Nintendo’s Online Service and “Expansion Packs”

Updated: Jan 7


Nintendo had its last major direct of the year last week with a slew of exciting new titles. Kirby and the Forgotten Land, the Mario movie cast announcement, and the Bayonetta 3 gameplay were among the surprising reveals in the showcase. While the show didn’t leave us without discussion, what I want to focus on is Nintendo’s new take on its online service: “Expansion packs”. While Nintendo Online for the Nintendo Switch has been around for years, it never saw the success of its competitors in Xbox and Playstation. Nintendo has struggled to get users to sign up for its paid service. It currently offers 2 major benefits for members. One being online play and the other being access to a selection of old Nintendo titles from the ‘90s.


The two major problems that come along with these services are 1: weak online servers that cause issues for those playing online, and 2: the older titles supplied are not hits from the ’90s, rather cheap and forgotten games from years past. These two problems have led to many choosing to forgo the Nintendo service for its competitors. With the announcement of the “Expansion Packs”, Nintendo seeks to change that.


What is an expansion pack? While commonly used as a term to describe a major add-on to an already existing game, it has been repurposed for this. The expansion pack in this case refers to additional paid game console add-ons for the Nintendo online service. Currently, the online services offer a handful of NES and SNES titles for play if you are a paid member. As mentioned before, this wasn’t really working out. To remedy this, Nintendo has announced the paid addition of two retro consoles to the service: the N64 and SEGA Genesis. These two add-ons are what Nintendo refers to as “expansion packs”, in which, for a set price on top of the online service, players can pay to play curated titles from these two consoles. The N64, in particular, has been a long-requested addition to the Nintendo Switch since its release in 2017. While Nintendo has always been behind the curve in terms of its online service options, with these announcements it has gone two steps ahead of everyone else.


Add-ons for subscriptions are nothing new. Hulu, Netflix, etc all have some sort of additional purchase you can make whether it be for 4K streaming or another channel such as ESPN. What Nintendo has found is a way to make them profitable. Add-ons have been developed with the mindset of a premium service, not a need. Nintendo isn’t offering a gold card here; they’re offering what fans have wanted for years.


That’s the angle— subscription add-ons need to be seen as a need, rather than a premium. Netflix could offer exclusives for an additional cost, exclusives that their customers would actually desire rather than just a resolution upgrade. It seems like such a simple answer and it is. Nintendo has found the solution, give the consumer what they want and they will come. There is also a way to make the cost fair and worth it as well. While we don’t know the exact cost of these Expansion Packs, going based on previous examples, they probably won’t be more than $20, which is quite the deal for access for much-desired content. What also isn’t known is whether these will be recurring fees or one-time charges, but either would work quite well for their market. Especially in the case of other streaming services.


Nintendo has cracked the code of the premium subscription. As these services continue to become the future of entertainment media, they will need to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the consumer. Nintendo has famously struggled with the online service, but they have seemingly found the answer. Not just for them, but the entire entertainment industry as well. Sometimes the brightest ideas come from the strangest places


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