’ll be able to pay for the service in 2018, with 2017 remaining free for all users; and finally, Nintendo is offering a library of classic games featuring online enhancements.

And yet I’m still not sold on what Nintendo is offering.

Nintendo now charging for online functionality raises a certain level of expectation on the service. A lot of where Nintendo’s pitch hangs in the balance is how they treat the library of classic games. An on-demand library of games from Nintendo’s back catalogue is undeniably appealing. Couple that with the low monthly fee, and this is almost a no-brainer to me.

My biggest worry is the execution. Nintendo has a long and storied history of treating their past with a disdain and apathy. I loved the idea of the Virtual Console, but it has always been problematic. Every iteration of the service has had its share of issues and they’ve all been baffling.

The 3DS is a prime example of Nintendo’s questionable Virtual Console practices at their worst. Despite adding Nintendo Network support, Virtual Console purchases weren’t unified between systems. If you wanted the luxury of playing games like Urban Champion on the go, but also wanted to play it at home, you’d have to pay twice.

The same goes with SNES games, and that’s not getting into it being a feature exclusive to the New 3DS. It was so ridiculous that it was a constant worry every time I purchased a Virtual Console game — where do I play it on?

As far as the rest of the offerings Nintendo are aiming to add with their paid online, I could care less about the smartphone app to chat with my friends. I’ve got Discord for that. Just the promise of an on-demand library of Nintendo games, accessible for $30 a year, would more than justify the existence of the paid tier to me. I’m also praying that because it’s a paid service, everything about it will be clear and easy to use.

There’s plenty of reason to be doubtful of Nintendo doing right by its back catalogue. The fact that it’s confident enough in the service to justify annual payments speaks some volumes. But then again we all said that about the previous iterations of the Virtual Console.