You’re Going to Pay $20 for Nintendo Switch Online and Like it

The launch of Nintendo's online gaming service has been the subject of endless complaints that we should all get over as soon as possible.
September 18, 2018, 9:21pm
Image: Nintendo/Splatoon via Dorkly

After a decade-long hiatus, I recently decided to become a Gamer again. I bought a Nintendo Switch and have become obsessed with several games.

The last few months I have spent an inordinate amount of time reading the Nintendo Switch subreddit, watching Let’s Play videos for indie games I’m thinking about buying, and reading a fan wiki that tells me about item-gun synergies in Enter the Gungeon. When I commute, I listen to podcasts about the Nintendo Switch. I watched last week’s Nintendo Direct as it happened. For the first time since I was in high school, I have earnestly and unironically reacquainted myself with “gaming culture” or whatever you’d like to call it .

Thus, I have become familiar with many of the Serious Complaints about Nintendo from the people who post online about such things. They are mad about the endless stream of Wii U ports. They are mad that first party games almost never go on sale. They are mad that the story mode on Mario Tennis Aces didn’t come with a “retry” button for failed levels. But most of all, they are mad about Nintendo Switch Online, a new service that will require them to pay $20 a year to use many of the Switch’s online features.

The complaining has reached a point in which redditors are actively begging moderators of the r/NintendoSwitch subreddit to please create a centralized thread for complaints because “the complaining is getting insufferable and the service hasn’t even launched yet.” Moderators said they have been deleting duplicate complaints when “there is no new information.”

As its name suggests, Nintendo Switch Online is the company’s long-awaited online gaming service, which launches at 11 PM eastern tonight, September 18. Even this detail is controversial, as some people believe that it is misleading to say something launches on “September 18” when really it’s launching just an hour before September 19. Much of the 11th-hour complaining has spilled over into the games themselves, as has been expertly documented in this Dorkly blog post.

Let’s just pay the $20 and move on with our lives.

Timing aside, people seem to be most mad that suddenly they will be asked to pay for something that they didn’t have to pay for previously. Since its launch, Nintendo Switch games that support online play have been free. Starting tomorrow, most games will only work with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, which is $20 per year.

To ease this significant financial burden, Nintendo is launching the service with 20 classic NES games, which have been reworked to allow for online competitive and co-op play (another thing that’s been nitpicked to death—who wants to play NES games yet again, some redditors have been asking.)

Nintendo Switch Online will also allow for “cloud saves,” meaning you can backup and restore your saved games to the service in case your Switch is lost, stolen, or broken. But at launch, cloud saves won’t work with every game, which is another thing people have been complaining about. Nintendo Switch Online also won’t have voice chat—instead, people will have to use Nintendo’s smartphone app (or a third party voice chat solution) if they want to talk to their friends while they play. Finally, Nintendo still hasn’t provided all that many details about how the service will work or its future plans for the service, which has been another target of various online complaints. People don’t seem to understand what they’re paying for, or if Nintendo will offer discounts and free games beyond the NES ones. Sony and Microsoft have set a high bar for online services. PlayStation Plus costs $50 a year and Xbox Live Gold cost $60 a year, but both come with a selection of new, free games every month.

I realize that it is 2018, and that Nintendo probably should have figured out a lot of this shit years ago. I realize that many Nintendo fans are long suffering in this regard; Sony and Microsoft both lapped Nintendo years ago with its online services (Xbox Live launched in 2002), which are generally well-liked and very fully featured.

That said, all this complaining strikes me as particularly ridiculous considering that we are talking about a $20 annual fee for a system that costs $300, has $80 controllers, and $60 games. Nickel-and-diming consumers is never a great look, but this is essentially a negligible cost for something that, from the game publisher’s end, is not free: online servers cost money to maintain, and always will.

People are mad because they’re being asked to pay for something that they didn’t have to pay for previously, and because Nintendo seems to be having growing pains in an area that it has never excelled at. For years, people were happy to pay $50 for video games, but when prices went to $60, they lost their minds. Now they'll happily pay $60 for a new game or more for a limited edition, but won't pay $15 for a game on their phone. Video game fans often think that any change to what things cost is terrible, until it simply becomes normal.

And so for now, there is outrage and there will continue to be, until people get used to it and move on. I’d like to suggest that we decide to take the high road and skip this unpleasant interim step. Let’s just pay the $20 and move on with our lives.