Editorial: Nintendo Switch Online Has No Excuse For Being Lackluster

With the shift to paid online connectivity, Nintendo needs to elevate its network capabilities.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 12/27/2018 21:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

I was beyond frustrated the first time that I played Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online. I’d forked over my $19.99 for a year of Nintendo Switch Online on the launch day of the service. I’m a supportive fan. I’ve enjoyed Nintendo games since I was a kid and now well into adulthood, and see no reason why that won’t be the case until I’m an old man. Admittedly, I prefer not having to pay for online multiplayer, but while I expect companies like Nintendo to be realistic about things, that in turn means that I have to be, as well. I rationalized that Nintendo Switch Online would mean the start of even better online connectivity across all of Nintendo’s various games. I was enthusiastic to a lesser extent about the Nintendo Switch Online’s NES library of titles, but even there I still had some hope.

Come to now, however, and I’m decidedly less cheery about what Nintendo is doing with their online presence. For starters, the NES library is currently a joke. The addition of games is glacial. I’m also not interested in many of the titles the service is presently offering, yet there they sit, taking up space on my memory card with no option afforded to me to curate the selection to suit my tastes. It’s also bare bones in other regards, as well. Why players don’t have the ability to customize the button layout is beyond me, especially when considering this was already a feature available for Virtual Console games. What’s worse is the border that surrounds the playing window of every game; I find it horribly distracting when playing any NES library title on larger television screens, but sadly I’m not allowed to turn it off. It’s just there. Which is truly a good way of describing the NES library overall.

Some people will quickly scramble for excuses. “Well, you’re getting the library for free alongside being able to play online!” Which is inaccurate. Nothing is free. It costs money for the service. Period. I’m now paying Nintendo money, whether it’s a pittance or not, so I expect an acceptable return from their end of the exchange. Clearly, some wunderkind bean-counter at Nintendo sat down and told the brass that there’s more money to be fleeced from turning the company’s catalogue of retro games into a service versus one-time purchases. “Make them pay for these games forever! Don’t let them have these games anymore!” Got it: it’s cash-grab time, because that’s the direction the industry as a whole is leaning towards. Games as a service. While I’ll continue to vocally rally against such nonsense, in the interim there are hard realities that simply can’t be avoided. I want to play retro and classic Nintendo games on my Switch and I want to play games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online, so I have to pony up the dough to do so.

Still, that doesn’t mean I or anyone else should be taking it in the teeth just to get Super Mario Bros. 3 on the go. Nintendo does a good job of putting on an act that it’s such a massive undertaking to get their old games running on the new hardware of the moment, but the ROM community, shady as it is, has proven for decades now that the process is nowhere near as convoluted or painstaking as Nintendo makes it out to be. People are playing Mega Man X on PlayStation Portables as I type this, with the game running virtually identical to how it does on a Super NES. Yet, here I am, a paying customer, and I’m supposed to marvel at being able to play Tennis! With the “bonus” of online multiplayer. Forgive me for not offering a slow golf clap to that.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, however, is when my pot really started to boil over. There are three franchises that Nintendo fans have come to depend on as reliable online experiences from the company: Mario Kart, Splatoon, and Smash Bros. In fairness, of the three series I just listed, Smash has never been great online. The closest to competent that Smash has ever come in the online arena was on Wii U, but even then, it was shaky. Yet, there I sat on launch day for Ultimate and, somehow, the online play for that game was inferior to the Wii U version. Pardon? How is this game going to not run at least at the level of Smash Bros. Wii U, especially given the fact that now I’m paying for the game and the ability to connect with other players? Even with the 1.2.0 update, Ultimate is lackluster online.

As much as I love Nintendo, this is no charity case we’re talking about. They’re a multimillion dollar company that asks a pretty penny for their various games, accessories, controllers, and now online service. Believe me, I’m grateful for the fact that Nintendo isn’t among the greediest, stingiest companies out there. I’ve gotten more than a fair share of content and goodies from Nintendo over the years, whether through Club Nintendo or games that still come complete out of the box and stuffed with gameplay. That doesn’t mean Nintendo gets a pass when they’re doing something poorly, however. Nintendo Switch Online is being handled poorly and Ultimate‘s online is inexcusably mediocre. Seriously, just think of the last Smash Bros. direct when Sakurai looked at fans and said, btw guys, better go buy a LAN adapter because the online is gonna be… well, yikes. Not okay, Nintendo.

No. Not at all. Fans really need to start pushing back on Nintendo when it comes to this sort of stuff. Look no further than the patch notes for version 1.2.0 of Ultimate. There’s zero description of what changes were made to the roster beyond the notification that, gee, changes were made. That’s cool— what were they? Before anyone tries to chime in with, “well the online community will break it down and let everyone know!”, note that that’s not even within sniffing distance of a good response. I’m not interested in heading to Reddit to read what some fans have sleuthed together. I want the company I’m paying money to let me know what those changes were. By asking fans to invest their cash into Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo has changed the relationship they have with consumers.

The change being this: fans are paying a minimum of $60 for Ultimate. Every time that game gets updated, Nintendo is making major changes to a product their customers paid good money for. To compound things even further, though, Nintendo has also decreed that the game which their fans are paying at least 60 bucks for also requires an additional monthly/annual charge to be played online. So yes, I absolutely expect patch notes to breakdown individual character tweaks just like many other video game publishers responsibly do for their customers. I also expect more than a bare bones interface for an already underwhelming library of games, as well as online play that runs smoothly for one of the premier pieces of software that Nintendo will ever put out on Switch.

Enough is enough. It isn’t 2005 anymore. The excuses for why classic software trickles out, or seeing features randomly stripped away as though they weren’t there in the first place need to come to an end. It was annoying before, but now that Nintendo is demanding cash for their online services, it’s become outright negligent and insulting. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, in particular, better have a Version 1.3.0 quickly coming our way, because a title of its caliber and importance doesn’t get to shrug its shoulders when fans ask why it doesn’t run as smoothly as the older version did on inferior hardware. Shape up, Nintendo, or I suggest that fans start to ship out to send a very loud, clear message— stop taking us for granted.

One Response to “Editorial: Nintendo Switch Online Has No Excuse For Being Lackluster”

  • 1379 points
    xeacons says...

    Thank you. Nintendo has, and probably always will (hopefully) be my favorite developer/publisher/console, etc. That means I want them to be the best company they can be. They seriously need to fix NSO.

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