Among the immediate criticisms to come out of last week's massive and important Nintendo presentation on the new Nintendo Switch coming out this March, is that online services will now be on a subscription-basis. In other words, this brings Nintendo in line with the other console manufacturers.
However, it's a new phenomenon for Nintendo users, and many don't know how to handle it. Myself included.
What does this subscription get you? Nintendo has a handy chart:
|Source: Nintendo's online service page for the Nintendo Switch.|
Assuming this chart represents everything the as-of-now-unspecified-in-amount-or-frequency subscription fees go to, there are some serious issues with it. That assumption may be flawed, since Nintendo's website says, “Check back for more details on the service and its features after the Nintendo Switch system launches.” Still, I'm going to commentate on what I got, on each row on their chart.
Service Subscribers Only
The big assumption is that the online experience will be better on the Nintendo Switch, compared to past experiences. That IS just an assumption. It could still be player-to-player connections instead of server-based and they're just charging you to get some money. And, of course, if your connection is crap, it won't matter if there's a server because it's crap. Let me say this much: Most of the time, I already have quite smooth connections on Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. My own wi-fi connection is great, and it's sometimes ruined by people who live in Third World areas, such as Mexico or Quebec.
My trick to get Mexicans to leave the lobby is to switch my player tag to TRUMP2016 and BUILDaWALL, along with the all-encompassing GROSSLAG and FIXurLAG tags I have. Either that, or everyone else in the lobby will just leave ‘cause they'd rather go than wait for the lagger to go.
My point is that, for being free, Nintendo's existing services suite isn't that bad, and there's no indication that the online gameplay would actually get any better.
Online Lobby & Voice Chat AppIt's no secret that the voice chat quality on the Wii U GamePad is a total disaster:
Yeah, that's disgraceful. As a result, the Nintendo Switch and its controllers don't even have a microphone, because Nintendo can't be bothered to source one because whoever they used before is hopefully out of business by now, or at least fired if it was internally developed.
And yet, folks still want voice chatting in their 21st century online gameplay. So what does Nintendo do? Apparently, they're making an app! On the SMARTPHONE. If you want social features on your Nintendo system, DOWNLOAD THIS APP ON THIRD-PARTY HARDWARE. But ONLY if you pay us a subscription fee.
EARTH TO NINTENDO: People can already set things up with their buddies online... without needing to pay for an app! Shocker.
In terms of what this Online Lobby would be like, who knows. Would it be as simple as your Friends List on your Wii U or Nintendo 3DS, where it just tells you if someone has an open room in a game? Would it be an all-game-encompassing version of what Mario Kart 8 has?
Monthly Game Download
It's not clear how this will work, other than what Nintendo states: “Subscribers will get to download and play a Nintendo Entertainment System™ (NES) or Super Nintendo Entertainment System™ (Super NES) game (with newly-added online play) for free for a month.”
We can assume that this means Nintendo will give away one Virtual Console game a month that every Nintendo Switch owner will get, since it's free and takes very little space. Once the month passes, it goes away (unless you buy it). These won't just be ordinary Virtual Console games... but NEWLY-ADDED ONLINE PLAY. This means you can play games like Donkey Kong Jr. Math's multiplayer mode with your friends across the world, or wait for your friend to die in Super Mario Bros. so you can play as Luigi.
There's huge potential here for some cool stuff, like, say, Street Fighter II with added online multiplayer. (Ted Cruz could live out his college days while on the Senate floor as a Street Fighter II champion, and get off his smartphone!) ...But... knowing Nintendo, it'll probably be crappy Virtual Console games that everyone already has many times over. At least, until the end of the Nintendo Switch's lifespan, when you'll really get the good stuff.
It also reminds me of the EA Vault with EA Access, and I didn't like it when Electronic Arts did it.
Exclusive DealsWe already have this for free with the My Nintendo rewards program. Nintendo calls it “Just For You” offers and they're total garbage.
Do you think the deals would get better with a subscription fee to add to the pot? Probably not.
Everyone's Online Capabilities
Access to Nintendo eShopOf course, it's free that Nintendo will allow you to buy games from them! Why, if it were possible, Nintendo would allow you to buy digital games with no console to play them on.
I think it's a safe assumption that your Nintendo eShop balance will be shared with the Wii U/3DS one, if your Nintendo Account will be the same. That means any Nintendo eShop cards you win from the free-to-enter KoopaTV Loyalty Rewards Program may go to future Nintendo Switch purchases. Awesome! For all information on the KoopaTV Loyalty Rewards Program, click on this hyperlink.
Register and manage FriendsYou don't need to pay money to have friends! Great! By manage, that means you can delete your friend if you want. It's unclear what other functionality there will be with the friends list.
Share screenshots to social mediaThe Joy-Con have an equivalent of a print screen button, and you can share screenshots to social media with them.
I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the lack of Miiverse on the Nintendo Switch, since screenshots have become a primary area of focus for why Miiverse exists ever since its disastrous redesign a year and a half ago.
Yes, Miiverse will not make the transition to the new system. In its place are third-party social mediums, such as Facebook and Twitter. If you're fine with everyone on your timeline seeing your screenshots from your games (or you could make a new account on a social media platform JUST to dump screenshots, which I could find myself doing), then that's not a big deal for you.
However, Miiverse is more than just sharing screenshots. You also could meet a lot of like-minded people in an officially-ran forum there. And by like-minded, I mean similar interests, which you might not find at other gaming discussion locations. It's a clean place. For the most part. The way it's set up, you can Follow people and Friend them (if you have a Wii U).
|My “I'll miss Miiverse.” comment is the most Yeahed out of the hundreds of comments in Nintendo Skye's post-presentation post.|
While it is true that Miiverse won't vanish overnight on March 3, 2017, it clearly won't be around for much longer than that. Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection was around for a little while after the Wii U's launch, but this time, it's clear Nintendo wants to just be done with Miiverse. It has quite a number of weird, unintended sub-cultures. Some find them beautiful. Nintendo might find it disturbing.
It doesn't help that a few people are outright hacking Miiverse.
Access to Nintendo Switch Parental Controls appI wrote a whole article on just the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls yesterday. Read it.
In conclusion, it's important to note that better online service means you ought to pay for it. Online infrastructure requires investment, after all. However, Nintendo hasn't actually gone out and promised competitive online infrastructure. They could just pocket the money. We don't know the rates, or how often you'll have to pay. We also don't know how many games might let you play online WITHOUT paying the subscription, since the site states, “After the free-trial period, most games will require a paid online service subscription from Nintendo in order to play online.” Most games? So what about Splatoon 2? This online subscription fee is essentially a World of Warcraft-style subscription fee for a game like Splatoon 2, which exists for online playing. But you'd also be paying the one-time fee of acquiring the game to begin with.
As it stands, these subscription-only features are all things that we already have in some form, or will be useless. What isn't known is if there will be other features, or unspecified quality upgrades.
Depending on how that goes, I might be wishing for Wii U-era quality for free. As far as I'm concerned, Nintendo is asking me to pay them to remove Miiverse and outsource functionality to smartphones, which is a bad deal.
Ludwig has never participated in a gaming subscription model before. The closest thing for him would be subscribing to Nintendo Power magazine. You should Follow Ludwig on Miiverse at NNID PrinceOfKoopas, and inflate his Miiverse performance metrics as high as you can before it closes. That way, he can feel good about himself.
As long as you don't use the mobile app, then the Switch should be safe from snoopers.