The end is nigh for free online multiplayer. Nintendo’s new paid membership service will launch in September 2018, ending the ability to play online games for free on the Switch. It also brings Nintendo into line with Sony and Microsoft who charge for their online services.
The price is right
Priced at 19.99 Euros for 12 months, Nintendo’s service is certainly cheaper than Sony and Microsoft’s services which are priced at £49.99 and £39.99 respectively. Owners of multiple consoles will soon have to decide whether they continue paying for Sony or Microsoft’s services, as well as Nintendo’s. A more budget-friendly offer from Nintendo should at least appeal to families which have always been a core target market for the company.
Fans of retro games will be pleased to know that Nintendo’s membership will offer ongoing access to a library of classic games with added online play, such as Super Mario Bros 3, Balloon Fight and Dr Mario. The competition offer their members the chance to download and own current generation games every month, but these games are often poor. As a PS4 owner with PS Plus membership, I’ve always resented having to pay so much for Sony’s online service and rarely enjoy the free games – Rocket League being a notable exception.
The idea of playing games such as Super Mario Kart and Contra III with players all over the world intrigues me, but retro games are not for everyone. Nintendo has recently seen a huge demand for their classic games, with sales of the SNES Classic Mini console reaching 4 million, so they must be confident that this new online service will be a success. But for a lot of people who’ve bought a NES or SNES Classic Mini, having to pay again to play the same old games may lessen the appeal.
A Netflix approach?
So much is unclear about the Switch’s classic games: Will this be a Netflix-type approach with unlimited access to a large library? Will they only be Nintendo games? I suspect we’ll see something similar to Amazon Prime where a selection of games will be free to access and others will be paid for. That’s probably why Nintendo has been so quiet about their virtual console.
A major concern is the number of AAA games coming out on the Switch in 2018 that have online multiplayer. Mario Kart 8, Doom, Rocket League and Splatoon 2 all released last year and by the time September 2018 comes around, most gamers will surely have grown tired of these titles. As things stand right now, I wouldn’t pay to play these games online. And let’s be honest, the Switch titles already announced for 2018 are not as strong as 2017 (with the exception of Pokemon). Nintendo really need some big new titles this year which make use of online multiplayer to ensure they can persuade the masses to buy into their new online membership service.
The ideal multiplayer game to sell this new service is Super Smash Bros and Nintendo would be crazy not to release the Wii U version on the Switch this Autumn as a deluxe version including DLC. To compete with PlayStation and XBox they also need more third party support in the form of Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. Nintendo needs games like this to continue the Switch’s momentum in 2018 and also to ensure their new paid for service is a success from day one.