Let’s Discuss The Nintendo Switch Online

This is a very big and highly explosive topic that has been doing the rounds across the internet ever since it was first announced way back in the early days of the Nintendo Switch. There’s plenty of those who are totally fine with it in principle but not necessarily happy about the lack of consistency in terms of adding games to the library or the quality of the output itself. On the flip side, there’s a strong opposing view that it needs dumping and for Nintendo to return to the good ‘ole days of distributing retro games. 

To understand the problem that the Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) library has, we need to go back to the days of the Wii. One of the biggest and most loved ideas that came from Nintendo during this era was the creation of the Virtual Console. This was an online digital store front where you could purchase games from a huge variety of retro consoles, and not just Nintendo’s own systems either. There were even arcade games you could purchase. The idea was a massive success, however it was perhaps too good a success. While every publisher jumped at the chance to make quick easy money dumping everything they owned on the Virtual Console, it did also restrict the amount of revenue they could generate. The prices for the games were capped by Nintendo and the potential market was, obviously, only those that owned a Wii console.

As we know, the Wii was a huge success at least initially. It sold one hundred million systems, beating both Sony and Microsoft during the generation. Microsoft has subsequently said in an interview that they wrote Nintendo off as competitors after the GameCube era only to be proved wrong. However, that huge sales success didn’t turn into strong software sales outside of a few titles such as Mario Kart Wii for example. As a rule, those buying the console were doing so for the free pack in game – Wii Sports. And then they all went out and bought the annual Just Dance until, like, real recently when Ubisoft finally ended support for the system. Like, why did it continue to sell so damn well!? The other problem with the Wii’s success was that although it got to one hundred million sales, it also fell off a cliff pretty much overnight too. 

Subsequent Virtual Consoles on both the Wii U and 3DS faired much worse in terms of the content Nintendo could attract to the digital shop. It didn’t help the Wii U was such a train-wreck of a disaster and the 3DS needed consistent prodding and revisions to keep the systems selling. But the other reason why the games never came to the Virtual Console was because publishers had realised they didn’t need it. They could either sell the games individually or as a bundle across multiple consoles and PC storefronts and charge whatever price they wanted. This is something we continue to see to this very day. So, why would anyone then think these Virtual Console storefronts get the same huge library of games as they had seen on the Wii?

Move forward to the Nintendo Switch and it was pretty obvious there was no plans to bring back the Virtual Console. I mean, Nintendo did outright state this to be the case, but even before that, they had let the trademark expire. Why use such a storefront when the majority of what you would be able to put up was just your own developed and published games? Then you add on top Nintendo had saw the money Sony and Microsoft were taking in from their paid online subscriptions and thought they wanted a piece of that action. And here we are, the NSO is the answer Nintendo came up with. You can buy the third party retro games as and when they get released by the publisher through the normal eShop but you pay whatever the publisher wants, or you get it as a perk of the NSO subscription. The games are mostly Nintendo published with a few, often lesser quality games from third parties that don’t see value in making them available in any other format. 

There is obviously the bigger question mark around the whole Expansion Pack which costs extra and gives you access to a selection of N64, Mega Drive and GBA titles. My biggest complaint other than price, is why Nintendo chose the Mega Drive as the console for this subscription? It’s a system that didn’t do well in Japan and has had regular compilations released over the past two decades. There are much better consoles to have chosen such as the PC Engine which I feel would have made a far better library considering outside of the mini console, it’s not that widely distributed. 

As for the future, we know Nintendo aren’t going back to Virtual Console but there’s also going to be a limit in what new consoles can be added. What else can be realistically added to the service? GameCube and Wii are very much wanted by a great many people. But this won’t happen. For starters, the games are too big for easy downloads and second, these are ideal for remasters which can be sold individually at a much higher price point. We have seen this happen with the recent Metroid Prime Remastered and all three Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. 

The internet is often full of people throwing complaints and wants without ever knowing or caring about how it works in practice. Or how much business sense it makes. And that’s always been a problem which is why it’s often times to ignore what’s asked or cried about. But that doesn’t change the fact Nintendo do have big issues with the NSO subscription and it’ll only get harder to continue as less and less new games can be added to the various systems it has and continue to add… if there are many more they can realistically add. 

Related posts