The saying “iron sharpens iron” is a belief in the fact competition among peers will make both parties stronger. That having a rival or opposing force to push you, will only lead to achieving new heights and avoiding remaining stagnant or complacent. Clearly this is not a mantra Nintendo fully believes in when it comes to its online services. While Microsoft and Sony have continued to add value to their online ecosystem, Nintendo is sadly lagging behind.
Nintendo unveiled more details about its new online plans. While full details were lacking (price model and exact start date for paid online services), there was one detail in particular I found particularly baffling and a missed opportunity for Nintendo. It was announced that, much like PS+ or GWG, Nintendo’s now paid online service would offer free games each month, but instead of having access to those game for the life of the subscription, they will only be available for one month.
Forget about the fact the games being offered are NES and SNES titles instead of the mostly current games offered by Nintendo’s peers, the fact you can only play them for a month is ridiculous. They are essentially offering one month game rentals for decade-old titles. Titles which many Nintendo diehards already own. The added online capability these free one month rentals will have is hardly exciting to me. Sure, there are great games from those eras which would be fun to play online, but it would be even better if subscribers were able to keep those games beyond the month time period. The cynical part of me feels like this strategy was done so Nintendo could entice consumers to once again purchase the same games they have been reselling for years across multiple platforms. Why generate some goodwill and add value to its online service when it can continue to operate under archaic practices which are doubly bad when compared to Sony and Microsoft?
While those companies take heat from some by offering indie titles or games with little player interest unless free, there is no denying it is a more robust offering. Sony is offering multiple games across three platforms and Microsoft allows you to keep Xbox 360 games downloaded even without an active subscription. They have learned from each other and competition among them has resulted in both services being better. Some may deride their free offerings each month, but I personally feel the yearly subscription price is more than worth it. Even if I don’t download each new title every month, there have been countless games and discounts throughout the year which have made it more than worth my while. It would have been so easy for Nintendo to look at its competitors and offer a similar model, but they couldn’t even get that right.
This strategy of allowing gamers to build up a gaming library is even more beneficial to Nintendo. One of the criticisms often faced by the company is the lack of third party support and the drought between big first party releases. Needless to say, the games shown during the presentation didn’t assuage my concerns. By allowing gamers to keep the free games offered, it at least mitigates some of the software drought that might arise. The free games offered certainly shouldn’t be limited to NES or SNES titles either, considering Nintendo has the longest and most storied game history among the big three console manufacturers. Why can’t we get a classic Nintendo 64 or GameCube game?
Some may feel criticism directed at Nintendo at this juncture may be premature. After all, Nintendo hasn’t even announced a pricing model yet. It may be cheaper than its competitors or offer features yet to be revealed. While both might come to fruition, looking at the pricing of Nintendo Switch controllers and past Virtual Console games, I’m not optimistic. I also fear any discounts offered will pale in comparison to the routine monthly sales or flash sales offered by PSN or XBL. If Nintendo thinks 10% discounts on 20-year old games will be appealing alongside 30-50% discounts for major titles within a few months of release on competitors machines, they are truly delusional.
Many have treated Nintendo with kid gloves when it comes to the online space. I don’t see why, in 2017, they should still get a pass. I think gamers should demand better. Hopefully if enough outrage is expressed, Nintendo will take heed and modify their current subscription game plans. If not, I see Nintendo missing out on major sales a fully fleshed out subscription service could bring. I don’t want the Switch or Nintendo to fail. I just hope Nintendo listens to its fans, takes cues from competitors, and really makes a big change in philosophy before it is too late.
Darius Purse is an Associate Editor at MONG and if you want to talk Games, TV, or MMA feel free to follow him on Twitter.