It’s fair to say that the announcement and launch of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack could have gone better. The Nintendo Switch Online Subscription service wasn’t exactly blessed with a spotless reputation prior to the reveal of the premium tier, either. Though some of the YouTube downvotes may have been a joke from some, others have clearly felt that the offering is poor value, or perhaps object to Nintendo’s approach to online services and retro games when compared to rival services on the market.
The perspective on value is also, possibly, heavily dependent on whether you play and still enjoy Animal Crossing: New Horizons. As the premium tier includes the brilliant Happy Home Paradise expansion, it immediately offers a good deal if you want to dive into that content, especially if you take advantage of a Family Group to save money. If you’re not a fan of Animal Crossing, though, the dynamic undoubtedly shifts as you’re limited (at this point) to nine Nintendo 64 games and 14 SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis titles.
The latter are fun, but the impact is certainly lessened by the easy availability of some of those titles through SEGA compilation releases and the various replica / clone systems that find themselves in Holiday stockings.
The Nintendo 64 list, meanwhile, has some gems — including Sin & Punishment as a welcome and less common inclusion — but feels short. Nintendo announced seven games that would come soon to the service, but there was then a relatively long silence before this week’s confirmation of Paper Mario arriving on 10th December. Let’s not forget that there have been criticisms of the emulation so far, too, in addition to a frustrating lack of app-level control customisation.
The wait and the addition of a single game, along with the greatly reduced frequency of additions to the NES and SNES apps of the standard NSO subscription, has led to some viewpoints that the service is losing momentum. There’s definitely positivity about Paper Mario’s arrival due to the fact it’s a game that intrigues newcomers and should hold up well, but it also points to a potentially worryingly piecemeal drip feed of new games. What if Nintendo only release one N64 game per month? It would take us into Summer 2022 just to add the modest confirmed list of games, and let’s be honest we wanted F-Zero 64 yesterday. [And Banjo for Christmas. – Ed]
It doesn’t necessarily fill the hearts of Expansion Pack subscribers with optimism and joy for the future of the service. There are a number of popular N64 games that have had Virtual Console releases in the past that aren’t even confirmed as yet; say hi, Wave Race 64. Rumours from datamining give some hope, at least.
That said, you can argue it another way and say that a slow roll-out is just fine. There’s a lot of games when you combine the NES, SNES, N64 and Genesis / Mega Drive lists, and realistically a lot of us have whopping backlogs anyway. Some of us — this writer included — will complain about the trickle of games and then struggle to find time to play Paper Mario this month. A number of the titles already available are pretty big games, too, so it’s unlikely anyone has played everything on offer. Releasing new titles one-by-one gives each of them some time in the spotlight and also helps prevent the decision paralysis that comes from having a whole bunch of titles to choose from.
We should also keep in mind that the initial wait for Paper Mario and its announcement doesn’t mean the precedent is set for the overall roll-out. Perhaps more games will drop ahead of or during the Holidays, maybe future additions will come in batches of two and three like they used to in the NES and SNES apps. It’s possible that this is just the starting gun and momentum will pick up.
Lots to consider when it comes to the NSO Expansion Pack, in any case. Be sure to share your thoughts in the polls and comments below.