How Nintendo Can Switch Things Up With Their Online Service


Nintendo’s slow, shallow, and stubborn steps into online gaming over the past few console generations contradict the company’s drive to innovate franchises like Mario and The Legend of Zelda, but Nintendo Switch Online isn’t “Nintendoomed” just yet.

A Netflix-like virtual console, major releases with prominent online features, updated communication, and a unique achievement system can leave fans struggling to switch off the console’s upcoming online service.

Nintendo Switch Online launches in September. One year will cost $19.99, three months will cost $7.99, and one month will cost $3.99. These price points are far cheaper than their console competitors. However, sparse details make the comparison incomplete.

Bringing the Virtual Console to Life

There is still no word of a virtual console service coming to the Switch outside of what Nintendo calls a “compilation of classic games with added online play.” The only confirmed games are Super Mario Bros. 3Dr. Mario, and Balloon Fight. Nintendo sold these games to consumers multiple times since the Nintendo Wii on both home and handheld consoles, potentially making gamers hesitant to pay more money for experiences they may have already paid for elsewhere.

One solution is a virtual console system similar to Netflix. In this system, Nintendo Switch Online would provide gamers with a wide selection of classic titles from previous Nintendo consoles. New games would be cycled in and out after a certain amount of time, and different events or contests involving speed runs, high scores, or unique challenges could entice gamers to pay for the service. Nindies, a large part of the company’s current success, could also have big promotions and spotlights, possibly drawing more developers to the console that want to gain additional exposure and reach a wider audience.

The main reason this system is unlikely for Nintendo is because they know fans are willing to buy their games multiple times across different generations of consoles. Arcade Archives: VS Super Mario Bros. made the eShop’s best seller list, even though it is an altered version of the classic Super Mario Bros. Nintendo fans might be conditioned to repurchase these games, but new fans might be put off by old games with minor additions.

The Need for Major Online Game Releases

Games like Splatoon 2 and ARMS will no longer be free to play online come September. Switch owners might think they’ve gotten their fill of playing those games online and feel no need to pay more to continue playing. Nintendo needs to launch a few notable titles to promote the service and get players to pony up.

Nintendo recently started to focus their E3 on one major upcoming title. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo Switch is a safe bet for this year’s convention. As fun and fantastic as the series is with friends, it is the ultimate marketing tool. Releasing a new iteration would be a major boon for Nintendo’s online service and bolster sales for some of their other titles through new playable characters like Inkling from Splatoon.

As the flagship title for Nintendo Switch Online, a new Super Smash Bros. game would need far superior online functionality compared to the previous entry in the series. For instance, Nintendo is pushing hard for the console to appeal to hardcore gamers and eSports fans. Super Smash Bros. is one of Nintendo’s biggest eSports. Adding fully customizable tournament options to the game’s online would appeal to that audience Nintendo wants to capture.

Bringing back Super Smash Bros. Melee would be a beneficial bonus to grab the attention of fans that continue to play and watch the game at Evo, one of the world’s biggest fighting game tournaments.

Other options for online games Nintendo should opt for include a new version of Super Mario Maker, or even an equivalent for a franchise like Donkey Kong, a new Mario Party—because people aren’t always able to have local play sessions—and Luigi’s Mansion 3.

There is no confirmation of a new Luigi’s Mansion, but the second game’s multiplayer mode could be fleshed out into a deeper competitive and cooperative experience. Allowing a team of playable ghosts is just one way to change the game’s formula and expand on the gameplay.

Even if it is too early for the new Pokémon, the series will likely boost Nintendo Switch Online subscriptions due to its massive popularity. The developers can include a plethora of new battle modes with different gimmicks to enhance the online and differentiate this new entry from previous iterations.

System Updates and Communication Features

Games alone might not be enough, so Nintendo should strive to fix the little things like the uninspired home menu. Themes with unique music and sound effects can be purchased for Nintendo 3DS, making this omission puzzling. Charging one or two dollars for these features could go a long way for the company and please fans. Adding exclusive free themes, avatars, and sounds for Nintendo Switch Online members could be a nice perk.

Some of the console’s communication problems, such as voice chat, are more major. Ever since the introduction of Wii Speak for the Nintendo Wii, the company has continued to make baffling decisions regarding online voice chat. Splatoon 2 uses a very convoluted chat system through the Nintendo Switch phone app where players must keep the app open and can only talk to their friends.

Nintendo has always been about family safety and uses various parental control options. However, they are reluctant to give anyone the option to talk to strangers online through their games. Making voice chat easier to use and giving players the option to use it in more games would fix one of the biggest deal breakers people have when it comes to gaming with Nintendo.

The Nintendo Switch app will no longer be free to use once the service rolls out. If Nintendo decides to add messaging, another feature missing from the console, they might force players to do it through the app. Moving communication features away from the console and into a secondary device, such as a phone, is a bad idea, especially if you want to use the phone for something else. Nintendo should prioritize convenience and want gamers to focus their attention on the console instead of another device.

Many people are afraid of getting a Switch or simply losing their save files because the console lacks a cloud save feature. Adding cloud saves would ease many people’s minds and sell more consoles.

“I’m the Best!”

Nintendo’s other notable missing feature is an achievement system. They can opt for a unique system where everyone makes progress regardless of their play style. Instead of trophies or points, players would be awarded different colored stars based on different types of actions. Yellow stars could be granted for story based tasks that players naturally complete, blue stars could be awarded for multiplayer related challenges, rainbow stars for 100 percent completion, and so on. Nintendo can also use this as an opportunity to make their My Nintendo rewards more appealing.

Starting in March, Nintendo fans will be able to purchase Switch games using My Nintendo coins. These coins are earned through digital purchases, but tying coins and rewards to achievements or colored stars in Switch games would increase replay value and catch the attention of completionists that may have overlooked previous Nintendo consoles due to the lack of a compelling reward system.

Nintendo Switch Online will likely be fully unveiled in a Nintendo Direct before E3 or during the expo. The service will play a key role in the console’s performance this holiday season.