Will People Pay for Nintendo Switch Online?

Are people eager to pay up to go online with Nintendo, or are they holding out for something more?

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

Earlier this week, Nintendo lifted the curtain on what it has planned for Nintendo Switch Online this fall. For $20 USD a year ($35 USD if you have a big brood and want a family plan), you get unlimited access to a selection of NES games, access to cloud saves, the ability to play games online, and access to unspecified "Special Offers"—presumably deals and discounts on games at the Nintendo eShop.

That's the spread Nintendo's cooked up for us. The question is: Will anyone pay for Nintendo Switch Online? Are people excited to pony up for the privilege of playing games online when they've been playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online for free up until now? Heck, paying to go online with Nintendo's consoles is a weird proposition to begin with. The Wii, the Nintendo DS, the Wii U, and the Nintendo 3DS doesn't charge a toll for Internet access. Are we going to see Switch owners pay to punch their friends' faces in ARMS, or are they going to make that "Drake meme rejection gesture" in the general direction of Nintendo Switch Online?

You know, like this.

If you garner people's reactions through the scientific method of scouring news story comment threads, the Nintendo subreddit, and Twitter, the consensus is generally "Yeah, sure, we'll pay up." Interestingly, people are measuring Nintendo's online platform against Xbox Live Gold and PS Plus instead of against Nintendo's previous platforms. In other words, they're saying "Hey, Nintendo Switch Online costs a lot less than Xbox Live Gold and PS Plus!" instead of "Hey, suddenly we have to pay for this service that's been free for a long time."

In the context of other online platforms, Nintendo Switch Online is a steal at $20 USD year. $20 is easy "pay up once, then forget about it for 365 days" money. Plus, Nintendo Switch Online gives you access to a catalogue of NES games. I can't envision a universe where I'm going to buy Super Mario Bros 3 yet again, but I can picture myself playing through it to pass a little time if Nintendo puts it in front of me for "free." Nintendo also claims we'll see Nintendo Switch Online's retro game selection expand over time but given how undernourished the Virtual Console wound up being on the Wii and (especially) the Wii U, my expectations for the Switch's game line-up is somewhere in the basement. In a puddle. Being gnawed on by rats.

So much wasted potential. So many shattered dreams.

Despite all that, $20 isn't a terrible bet to lay down on Nintendo Switch Online's future. If Nintendo just gives us online gaming, cloud saves, and a selection of NES games that remains miserable for the rest of the Nintendo Switch's life, I won't necessarily feel ripped off. If Nintendo shines and builds up Nintendo Switch Online into a rich museum of its game history in addition to giving us killer deals for the eShop, well, that's $20 very well spent.

Tom Orry, the USgamer's Managing Editor, wonders if the online capabilities of Nintendo games are worth paying up for in the first place. "The Switch doesn't really have the games people generally pay to play online: Call of Duty, Battlefield, Destiny, etc," he told me. "I know people like Splatoon, but do people love Mario Kart enough to pay to play it online? I could live without online play in it, to be honest, but maybe I'm not the audience."

People definitely love Mario Kart enough to play it online, and obviously there's no Splatoon 2 without online play. But Nintendo has a Wailord-sized beast on the horizon, and its name is Pokémon for the Nintendo Switch. It might not be coming this year, but when it does arrive, people are going to want to battle and trade online—whatever it costs. No questions asked.

I don't know how far people will go to get their hands on Pokemon Switch. Maybe I shouldn't think about it.

None of this is to suggest people don't have any strong opinions on Nintendo Switch Online. The news about the service being accessed through Nintendo's (shoddy) app instead of through the console itself is a downer. Nobody likes chatting or interacting through Nintendo's app, and the experience is generally clumsy and needlessly complicated. An overhaul of the app is in order, but we don't know if one is coming before Nintendo Switch Online launches.

There's also been a small uproar about Nintendo price-gated Cloud saves. The problem, people say, isn't that Nintendo is charging for Cloud services; it's the fact the Nintendo Switch currently offers no other way to back up save data (the PlayStation 4, for example, lets you plug in an external drive, and Xbox One owners can access Microsoft's Cloud for free). Opinions seem divided between "It's twenty bucks for a year, what's the big deal?" and, "Nintendo's refusal to offer any kind of free alternative is anti-consumer. It's the principle of the thing."

"That's a nice 200 hour save of Zelda you've got there. Be a shame if you ... lost it."

E3's glaring at us from a too-close distance, which means it might be a little early to make any solid judgements about Nintendo Switch Online. There are potentially a lot of details about the service we're missing, and a lot of questions Nintendo intends to answer during the show. Then again, Nintendo's never been a champion at offering up answers to even the simplest questions about why they do what they do.

Here and now, though? From what we know about Nintendo Switch Online, and from what we know about what's coming (Pokémon), twenty bucks for a year of online isn't half bad.

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Comments 14

  • Avatar for riot-50 #1 riot-50 3 months ago
    I had just resigned myself to the fact that I guess 20 a year is the cost of my Splatoon habit and then you reminded me about the whole phone app part of things... WHY!? WHY THE APP!?
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #2 Fourfoldroot 3 months ago
    Well, if the alternative would be the chance of losing thousands of hours worth of game states then they'll have me over a barrel. The games don't interest me as I own the ones I'd want. No interest in online play either. I'd just like to know if I can get it every few months to upload my saves or do I need a constant subscription lest they be wiped.
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #3 mattcom26 3 months ago
    I feel as though the $20 might not stay $20 for long... if Nintendo comes around in 2019 with a lot of value adding features and games in their playable retro library, then they might have the ammunition needed to justifiably hike it while still being able to point to the more expensive competition. $20 sounds too good to be true... like a soft launch kind of price really.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #4 CK20XX 3 months ago
    @riot-50 I know smartphones are ubiquitous, but It feels like Nintendo tried so hard to get ahead of the curve this time that they instead flew off the race track and exploded.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #5 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    They'll pay. The phone thing is dumb though. Price will likely increase after a few years. They'll pay though.
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  • Avatar for docexe #6 docexe 3 months ago
    The app makes the whole thing suboptimal, but the price makes it an easier pill to swallow. I just hope they eventually start including games from other platforms rather than just NES.
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  • Avatar for MastrFett #7 MastrFett 3 months ago
    I agree that Pokemon would definitely make people pay, but that is probably a ways off. What may be a little sooner is Super Smash Bros and Nintendo will easily get my money to play that online on Switch.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #8 riderkicker 3 months ago
    I'm probably going to pay for one year and not pay consecutively considering I didn't even bother renewing my Pokebox subscription. I know the Nintendo Online thing is more featured, but I haven't seen anything compelling like PS+.

    Knowing the big N, they'll probably jack up the price when Pokemon Switch comes out.Edited May 2018 by riderkicker
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  • Avatar for themblan #9 themblan 3 months ago
    It will be interesting to see if this succeeds or fails. Like Super Mario Run, this will alter the course of Nintendo’s trajectory.
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  • Avatar for robertchesley19 #10 robertchesley19 3 months ago
    I'm going to pay for it. If only for the portable NES games.
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  • Avatar for Specters #11 Specters 3 months ago
    Yep going to pay for it. Splatoon alone is worth it. But the NES (hopefully SNES) are mere icing on the cake.
    $20 per year is like nothing. Just image if the NES games were piecemeal VC titles for $5-8 each you're looking at $100-160 on the first 20 alone and they say they'll be adding more regularly. Honestly don't really get why people are complaining (other than the dumb phone app for voice chat).
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #12 hiptanaka 3 months ago
    I’ll definitely pay $20 for the first year, as I’m curious about the NES service. Hopefully they will add enough games/platforms to warrant a second year.

    The truth is as long as I want to play anything online, $20 is cheap enough that I’ll probably pay it. (I’m paying three times the amount to Sony and I barely use it.) But the thing that feels like actual value is the NESflix thing.Edited 2 times. Last edited May 2018 by hiptanaka
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  • Avatar for lanmao #13 lanmao 3 months ago
    Unless something incredibly compelling is announced, I have zero interest in Nintendo's online offerings. I think I may have played Mario Kart 8 on WiiU online once.
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #14 BulkSlash 3 months ago
    Unless Nintendo announce a very aggressive roll out of classic SNES, N64, GameCube, GB, DS, etc for their online service I'm going to give it a miss. I don't really play online and I'm not too fussed about losing my saves as I gave up on BoTW and don't have any other RPGs.

    Maybe if the eShop discounts are really aggressive I could go for it as I buy a lot of stuff digitally, but other than that, yeah I'll be quite happy not paying for it.
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