Not much is known about Nintendo’s upcoming Switch Online service, the full paid version of which will launch in September. However, Nintendo representatives have whetted our appetite for more information, following comments made during a recent Q&A.
Nintendo managing executive officer Shinya Takahashi stated that the company has “some ideas about how to make Nintendo Switch Online appealing when it becomes a for-pay service,” adding that he thinks its “next announcement will be worth the wait.”
Shifting the Switch’s online support from a currently free service—which currently already allows players to compete online against other players in games like Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Arms—to a service that costs $19.99 per year will be a somewhat difficult sales pitch.
But during the Q&A, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima implied that the company is aware of this challenge, hinting that Nintendo has some tricks up its sleeve (emphasis ours):
We view the online service as one component of our efforts to diversify how our games are played and to get people to play more of our games. That is why we want to apply substantial resources to the online service, with the thinking that we will devote our energies to making this a for-pay service.
As for how we plan to popularize the service, it is less about the mechanism and more a question of what kinds of products we can offer, and the spread of the service will depend on whether consumers want what we offer.
Kimishima’s mention of “products” over “mechanism” sounds to us like Nintendo might focus more on its Classic Games Library the the overall functionality of Switch Online as a complete online multiplayer service. After all, voice chat for Splatoon 2—you know, one of the key components for online gaming—is currently banished to a smartphone app.
This might not be a terrible move on Nintendo’s part. The company has never been known for having a complete grasp on how to make its online multiplayer competitive with Xbox and PlayStation’s offerings. But, given the success of services like Xbox Game Pass, Nintendo’s massive catalog of classic, first-party franchises could provide a huge peace offering to Switch owners who are miffed about having to pay for a service that was previously free, not to mention a major incentive for newcomers who would be more than happy to pay $19.99 a year for access to the most storied game library of all time.