Since the full reveal of Nintendo Switch Online, many users have found the service to be a bit lackluster. After all, a service Nintendo had made free for years was suddenly costing money. And unfortunately, for most people, the additional goodies didn’t give them an incentive to pay up.
So what has Nintendo Switch Online brought to the table in 2019? Is the service mostly the same, or has Nintendo finally redeemed itself with its new subscription model?
When you sign up for Nintendo Switch Online today, you immediately obtain access to 20 SNES games, 48 NES games (with special variations mixed in), cloud saves on specific titles, the ability to play online games, a special smartphone app, and exclusive offers. This is all for $19.99 per year for an individual plan or $34.99 for a family plan of up to 8 members.
At first glance, that sounds like quite the deal. It’s not difficult to figure out that the 70 games alone more than make up for the price. But despite this one feature Nintendo has done well with, Nintendo Switch Online still has quite a few problems.
Three large flaws with Nintendo Switch Online
First, the cloud saves have been a hot topic since day 1, and it doesn’t look like Nintendo plans to remedy this anytime soon. Since cloud saves are limited to specific games, players may not even have the option to use them on the titles they care about. Smash hits such as Splatoon 2, Pokemon Let’s Go, and even the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield don’t support cloud saves. Sure, this is likely in an effort to prevent cheating. But the lack of this feature on such titles is still disappointing for many.
Secondly, keeping voice chat locked behind a smartphone app is offputting to most people. Xbox and PlayStation players are used to having voice chat in the system itself. I’m not sure if it’s a processing power issue, but nobody wants to download a completely new app just to talk to people on Switch.
To be honest, most people use Discord when playing online games anyway. And if a group of friends already has Discord, they have no reason to download the Switch Online app. So at this point, having a dedicated smartphone application is just a confusing decision from Nintendo. Currently, Nintendo offers an application that a good amount of their subscribers are just not using.
Lastly, the exclusive offers for Nintendo Switch Online have been a little lackluster. For comparison, Microsoft and Sony offer monthly sales for select games for their subscribers. Nintendo, however, offers special classic controllers, a free online Tetris game, and a couple of exclusive items for Splatoon 2. These offers aren’t really anything special and don’t add that much to the membership. The controllers are a cool idea, and Tetris 99 is a fantastic game, but I’m sure most players thought of something else when Nintendo announced “special offers” for Switch Online members.
Money made no difference
Despite this, the biggest assumption made when Nintendo announced a subscription model was that online stability would increase. However, when playing Nintendo games online, it’s clear no improvements have been made. All of Nintendo’s first-party games suffer from connection issues, and it’s a shame that players have to pay to experience them now. Matches in Mario Kart and Splatoon disconnect far too often, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is sometimes completely unplayable.
I’m not expecting a perfect play session every time, but I do expect there to be some sort of improvement in quality when I start paying for a service. It’s simply disappointing that Nintendo still hasn’t quite learned how to make an online service work.
A silver lining
Of course, it’s not like this service has nothing going for it at all. As I mentioned earlier, Nintendo Switch Online comes with almost 70 free games, and they make the service worth it on their own. Tetris 99 is the only Battle Royale game that has ever grabbed my attention for more than 5 minutes. It’s a great online game for people who love to stay on their toes and think fast.
Additionally, I get to play some of my favorite classic games like Dr. Mario, A Link to the Past, and Super Mario Bros. 3. There are also some great NES and SNES games I had never heard of that I got a chance to play for the first time. Without Nintendo Switch Online, I never would have had a chance to experience these titles. While some of the features of Nintendo Switch Online have me scratching my head, some of the free games make the service worth it.
So, the final verdict is that Nintendo Switch Online is still rough around the edges. At first glance, the value is enticing. There are a ton of games available to you immediately when you begin your subscription. However, this value alone is not enough for many. An online service is intended to improve a system’s online play and capabilities, and NSO still has a long way to go in this regard. Nintendo still needs to fix its cloud saves and online stability, make its mobile app worth downloading, and create enticing special offers to bring in more subscribers. Until it does, this service remains a hard sell to many gamers.