Experts project Nintendo will sell 40 Million units by the end of 2020. This would make it worse than the Wii in sales, but well ahead of the Wii U, which only sold 13 million units. Gamestop’s director of merchandising Eric Bright has even said, “[The Nintendo Switch] could eclipse the Wii.” after examining the system’s first couple of weeks on the market.In this series, we explore how the Switch can be a mega success comparable to or better than the Wii. Each article explores how Nintendo can compete in different spaces to help the Switch beat the Wii. In the last article, we examined the Joy-Cons and how other peripherals could enhance people’s experience with the Nintendo Switch and identified the potential to bring new tech to the system. This article we will finally take a look at Nintendo’s first paid subscription and online service, looking at what we know and what Nintendo should provide subscribers.

Paid Online Play

Nintendo has had at least some online features since the Wii and Nintendo DS, two of their most profitable systems. These online features have always been free, until now. When they gave us details on everything Nintendo Switch last January, Nintendo announced their first paid subscription service. A few days later they gave us some more information about the service, which can be found on their website. Since this is a first with Nintendo though there is still a lot unknown about it. It is the unknown that could make or break the Switch.

Online Play Quality

Nintendo doesn’t have the best record for having quality server support for online play. Players consider their services laggy and prone to connection errors. Nintendo has promised that with the Nintendo Switch this will be better. Last weekend was the first heavy traffic test for the Nintendo Switch with the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire. Things mostly went well, but there was still connection error as you can see below. It is important to keep in mind that the purpose of the Testfire is for Nintendo to test their servers and make sure they are ready for heavy traffic, so things should be even better when paid services launch in the Fall. The Nintendo 3DS will still have free internet. Hopefully that will not clog things up for Switch users; hopefully, those services will have their own dedicated servers to keep them from interfering with play on the Switch. Nintendo needs to make its online play spectacular before the paid service launches, so users are convinced it is worth their money.sply

Monthly Virtual Console Download

As a part of their monthly subscription service, Nintendo has promised a month long download of a Nintendo Classic from the EShop for the still non-existent virtual console that has online play capabilities. We still don’t know what this means exactly. Will we get to pick a different game each month? What does online play entail? Will we need to be connected to the internet to perform the download? Will the games offered be favorite retro games or terrible ones? Will we lose our progress in said game if we don’t choose to buy it right away after the month but then buy it later? So many questions! On paper, this is a fantastic idea for Nintendo because it should translate into increased Virtual Console purchases. If they want it to do extremely well there are a couple things they need to do:
  • Make a few games available each month, and each subscriber can pick which one they want to try. If they just have one available a lot of people will ignore it if the game isn’t something they are interested in. If too many are available, it will be hard to make the added online features worthwhile.
  • Make the online features useful and straightforward. We don’t want the game to be different just because it features online play. Nintendo would be smart to only put it into games that supported local multiplayer when they were originally used. And even to leave the extra features out of solo player titles.
  • Make an awards or badges system. Gamers love to show off to one another, and achievement badges are a great way to do this. Nintendo could combine this with something similar to the Wii U’s Miiverse to give badges a Nintendo touch and let players use them in messages as decoration.

Cost

Nintendo has not yet revealed how much the subscription service will cost. It is a rumor the online service will cost 2,000 – 3,000 yen annually in Japan. Direct conversion puts that between $17.92 and $26.88 which will likely become somewhere between $25 and $30 dollars when the service officially launches. This is a spectacular price point! Both Microsoft and Sony’s online services cost $60 dollars currently. If Nintendo’s online service is reliable, this price point could be enough to convince serious online plays to switch to the Nintendo Switch, so long as there is an extensive library of competitive games offered on the system.

Premium and Limited Service

With the currently promised features and the normal low price point, Nintendo could benefit by eventually releasing a premium subscription with added features. This service could be priced at $50 or even $60 annually. To make the new price point worthwhile Nintendo could make a library of Virtual Console games available in a Netflix-style format. The available titles could change from time to time with some titles being added and some being taken away each month. Of course, these would have the online capabilities of the monthly download, and unlike the monthly download, they would probably require an internet connection to be played. Likewise, Nintendo could introduce a limited service for only $15 dollars (at least $10 cheaper than their standard service) that would just allow for online play.


In the original launch trailer for the Nintendo Switch E-Sports were the focus of the trailer’s conclusion. If Nintendo is serious about making their system and games typical E-Sport fare, their online services need to be top notch. The model they announced has a lot of promise and will attract people who perhaps feel they outgrew Nintendo. If Nintendo can deliver, we should expect to see a lot of returning Nintendo fans as a result!

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