Nintendo’s new, subscription-based network Switch Online was supposed to launch towards the end of last year. Just recently, the company announced the service will instead launch this September. That’s a full-year delay. What’s taking Nintendo so long to roll Switch Online out? My guess is, it wants the service to be as perfect as possible.
For the past few generations, it seems like everything Sony and Microsoft have been doing, Nintendo has purposefully been avoiding. This includes building a major network infrastructure. Nintendo tried its hand at creating a network with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service for Wii and DS. While NWifiC was able to handle basic online multiplayer, it was not nearly as robust as XBL and PSN. Then again, the Wii and DS were very simplistic systems in every other regard as well, so the barebones functionality of the service was rather fitting. The same can’t exactly be said for the Nintendo Network, though.
Nintendo Network came about when the 3DS kicked off the 8th-generation back in 2011. It then really took form when the Wii U launched a year later. With both these systems being far more powerful than their predecessors, along with the general society being far more along in the digital era than it was back in 2006, a lot of gamers rightfully expected Nintendo to make some notable advancements with its online services. The company did, but not nearly as much as what should have been done.
While it is true that the network functionality of the Wii U and 3DS is much better than their predecessors, it still sorely lacks in comparison to that of Microsoft’s and Sony’s offerings. This was especially true in the Wii U’s case as comparisons were constantly being made between it and the PS4 and Xbox One. All of these factors make up the reason why the initial announcement of Switch Online was met with criticism, and those critics are still not pleased today. The point they’ve been trying to make is that Nintendo shouldn’t be trying to start charging for an online service after several years of choosing to stick with an archaic infrastructure. But, that’s just the thing—Nintendo is clearly trying to make advancements.
Nintendo has had a very basic online infrastructure for years. Now, it’s catching up with the rest of the pack.
The current state of the Switch’s online infrastructure is hardly any different than that of the Wii U’s and 3DS’. That is to say, it’s very basic and streamlined; not nearly as robust as what the PS4 and Xbox One have. While this is true, this is also why we should be excited about Switch Online rather than critical. The reason why it’s been pushed back by an entire year is more than likely because Nintendo is hard at work on its features, making sure that when it launches, it’ll be in tip-top shape.
Nintendo has been making a lot of changes to its way of doing things lately. As we’ve seen with basically every aspect of the Switch, this company has a much different attitude and approach than it did just a few years ago. Gamers far and wide have praised Nintendo for the change in marketing strategy, which has been noted for being more appealing to older consumers instead of just young kids and families. On top of that, Nintendo is also working a whole lot more closely with third-party developers and actively listened to their requests when creating the Switch. This has led to it having a very modern and easy-to-work-with development environment, which is a stark contrast to basically all of Nintendo’s systems between the SNES and 3DS. Keeping these changes in mind, I think it’s safe to say that Switch Online will display yet another big change.
Microsoft and Sony have had their major online infrastructures for years, which has allowed them to build-up a massive amount of experience and loyal customers. Since Nintendo is pretty much just getting started with its truly own major network, it’s at a severe disadvantage due to essentially being the ‘newbie’. But, as the newbie, Nintendo has the opportunity to closely look into Xbox Live and PlayStation Network as examples for what to do. Arguably, that seems to be exactly the case.
These services are advanced and well established, which give Nintendo the perfect example to follow.
For anything to be delayed by a solid year, that’s a clear indication that major work is being done. While I can’t say for sure, I want to assume that Switch Online probably was going to release last year as planned, but then Nintendo decided to push it back for polishing. If the systems were already in place, perhaps the design team came up with new ideas so major that it warranted reconstructing those systems all over again. Either that, or their plans were already so ambitious in the first place that they simply just needed more time to fully realize them. Whatever the actual reason is, the basic truth is that Nintendo clearly seems to be preparing for something big. Despite having been very silent about exact details surrounding Switch Online, the company has at the very least mentioned that it’s “preparing some attractive (contents or programs) for subscription-based online membership.” As far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty much a confirmation that Switch Online will have some exciting features when it launches. Honestly, that’s a necessity.
With Xbox Live and PlayStation Network already so far along and well-established, Nintendo certainly has its work cut out for it when it comes to selling the masses on Switch Online. They’ve totally nailed the price models, offering a much more affordable set of options than the others, but that’s not enough. Switch Online needs to have big features if it’s going to truly impress consumers. While there will be those who purchase the membership just due to not wanting to be disconnected, the general Switch owner will probably need some convincing. It’s not easy to convert free users to paying customers, especially when the service in question started out as being totally free. As attractive as the low price of Switch Online is, there will be those will have to be completely persuaded before throwing down any cash. I’m pretty sure Nintendo knows this, which explains the aforementioned statement it provided.
Ultimately, our best bet is to just wait and see exactly what Nintendo has in store. But, I don’t think there’s much reason to be doubtful. If the company wasn’t building something big, it wouldn’t have delayed the service for such a vast amount of time in the first place. If anything, it could have just kept things as is and still just put online behind a paywall. Having said that, it should be clear that effort is going into Switch Online. XBL and PSN have set a big precedent, but if Nintendo plays its card right, it just may end up offering a solid answer to those services.