Whispers of the Nintendo Switch Online service expanding its hardware and software library surfaced a few months ago. Some of us were hoping to include Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, others Nintendo 64 and perhaps even Virtual Boy titles. The good news is that we will finally see Nintendo 64 (and Sega Genesis) games join the lineup. The bad news is that instead of simply being two steps forward and one step back (as is often the case with Nintendo’s recent moves), the NSO Online Expansion is arguably one step forward and two steps back.
Arriving October 25, the Online Expansion Pack will provide subscribers with a lineup of Nintendo 64 classics such as Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, Yoshi’s Story, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Perhaps the most significant inclusion here is Banjo Kazooie, a game many fans have wanted to “come home” (to a Nintendo console) for years following Microsoft’s acquisition of Rare in the early 2000s. However, it’s worth noting that it won’t be available in the launch lineup and will arrive at a later (and currently unknown) date.
As for the Sega Genesis lineup, we’ll be getting the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Ristar, and Gunstar Heroes. All quality titles, of course, but they’ve been available on compilations and mini consoles for almost two decades at this point. Not to mention, there’s also a Sega Genesis collection on the Switch that frequently goes on sale, offering far more titles than this starting lineup. In addition, games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 have already seen individual ports on the Eshop courtesy of M2, and they’ve always gone above and beyond to provide dead-accurate emulation while throwing in new modes and features. While the Nintendo 64 lineup is a novelty and features games that haven’t seen numerous re-releases over the years, the Genesis offerings are redundant.
So, what’s the problem here? You’re going to have to pay double the price for the luxury of being able to play a handful of N64 and Genesis titles for the duration of your online subscription. Currently, NSO costs $19.99 annually. This expansion will cost $49.99 annually for an individual plan and $79.99 for a family plan. A quick peek at the comments in the reveal trailer (and quite frankly anywhere else on the internet) shows that I’m not alone in thinking this is a bit absurd.
For some, this may not be a big deal. I can also admit that it’s still not nearly as maddening as the prices for the “real thing.” The retro gaming bubble has yet to burst, and (unfortunately) prices for Nintendo 64 games, in particular, won’t be getting lower any time soon. For me, it’s the principle. Paying nearly the price of a new AAA title for a handful of games that aren’t yours to keep, many of which have already been re-released countless times over past console generations. You aren’t getting any extra features outside of the bare minimum- save states, rewind, and upscale to 1080p.
Even in the case of the beloved Banjo Kazooie, there has been an HD port available on the Xbox family of consoles for 13 years. Not only is it arguably the definitive way of revisiting it thanks to some subtle (yet impactful) quality of life updates, it’s also relatively inexpensive. It won’t remove itself from your console if you stop paying for a subscription.
Currently, the reveal trailer is at a whopping 69K dislikes, and folks have been quite vocal in the comments section and on Twitter. I wouldn’t have high hopes that Nintendo will backpedal on this move and offer a lower price, but hopefully, this sends a message to them regarding the service. As consumers, I feel like we can (and should) expect more value out of something like this.