My name is Thomas Whitehead, and I am a Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack subscriber.

This is the point where you all smile and say “hello Thomas, you’re with friends here”. Because a lot of us are in this room, nervously clutching a cup of stale coffee, aware that out in the world there’s judgement and downvotes galore. We’re not supposed to have paid for the Expansion Pack and, good grief, we’re not supposed to enjoy it.

But, actually, in my case the Expansion Pack is ludicrously good value. However, I do share agreement with some of the sentiment around what Nintendo’s got wrong with the service, even if they don’t necessarily impact me. The Nintendo 64 emulation / implementation simply isn’t up to a good enough standard in a few cases; I’m not personally overly bothered about fog effects (though understand why some are), but the absence of easy in-app button mapping is a poor choice. The N64 controller is weird, and though nostalgia made me buy the Switch version of the iconic controller and therefore actually enjoy the N64 games, they’re not all optimal (or particularly playable in one case) with a Pro Controller or two Jon-Con controllers.

And I do agree that, in the current market, the value proposition for a single-user is questionable with the launch batch of N64 and SEGA Genesis / Mega Drive games alone. When it comes to those libraries Nintendo is probably guilty of not reading the room – a room in which the likes of Epic Games through its PC store and Microsoft through Game Pass have transformed the value associated with games. I also dislike the fact it’s 12 months or nothing, and that 12 months is added to your current term for NSO as well. That was an unnecessary move, even if I can see the incentive was to commit people to the service. Ultimately, it’s not a consumer friendly approach.

In any case, this week the Expansion will feel like brilliant value to me, and it may start to feel that way for a number of people. I’m talking, of course, about the addition of the Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Happy Home Paradise DLC expansion. In fact, Nintendo probably made a strategic error releasing the expansion when it did in late October; if it had held off and launched it all together this week, with that DLC included, the reception may have been a little different. Though, admittedly, the announcement trailer got downvoted to oblivion before any of it was released, so maybe the difference would have been minimal.

The original (NSO) membership came to £8 each for a year of cloud saves and some retro games, which was absolutely fine.

Back to Animal Crossing, the standalone DLC will cost $25USD, and in my case both myself and my family will actually be saving a notable amount of money by getting it through the NSO expansion. From day one of NSO I’ve been the ‘administrator’ of a family membership for my immediate family, all of whom have their own Switch. That’s my parents, one Switch each, and my older brother. Even with the original membership that came to £8 each for a year of cloud saves and some retro games, which was absolutely fine.

Due to my ‘upgrade’ window the Expansion Pack and the extra NSO time cost me about £33, so another £8-9 each. Now, back in the day and with his first ever pay cheque as a very young man my brother went out and bought a Nintendo 64 with Star Fox 64, or Lylat Wars as it was to us. To say we have nostalgia for the system would be an understatement, which prompted me to order us both that Switch N64 controller. For both of us that makes the new content enticing. Oh, and I was a Mega Drive kid, the N64 was our first Nintendo console. So you can see why I was perfectly happy with the new apps (and the prospect of additional games to come in the future).

Which brings me to my mother and I. We both play Animal Crossing every single day; in my case I may just check none of my islanders are sick and get a turnip price update. My mum’s island is far fancier than my own ‘Llareggyb’ and I’d bet money her hours in the game will be around double mine. But the point is we’re both daily players, both get joy in talking to our quirky game buddies, and frequently fly to each other’s islands to make lucrative turnip profits. I still watch K.K. Slider every Saturday evening, it’d feel wrong to have him sing to himself.

Image: Nintendo

The free updates will be great in themselves, but the Happy Home Paradise expansion looks terrific. In reality it’s more catered to my mum’s genuine strengths and enthusiasm as a designer, but I’m also looking forward to jumping head first into its overload of charm. And the first thing I said to her when it was announced? “Ooh, don’t pre-order it, we can both get it with the Expansion Pack”.

Instead of spending £22.49 each, it’ll just be there courtesy of the Expansion Pack. Sure, we won’t own it but I for one will probably get my fill in the coming months, and will cross the bridge of whether to renew the full NSO package a year from now. And what does my Dad get out of this? Well for one thing whatever he wants out of the retro games, and he gets to see us grinning like crazy people as we play more Animal Crossing. As a result combining the family membership with the Expansion Pack is downright perfect for my particular group.

While there’s some justified grumbling and disappointment with Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, just try to keep in mind that some of us do actually like it. Controversial, I know. As for Nintendo, it’ll probably be bemoaning the decisions to a) phone in its N64 emulation and b) release the pack a week before the Animal Crossing DLC. Without those errors, perhaps the current online chatter would have a slightly different tone.

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