Nintendo Switch Online is live, and I gave the company my $20. I get the occasional itch to play Rocket League or Mario Tennis Aces against real people. I want to keep that option. The low price is also right in the meaty part of the impulse-purchase bell curve. And the library of NES games also factored into my decision to spend the cash.
But now that I have these revamped 8-bit games, it’s clear to me that I won’t use their new online features. This service, which has the charming name of Nintendo Entertainment System — Nintendo Switch Online (really), is like a Netflix for old games. You pay your subscription to Nintendo, and then you have access to more than 20 NES classics. If you want Super Mario Bros. 3, River City Ransom, and Pro Wrestling, this is your ticket. But these aren’t the same retro hits as usual.
In an effort to justify why you have to pay for these games separately yet again despite owning them on five different consoles, Nintendo added online multiplayer. If you and a friend get online at the same time, you can party up to take on the NES collection together. For Super Mario Bros., you can take turns like when you were a kid. Or you can play Double Dragon together cooperatively. At any time, you can also use the right stick or touchscreen to make your cursor appear on your partner’s screen. This is great for communicating strategies or giving hints.
And these online modes work. At first, I didn’t think that was the case. GamesBeat reviews editor Mike Minotti and I experienced dismal lag in Mario. Thankfully, NES Switch Online has a low latency mode. But why isn’t that the default?
Once we switched to low-latency, however, the experience was solid and fun.
I won’t use NES Switch Online again
But while it worked and was fun, I doubt that I will use the online feature again any time soon. It’s just too inconvenient.
While I’m now paying Nintendo $20 per year for its online service, I still cannot send messages or party invites to my friends through the Switch itself. To actually do that, I need to continue using the dedicated Nintendo Online smartphone app. That is a step too far for me.
If I could use my Switch to see who is online and then invite them to something, I might do that. But if I have to get out a separate device, I’m not going to do that. I’m especially not interested in asking someone else who is playing Switch to get on their phone to play games with me. That’s too big of an ask.
And I think this highlights the biggest problem with Nintendo’s online implementation. It’s not easy, or even possible, to manage all of the multiplayer tasks you can do easily on PlayStation Network or Xbox Live. That needs to change. I hope it does.
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