As part of Friday's Animal Crossing-centric Direct showcase, Nintendo has revealed the pricing strategy for its previously announced Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. Players can go it alone for a year at the $50 price point, while a group's family plan, which can be shared between up to eight people, will run $80 per year. This serves, appropriately enough, as an expansion that bundles in the basic online service with Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, as well as a major DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Unfortunately, the offerings in this Expansion Pack simply aren't worth the price right now. Adding these games and DLC is a nice step but Nintendo has to do more.
It's an issue of foundation. At its core, the idea of purely adding a new tier to Nintendo Switch Online that costs more but includes more is perfectly sound. The problem comes in when players are being asked to pay more while Nintendo's basic online services are still lacking, especially in comparison to the competition.
Downloads on the Nintendo eShop regularly take far longer than on any other platform. Party chat is needlessly complicated and requires using your phone, completely defeating the entire purpose of a console chat system. Whether you're playing a competitive game and need to coordinate with teammates or just want to hang out and chill, the lack of native voice chat continues to stick out as an awkward shortcoming.
Even worse is the lack of cloud saves, at least as a standard feature. Cloud saves cost nothing on Xbox platforms, meaning someone can upgrade from an Xbox One to an Xbox Series X and keep all their data without paying anything extra. Sony annoyingly locks cloud saves on PS5 behind a paywall, bundling it in with PlayStation Plus, but this support extends to every game, no exceptions. Nintendo, while locking cloud saves to Nintendo Switch Online, doesn't actually support this feature across every game.
Even worse, due to Nintendo only allowing one island per Nintendo Switch, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has its own convoluted method for transferring an island, a method that is very easy to mess up. If you're intending to grab the Nintendo Switch OLED model, figuring out how to get your data between systems is an unnecessary headache.
Regular Nintendo Switch Online is $20 for an individual player, with a $50 family pack option. The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack is set to more than double that price at the individual level, yet none of the core issues surrounding the service are being addressed?
The addition of the $25 Happy Home Paradise Animal Crossing expansion pack is certainly nice, but if you're not an Animal Crossing fan, you're left solely with the Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games as your reason for upgrading. Nostalgia aside, the ability to access those games is fantastic, but without any real enhancements for said games, it's not worth more than twice the price of a regular Nintendo Switch Online membership.
Now, if you've got a family or a group of friends to split up a family plan, then the price is certainly more reasonable. Depending on how many people you're able to split it between, paying $10 to $20 for a year is certainly alright.
I do appreciate that Nintendo is trying to expand its online offerings at all. At the same time, this is not a company struggling to find success. The Nintendo Switch and practically every first-party game launched on it continue to sell at a brisk pace with no signs of slowing down. Nintendo can and should invest in making its core services stronger. If Nintendo wants to introduce extras that we need to pay more for, that's great! But frankly, these extras need to justify their price.
Right now, the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack doesn't justify its price. I hope that changes sometime in the near future.
Gaming on-the-go or at home
With a Nintendo Switch gift card, you can grab games, DLC or just make sure your Nintendo Switch Online subscription is topped off and up to date.
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Samuel Tolbert is a freelance gaming writer who started working for iMore and its sister sites Windows Central and Android Central in July 2019. He handles news, previews, reviews, and exclusive original reporting, and has also been featured on TechRadar.
With a background studying engineering before he shifted his focus to gaming journalism, he's skilled at identifying technical advantages and disadvantages provided by different hardware. If he’s not writing something, he’s off playing video games, spending time with his pets, exercising, or reading. He's also fond of trying to draw things with his iPad.