Monthly Waves Of NES Games Are Triggering Monthly Complaints About Switch Online

Illustration: Kotaku

Every time Nintendo posts a YouTube video about its NES games for Switch Online, it gets more thumbs down than thumbs up. Some Switch owners are clearly unhappy with how the paid online service is going so far, but they’re not all in agreement about what it is they’re complaining about. That’ll make it a difficult problem to solve.

It’s not that Nintendo’s fans are trolling every single one of its YouTube videos. Most of them get tens of thousands of upvotes and only a couple hundred downvotes. But the Switch Online videos, particularly the ones introducing the new NES games that will be added to the service’s all-you-can-play library, are racking up thousands more negative reactions than positive ones.

If you pay the $29.95 yearly fee to subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, you get access to a library of NES games with added features like online play.

The games are included in a single app that you download to your Switch, and it has to ping the online server at least once a week to verify that you are a member in good standing. The app launched in September with 20 games, and Nintendo has been adding three more every month since.

Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link. (Screenshot: Nintendo)

This month, Nintendo will add the fondly-remembered classics Blaster Master and Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. It’ll also release the Japan-only fighting game Joy Mecha Fight, but that’ll only be available on the Japanese app. (That said, if you have a paid account, you can create a free Japanese account on your Switch, log in to the Japan eShop, download the Famicom app, and play Joy Mecha Fight, plus the Japanese versions of the other games, as much as you want.)

This service is what Nintendo is doing on Switch in lieu of the Virtual Console approach it took on previous platforms, in which games were released as separate downloads. Which approach you like more appears to be a matter of taste. You might like “owning” the games outside of a subscription. I, who spent a thousand dollars on Virtual Console over the years, no longer feel like I need to “own” digital content that’s tied to a single platform that will go obsolete in five years.

If I want to play Super Mario Bros., I don’t want to plug in my Wii U to do it even though I “own” it there. It’s odd to think about it now, but soon enough my Switch will go into a drawer with the Game Boy Micro and the Nintendo DSi, and I’ll want to play Super Mario Bros. on whatever Nintendo’s next machine is, instead.

All this is to say that, personally, I don’t feel so bad about renting NES games from Nintendo for $29.95 per year instead of paying per title. But others feel differently. The thing is, if you look at the comments on these YouTube videos, they all seem to be thumbs-downing them for different reasons. Here are the types of complaints that seem to pop up the most.

People with generalised complaints about Switch Online’s other features.

Many commenters seem to be disappointed with Switch Online in general, and are using this opportunity to sound off about problems that don’t have specific YouTube videos of their own.

Commenters want Switch Online to be more of a fully-featured service up to the standards of 2019, with integrated voice chat, party chat, messaging, more dedicated servers, cloud saves for more games, etc. These people have a point, but it’s unlikely that anything Nintendo does with the NES game library will make them happy.

People who want more games, faster.

These commenters also have a point. Why do we have to wait and hope and pray for our favourite games to be released in this drip-feed fashion, again? It benefits Nintendo to have a few new games to release every month for another news hit that it can share on YouTube, but there’s no such tangible benefit to Switch owners.

Ninja Gaiden. (Screenshot: Nintendo)

To be fair, Nintendo is actually exceeding Virtual Console’s NES release pace. Five months into Virtual Console on Wii, there were 22 NES games on the service in the U.S. Five months into Switch Online’s lifecycle, it will have 31.

There’s also a limit to the number of games Nintendo can feasibly release. Yes, there were over 1000 games released on the Famicom and NES, but today, only a portion of those aren’t tied up in licensing restrictions or other legal entanglements. And some of those might end up in standard collections, like the six games in the Mega Man collection on Switch or the nine NES games in the SNK 40th Anniversary collection, which I imagine are unlikely to come to Switch Online.

People who want games from other platforms.

Check the replies on any of Nintendo’s posts about the NES library on Twitter, and it won’t be long until you see this meme:

Wii’s Virtual Console launched with games from NES, SNES, and N64, and many are wondering why the same isn’t true for Switch. Nintendo has said in no uncertain terms that we should expect exactly this from Switch Online in the future, but many are wondering why not now. I think that Nintendo may be overestimating Switch buyers’ desire for NES nostalgia.

Something I’ve noticed as a classic game collector is that NES game cartridge prices are starting to come down considerably, which is an indication that the market is moving past NES nostalgia in the same way that it moved past Atari a few years back. NES nostalgia is still strong, but it’s past its peak, and it’s been supplanted in popularity by SNES nostalgia and even N64 nostalgia.

It might have made sense in a purely chronological way to start with the oldest console, but it’s not what the audience wants the most right now.

Crash ‘N’ The Boys Street Challenge. (Screenshot: Nintendo)

The silver lining here is that when Nintendo does put more consoles on this service, it’ll likely do it in a way that isn’t just a straightforward ROM dump. Online play in Super Mario Kart? Special save data that starts you right at the end of Super Metroid with the best ending? Custom wireless SNES controllers?

All quite likely, even if Nintendo’s going to take its sweet time doing it. (I don’t think it’ll ever put GameCube games on the service, though. There’s far too much money to be made doing “HD remasters” of those games and selling them for full price.)

People who want Virtual Console back.

Another group of commenters wants Nintendo to sell them individual games again, and/or let them transfer the games they own from the Wii U. Nintendo has been clear that this isn’t going to happen, although I do think that it should look at releasing cartridge-based collections of the best games.

People who just want Mother 3.

Granted, this is only one or two people per video, but I just plain admire their moxie.


To recap: Some people are giving thumbs-down because they want more NES games, and some people are giving thumbs-down because they want Nintendo to stop releasing NES games and start improving other facets of the service.

Some are disliking the videos because they want games from other consoles on the subscription service, and some are disliking the videos because they want the subscription service to end and be replaced with Virtual Console.

In other words, if you ask four different people why they smashed that dislike button, they’re likely to give you four different answers. So if Nintendo did want to make changes to Switch Online to satisfy the crowd - and there’s no indication at this point that it does - it would take a lot of changes before everyone is pleased.


Comments

    Lets all pick our jaws up off the floor...

      I have an issue with grinding. so if it's okay, i'll just leave mine on the floor...

    Nintendo isn't listening. It's too busy doing it's own thing.

    My main beef with the Switch Online content is that they haven't bothered to put scans of the game manuals, or even a screen with a basic rundown of the controls for any of the games. Putting down the switch to go online or basic trial and error is the only way to figure out how most of the games work.

      This is so much more a valid complaint than any of the ones mentioned in the story.

      I never had manuals in my day! I had to press buttons and figure that stuff out on my own!

      I dunno why, we just never had manuals. *shurgs*

    People are just whingers. Switch Online already has more games than the NES Mini, with more on the way. Agreed, I'd like to see other consoles added, but what's the rush? There are many other ways to play old games if you simply HAVE to play them now.

      I can't speak for others but for me the rush is that they need something to outweigh the fact that we're being forced to pay for what is (comparatively) a garbage online platform. There's no voice chat/messaging, no social functionality to speak of at all, no trophies/achievements (opinions on that can vary obviously), no dedicated servers for 90% of the games and the only real upside to paying the fee (apart from the same online quality we had before they were charging for it) is a few 20 year old games that pretty much everyone already owns or gives no shit about at this point.

      Adding more NES games or even SNES/N64 might not fix the larger issues with the service but it would at least give it more of a benefit to outweigh those problems in the meantime.

      On top of all that is the fact that the Switch is almost two years old now and while it's had some great games, the core software is basically the same as launch, Nintendo has been dragging their heels to do anything. Even this statement tells a lot by how misleading it is:
      To be fair, Nintendo is actually exceeding Virtual Console’s NES release pace. Five months into Virtual Console on Wii, there were 22 NES games on the service in the U.S. Five months into Switch Online’s lifecycle, it will have 31.
      It's misleading because the Virtual Console launched with the Wii, so those 22 NES games were out 5 months after the Wii's launch, they released the 100th VC game in under a year. Like I said before though, the Switch is pushing 2 years...

    So they're not disliking the games being released, but other things. To Nintendo it means the dislike's can be ignored because they're not relevant to the games themselves.

    Add in that most of the complaints are supposedly being dealt with in future as other consoles games come online, and I doubt they'll give a rats arse one way or the other. Let the minority whinge, the majority is where the yen's are at.

    As much as I like plenty of NES games, the 16 bit era was the peak of 2D games, and having no way to play those on Switch is infuriating.

    Thats just me though.

    Put me in with the "this service is still lacking in service or value and NESflix adds nothing to it no matter how many games it has" crowd.

    As above my only complaint is the lack of scanned manuals for both knowing the controls and things like what vague collectables do in each game, but also the nostalgia.

    The drip feed of 30 year old games is the issue. It’s greedy and shitty to the consumer. This is something Nintendo do often.
    The virtual console was a much better delivery system. And the lack of snes games (at the very least) is farcical.

      It’s greedy and shitty to the consumer. This is something [the videogames industry] do[es] often. Business practices in gaming for at least the past 20 years. Giving money to anyone other than owner-creators in this industry is acquiescing to a pile of shit being placed in your mouth.

    People should really get over wanting every new gaming console to do everything their old consoles did.
    If you wanna play old games, plug in your old console or find one of the 50 other ways to play that game.
    Nintendo should concentrate on actually making new games for the switch

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