Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass price not expensive at $50 for individual annual subscription plan or $80 for family plan $49.99 $79.99 Nintendo 64 Sega Genesis games

When Nintendo Switch initially launched in 2017, its online services were completely free. Considering the system’s large adoption rate, millions of customers got comfortable with it functioning just so, though Nintendo had said from the beginning that this would eventually change. And in September 2018, Nintendo made the pivotal change to get into the network subscription business for (almost) the first time with Nintendo Switch Online (NSO). Now, three years later, Nintendo Switch Online is about to get its biggest change to date — more functionality at a higher cost with the Expansion Pass.

The reaction to the announcement of the annual $50 price tag behind the new Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack has been rough, to say the least. Many folks seem to be annoyed, livid, or dismissive, though some do think it’s not an issue. Nonetheless, first impressions are everything, and Nintendo is not off to a great start with the NSO Expansion Pack. Even so, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the new membership will fare badly.

Scrutinizing the price of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack

Most detractors basically say that the price of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is too expensive. Prior to the announcement, many folks seemed to expect a total annual price of around $30. Thus, the official announcement of it being $50 for the individual annual membership and $80 for the family membership greatly soared above the general set of initial expectations. That said, a lot of these negative reactions seem to just be taking these numbers at face value.

When looked at superficially, yes, these prices are steep. But if you divide $50 into 12 months, you’re paying about $4.16 per month. The $80 annual family plan comes to a similarly minute $6.66 per month. And considering a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack family plan is supposed to be spread across 2+ people, then those two people sharing a plan would be paying $40 per year / $3.33 per month, which is still less than the individual membership. Of course, this reduced cost plummets the more users you add into the mix.

Looking at it from this perspective, the NSO Expansion Pack is actually easy on the wallet. And these figures are for those who are buying a fresh membership. Nintendo will also offer prorated discounts according to how much time is left on existing members’ subscriptions.

For the sake of comparison, the price of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack still comes out cheaper than most other popular subscription services such as Netflix, Spotify, and the like. As a personal example, I pay $12 per month for my Spotify Premium membership, which comes to a souring $144 per year. When I think about it from this perspective, it honestly pains me. But seeing only $12 being siphoned from my debit account each month is somehow far more innocuous (well, it was until now that I’ve done the math).

That’s the point — most subscriptions offer a monthly rate for the sole reason of making it seem cheap to the customer. Then, these relatively small charges add up; especially once they become so routine that you forget about them. Nintendo chose not to use this subtle (and very common) form of psychological market manipulation and instead just came out clean and showed off the annual price.

If Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, and the like were to do the same thing, I truly believe far more people would hesitate to buy their premium subscriptions, despite the fact that the price would basically end up being the same as what they’re already paying right now. Seeing that big number all at once is scary to most of us, but the pitiful $10 here and $12 there suddenly makes it all okay.

Service selection

So all things considered, is the new NSO membership tier worth its price at all? Well, the answer is purely subjective, just as has been the case since Nintendo Switch Online first became a paid service. Unlike the base service that includes standard features like online multiplayer and cloud data saves, Expansion Pack’s biggest offering is access to Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games (and, for the Animal Crossing crowd, access to a whole DLC expansion). If you actually want to play those games, then paying $4.16 per month for legal access to a collection isn’t so bad. Not to mention that these retro titles have been revamped with improved resolutions and even online multiplayer functionality. Despite the extra “pizzazz”, if you’re not into retro titles at all, then the appeal is lost to you.

Again, services like Spotify and Netflix function basically the same way: You pay for legal access to a collection of media. Of course, the argument against Expansion Pack here is that the list of titles from retro systems is relatively small. There’s variety, but not that much yet. Nintendo is promising to expand the library, but going off of how it’s treated the existing NES and SNES libraries, a deluge of extra titles shouldn’t be expected. Rather, a barely adequate trickle seems to be the order of the day.

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass price not expensive at $50 for individual annual subscription plan or $80 for family plan $49.99 $79.99 Nintendo 64 Sega Genesis games

Looking at it that way, then again, the service’s worth all boils down to your personal preference. It’s still not nearly as robust as the Virtual Console service of old, which had far more titles across far more systems. However, keep in mind that the cost of those individual titles were about the price of a monthly NSO subscription. So, the value is higher this time around.

Yet, three years into the life of Nintendo Switch Online, its incentives are still arguably small in comparison to those of its direct competitors, Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus. Not only do those services offer bigger incentives like free monthly AAA games and special discounts, but their list of core features is also superior, in addition to their network performance. Nintendo has been saying all along it has plans to keep on improving Switch Online, but aside from the arrival of the Expansion Pack, very little is different about it now compared to in 2018. This isn’t to say that Switch Online is bad—it’s just basic. But, even when factoring the Expansion Pack into Nintendo Switch Online, that “basic” standard is still reflected in its price.

disappointment Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass price not expensive at $50 for individual annual subscription plan or $80 for family plan $49.99 $79.99

Membership management

As someone who isn’t even a subscriber to the regular Nintendo Switch Online, I can say that the service, Expansion Pack or not, doesn’t yet appeal to me. I don’t play online enough to be drawn in by access to online multiplayer, and I’m not salivating for retro titles either. Nevertheless, I can see why this service is winsome to people and also why it’s, well, necessary. Ultimately, everything about this operation costs money; the servers for the online matchmaking and the licensing fees for the retro games all come at a cost. Even so, I can’t realistically consider Nintendo’s “privilege taxes” to cover these costs to be egregious.

Despite how it may seem, I’m not really trying to apologize for Nintendo. Rather, I wanted to look at this entire situation from a deeper perspective and really analyze some of the inner workings that’s going into this operation. $50 for anything is nothing to scoff at, but in this case, when it’s realistically just twelve counts of $4.16 stuffed into a big sack, the incredible reaction from the community seems a bit too “knee-jerk”.

That being said— I absolutely believe that a bigger, better service would be nice, though.

With rumors that the company is making background upgrades to its network servers, along with the arrival of the Expansion Pack finally now offering more content than before, it does seem likely that Nintendo Switch Online will continue to expand in palpable ways with time (and hopefully sooner rather than later). If that’s the case, then hopefully Nintendo’s customers will start to see more value in their hard earned dollars that they’re handing over.

A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.

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