Details on Nintendo’s paid-for online service for Switch have finally arrived, and they match up almost exactly with what the company had alluded to in the past. Still, this hasn’t prevented vocal gamers from expressing “shock” and “outrage” at the prospect of forking over $24.99 CAD annually (or $44.99 CAD annually for a family with up to eight profiles on one system) in order to play titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 online, as well as gain access to a newly announced cloud save feature.
Despite there being no promise of such, however, Nintendo has also failed to address the biggest issue still plaguing the system for fans that want to take their Switch experience online. I’m speaking of the console’s method of in-game chat which is currently routed through the company’s corresponding cellphone app. As fans have been pointing out since this means of online chat was announced, this is far from an ideal way of interacting with others in an online setting. Furthermore, Nintendo is now charging real-world money for the privilege of using this haphazard system.
Now, there are certain privileges that those willing to fork over the funds for Nintendo Switch Online will receive that help justify this oversight in the short-term. Access to 20 Nintendo Entertainment System titles (some of which now feature online play) is a great incentive for the time being, and the promise of the library growing “on a regular basis” is another wonderful selling point for consumers. Then again, it’s difficult to desire joining friends online for a rousing game of the rather brilliantly titled NES classic Soccer when the system in place to exchange dialogue (and chirps) totes such an anti-consumer design.
The lack of a party system of any sort on Switch, coupled with Nintendo’s apparent dedication to maintaining the chat through a mobile app, is an overwhelming negative on what’s otherwise intuitive and brilliantly designed hardware. The success of the platform in spite of a proper online interface – and, no, despite paying a monthly fee it’s clear that the firm has yet to grasp what a good online system looks like – means that general consumers are content with the software and design thus far.
Truthfully, Nintendo can charge this online fee and generate a substantial profit from the current Switch install base without adding much outside of cloud saves (which, don’t get me wrong, is very important) and a few upgraded retro titles. Still, for core gamers looking to take their experience online, a way of interacting with friends through the system rather than their phones is a necessary next step for the Japanese gaming giant to make.
With Switch games like Super Smash Bros. and possibly even a rumoured Animal Crossing en route, let’s just hope that it happens sooner rather than later.
Nintendo Switch Online launches in September 2018.
If you’re at all interested, Riley can be found on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle. He thinks he’s alright, but feel free to ignore him and his online presence at your digression.