The Nintendo Switch Online service is now available to lock you out of the multiplayer functionality in video games you’ve already bought or might buy in the future.
Nintendo Switch Online $20 for a year which seems fine until they raise the price, or when you think about how well Nintendo has handled any kind of online systems in the past.
That $20 gets you the online multiplayer, cloud saves, access to a rotating library of old NES games, access to the Nintendo mobile app for voice chat because Nintendo refuses to allow voice chat through the console, and access to some kind of special members-only offers to purchase things.
It’s up to publishers and developers to decide what games get support for cloud saves. The upcoming Dark Souls 1 remaster/port won’t have it because people might cheat, which is a lame excuse but it also might be understood as because the game was already in development for some time. All games should support cloud saves if they can or the service should change to support games with limitations on cloud save restoration to prevent cheating. Anything is better than losing your Dark Souls save.
Cloud saves should be free for anyone buying a Switch. That service is kind of free on Xbox Live (or at least they won’t drop your saves if you don’t pay for Gold). Cloud saves are entirely behind the Plus paywall on the PlayStation 4, and they’ll be dropped after 30 days of a Plus account expiring.
There are 20 NES games at launch and Nintendo promises more to come. Nintendo’s website has a list. You can also interact with a friend playing a NES game by controlling an onscreen cursor while they play. It lets you clap for them or point to things that are important. I’m going to go ahead and predict that this feature is gone within two years or at least never added to any future online service that Nintendo does.
Access to old NES games is another feature that might help make this service worth money to someone. Nintendo have also locked the ability to buy a set of ($60) wireless NES controllers behind the service. The controllers look kind of nice and hook up to the Switch like Joy-Cons by sliding onto the sides of the console, but having to pay for the ability to buy something else is lame as heck.
I’m probably not going to pay for online access to Splatoon 2 or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe anymore, but I didn’t play them online enough while multiplayer was ostensibly free. There are enough other ways in my home to play old NES games, and I don’t care enough about those NES controllers to buy them. Cloud saves should be free for everyone and Nintendo should provide more ways to backup your saves. This service stinks and the only good thing about it is that it exists as an example of how every console and platform is trying to pry money from us on a recurring basis. They’re parasites who want to exploit us at every turn.