When Nintendo announced that it would be bringing a collection of select NES titles over to the Switch as part of a new feature for Switch Online, a lot of folks were happy. After all, the design model of this feature is actually quite nice. This collection of NES titles is included with every Switch Online subscription, essentially making it similar to Netflix. We’ve now had Switch Online for nearly a solid month, and the dust has settled. I’ve already voiced my opinions on Switch Online—it’s rather paltry considering the amount of time Nintendo has taken to put it together, and I can only hope it gets better. But, what really grinds my gears is that this collection of NES games is supposed to be one of the (very few) ‘incentives’ to attract new subscribers. I’m sorry but, this doesn’t make me feel any better about the subscription. If anything, I find it almost insulting.
I’ll admit that the current selection Nintendo is offering includes many iconic titles, ones that just about everybody has at least heard of once before in their lives. I’ve toyed with a few of them, and while I appreciate the fact that they’re considered to be the great classics, I haven’t found myself attached to any of them. After the first few minutes, my excitement simmered down dramatically. I think that mainly has to do with the fact that the real hook of these games doesn’t really exist with me: the big nostalgia factor.
I’ve just turned 20, so these games literally are before my time. A big part of the reason why some folks have been so gung-ho about these titles is that these are the games from their childhoods. It’s a secret to nobody that companies far and wide have realized how easy it is to sell nostalgia, and Nintendo arguably knows this better than any other company (that isn’t named Disney, at least). After all, it was Nintendo that turned two pretty little $60 emulator boxes into massive gold mines, so much so that Sony is now shamelessly trying to cash in on the exact same concept with a near carbon-copy. In situations like that, I think it’s where these old games shine most. Products like the NES and SNES Classic Edition are made for the very same crowd I mentioned before—the nostalgia-hungry gamers. It’s that nostalgia factor that makes these classic titles truly desirable to consumers. But, take that away, and you’re left with folks who are either mildly curious or who don’t care at all.
I was originally a part of the former category, but now I fall in the latter.
After toying around with a handful of the Switch Online NES games like Excitebike, all I could think is: “Why am I playing this when I could be playing games from today?” That said, these NES games do still represent a portion of the crude beginnings of the great industry we know today. So, being able to go back and actually experience where this all started can be considered privilege; it actually makes me more appreciative of modern titles since the level of progress is so great. But, since I’m not looking through the filter that is rose-tinted glasses, I still see them as being as outdated games. Even with the added online component, it really doesn’t drive me to delve in for anything more than a quick distraction simply because all I can think about is playing newer titles, which I deem to be far more engaging. Yes, these titles may be pieces of gaming history, but they truly do look, feel and sound historical.
It’s partly for this reason why I find it rather insulting that this is what Nintendo considers to be one of the “incentives” to get people to try and subscribe. As currently the only titles, I simply consider it to be not good enough as a selling point. If there were a larger variety of games from other systems, such as later generations like the Gamecube and N64 eras, it would be an easier pill to swallow. But, even then, this whole concept still pales in comparison to that of the competition (just like the rest of Switch Online).
Sony and Microsoft offer current-gen and last-gen titles for subscribers of PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live every month. True, every now-and-again I see people complaining about the selection of a particular month being weak, but these are still full-scale modern titles. It really would be nice if Nintendo were offering something similar, in addition to the retro titles.
I know the primary argument that so many people like to use: “Switch Online is only $20. What do you expect?” Yes, I know it’s only $20. So, my expectations aren’t much. But, as I’ve said in the past, I truly believe this price-tag was deliberate. Originally I considered it to be a competitive move, but now that we have the full product in our midst, all it comes off as is a simple cash-grab, and Nintendo knew it couldn’t get away with charging anything higher.
Again, the design model behind the NES collection is nice. I do believe Nintendo can turn this into the true successor to the Virtual Console by using this subscription system. But, as a core part of Switch Online, it just looks pitiful.
It’s already egregious enough that Nintendo (like Sony and Microsoft) want to charge people to connect their consoles to the Internet when these customers already have to pay their ISPs. So, at least Nintendo could have cushioned the blow with something more than a few old ROMs. There even could have been a partnership with indie developers (it’s rather surprising that there isn’t considering how much Nintendo seems to love them). Just, something more than only this.