We NEED to Boycott Nintendo Switch Online

If you read my blog regularly then you know that I am very big on consumers taking control of the gaming industry through organized management of our spending practices. I often write pieces calling for people to actively take charge of the industry’s general direction through boycotts and selective support of certain products and practices. I have on more than one occasion been accused of hyperbole and over dramatization of the situations I write about. Part of the reason for this is that I’m usually looking at the big picture which means predicting long term repercussions that can and often do take years and even multiple generations to manifest. All the way back in 2013, when my blog was still hosted on IGN, I wrote a long post where through thorough analyzation and educated guesses based on past events, I predicted that SONY and eventually Nintendo would ultimately do exactly the same bullshit that Microsoft was doing at the time with XBOX. This post was focused mostly on practices surrounding things like paid online multiplayer access, paid DLC content, and the general direction of all three companies. At the time, many people viewed SONY as the player friendly company that had our best interests in mind while Microsoft was the greedy, evil corporation who only cared about profits. Nintendo was the good egg that would never betray us. Now, five years later, SONY is pretty much the equivalent of Microsoft when it comes to management of their platform and Nintendo is steadily following suit with paid DLC, season passes, and literally this week they will be implementing paid online multiplayer subscriptions. I was right on literally 100% of my predictions about the way the industry was going five years ago. They called me a madman. They called me paranoid. But I knew I was right. Sadly the post no longer exists because IGN removed all user blogs from their website, but I probably have the original draft in a Word document somewhere if anyone really wants to read it.

Current Gen

So in that context, we really need to talk about Nintendo Switch Online. Last week, Nintendo published their latest Nintendo Direct. Overall it was pretty solid. But with less than a week prior to going live, they finally gave some actual concrete details about their new subscription based online service. It is in every way a tragedy. It’s insulting to gamers. It’s not offering anything of value that we didn’t already have for free. And it doesn’t even compare to its competitor services in application or value. Similar to when Nintendo replaced Club Nintendo with My Nintendo, it’s a total shit show.

Let me quickly summarize what the service looks like. For $20 a year, or $35 a year for a family plan, which still needs to have more concrete details published, you get cloud saves, online multiplayer, the ability to use your smart phone to talk to other people in the games you’re playing multiplayer with (you know because it’s a phone), access to a supposedly constantly growing library of NES games, most of which you already own in some other form or have already played and don’t care about anymore, and you get access to “special offers”. These offers currently include the “opportunity” to pay $60 plus I assume shipping (and possibly tax) to buy NES themed Joy-Con controllers you don’t actually need to play any of the NES games and a special Splatoon 2 skin representing an e-Sports team you don’t care about or probably even know. New offers will supposedly be added in the future but for now that’s all there are. It’s objectively a bad service. Not to mention it’s on a platform with a very limited library of popular multiplayer games. If you don’t include Splatoon 2, Mario Tennis Aces, and the unreleased Smash Bros. Ultimate there’s almost no reason to even care about multiplayer on the Nintendo Switch. There are a scattering of games here or there that have multiplayer. Like I play Just Dance online all the time. Some people still play Mario Kart Deluxe and even ARMS online. There are some indies like Overcooked 2. But for the most part the Switch is not a multiplayer platform. You’re buying games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Remember that even the upcoming Super Mario Party won’t have full online capabilities. You’ll be able to play a select list of mini-games against other players online and nothing else.

club nintendo

The Switch simply is not a platform that has enough dedicated AAA multiplayer value to warrant charging people for the service. And the other benefits are so minuscule and in some cases downright insulting that charging anything for them is egregious. You can’t even send messages to people directly through the console. You have to use your phone. Who in their right mind thought it was acceptable to charge people a fee to use their phone, which they’re already paying a fee to use, to send messages? That would be like buying a soda from McDonald’s and then being charged an additional fee to drink it inside the McDonald’s. To top it all off, Nintendo has decided that they can get away with this because they’re only charging $20, which is cheaper than PS+ or XBL. That’s not a justification. You don’t get to offer a shitty, totally unwanted service at a lower price than a competitor’s service and expect people to be OK with it. Because as much as I hate paying for PS+ at least it’s a subscription that actually provides me with services. I get free current gen games with the service. I get discounts on new games with the service. I can do things like send messages, send pictures, and create chat lobbies with friends on the console with the service. I can even shareplay with the service. It’s overpriced for sure. The games they’ve been offering in the last few years are much lower in value than in the PS3 era for sure. But it’s still a service that has general value above what I was getting when it wasn’t a mandatory service. Nintendo Switch Online offers none of that except cloud saves, which I don’t need in the first place on a portable console with an SD card memory system. My saves are fine. So we need to fix this.

Switch Online Pricing

Usually when I write posts like this it’s about long term issues concerning specific games or services that will have an effect on the future of gaming. But in this case, we’re literally talking about today. Yes there are long term repercussions for supporting Nintendo Switch Online, but the short term effects are just as noticeable and important. The service goes live tomorrow. I don’t want to be insensitive about the fact that the Direct was postponed because of a natural disaster, but it’s very suspect that we were given actual details about this new online service less than a week before it goes live. By all rights I should have published this post days ago but I didn’t even have enough time to properly analyze the details of the service and get the post prepared until now. Usually I publish my blog posts on Wednesdays but this was too important to delay till after Nintendo Switch Online goes live.

Just like we did with XBOX One when it first announced always online, or with Star Wars: Battlefront II, we need to actively and loudly boycott and publicly declare our disgust with Nintendo Switch Online in its current form. Do not give them the ability to take this service forward in this way. Yes I understand that I’m asking you to not enjoy some of your games that you’ve already purchased to their fullest extent. I too own ARMS and Splatoon 2. I too plan on purchasing Smash Bros. Ultimate day one and realize that the experience will be crippled for many people without the ability to play online. But we need to think long term here. This is a crucial moment because it will shape the way Nintendo handles online service forever. With this platform and all future platforms, this is a watershed moment. A moment that we didn’t properly handle when XBOX Live Gold was first announced. A moment that we didn’t take seriously enough when PlayStation Plus was turned into a mandatory service. We have an opportunity here to tell Nintendo an emphatic NO. That we will not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of simply because the price is lower than what Microsoft and SONY are charging, which are also overpriced services we shouldn’t be paying for in their current form either by the way.

NES Joycon
$60 for the crap after paying for the subscription!

I’m not saying we should never be willing to pay Nintendo for an online service. I don’t want to pay for such things and I genuinely believe we shouldn’t have to pay an additional fee just play the games we already paid for. But I already pay and have paid SONY for online multiplayer for a number of years. So it would be hypocritical for me to deny Nintendo the same privilege. But I’m not going to just hand them money for a subpar service just because they’re charging less for it. I’m calling for a boycott to incite change to the service. Not a permanent decision never to pay them for online multiplayer. What we need is to hold out as a group of concerned and conscientious gamers until we get a service that works for us and compares to the other services we’ve already been paying for. That means the essentials of course such as working online multiplayer with better servers than we were already using when multiplayer was free. It means a working messaging and voice chat system that doesn’t require us to own other forms of hardware that have nothing to do with the console we’re playing our games on. It means cloud saves that aren’t deleted when you unsubscribe or let your service lapse. It means not having to check in every week. You will literally lose your service continuity if say you got married and didn’t take your Switch on your honeymoon. That’s absolutely ridiculous. It means a library of current gen games made available as part of the service at no additional cost. It means noteworthy discounts on new games from the e-Shop. And yes that $20 price tag needs to remain consistent even with these additional aspects of the service. Especially considering the lacking multiplayer library to begin with.

Switch Voice Chat

As a Switch owner myself who uses my console literally every day, I implore you to stand with me on this. Do not sign up for Nintendo Switch Online when it goes live tomorrow (September 18, 2018). Hold out. Demand a better service and refuse to settle for the time being just so you can continue playing Splatoon 2 or Mario Tennis Aces. Make a small sacrifice in the short term for much better results in the long run. Tweet about it. Post about it on Reddit, Facebook, and every other platform you use. Make YouTube videos declaring your decision to boycott and why. Discuss it while you’re streaming on Twitch. Do not give in to Nintendo’s clear betrayal of their values and user base. This is not the service that the late, great Satoru Iwata would have wanted. We NEED to boycott Nintendo Switch Online right now and not let it even start to get a footing. This is not just crucial for Nintendo users, but for all console gamers. If this service is profitable, it will only serve to show Microsoft and SONY that they can lower their service quality, even more, and still get away with it. Now is the time for action. It may only be $20 today but that $20 means a life time of regret for gamers present and future.

Thank you for reading.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

 

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Is there a Social Contract in Cooperative Gaming?

Disclaimer: This is not a post about social justice, safe spaces, or toxicity in gaming and/or the gaming community. I know in today’s troubled times titles like this automatically make people think about politics in gaming. This post has nothing to do with any of that. I just used the title I felt was appropriate based on the actual definitions of words.

If you’ve been reading my blog or following me on Twitter for a while then you know I hate multiplayer games. I hate that the industry is steadily moving towards always online shared world experiences. I hate that end game is all but a thing of the past. I hate that DLC is the new normal and that it’s getting to the point where I can’t just buy a fully finished game that gets to a hard plot based end point and then is just over so I can move on to the next game. I like single player games. I like the solitude of gaming alone. I like being able to fully complete a game without relying on participation from other people.

AC MP Prestige

 

Games like Destiny, The Division, and I’m sure in the future Anthem irritate me because they require me to interact with and rely on other people to get a complete experience. Possibly even more irritating is that so often they try to pretend like that’s not the case. But anyone who has actually played any of these games knows that it is absolutely always the case. Sure you can play these games alone. But you can’t really beat them in a normal amount of time at a normal level of play. Sure some people can solo raids, but that’s not normal nor the intended way the developers design raids to be played. You can make a clan/league, set it to private, and not let anyone else join. But the chances of you being able to do enough on your own to get valuable league challenge rewards are infinitesimally small. In so many games today, you are forced to play and coordinate with other players. Even mobile games have leagues now.

When I play a game, I play to reach the end. I don’t just play games arbitrarily as long as I’m “having fun”. I don’t just start games and say I’ll play till I get bored. I take my gaming seriously. Starting a game for me is a commitment. I commit to reaching the end. And if I don’t know if I want to reach the end, I don’t play the game. I certainly don’t buy the game. This has become extremely difficult in a world where end game means the game has no clearly defined ending. What I now do is set end goals for myself and stop playing once I’ve achieved that. I got the platinum trophy in Skyrim. That’s when I stopped playing.  There was plenty more to do, but I had achieved my chosen goal and then stopped playing. I reached prestige level one in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer. I could have kept going. You can get all the way to prestige level 99. But that wasn’t my end goal. I’ve had to set my own clearly defined but ultimately arbitrary end goals more and more over the years.

Destiny2Clan

The end goal idea works fine for me in scenarios where my gameplay experience isn’t tied to other people via clan/league. But recently this has become more and more a necessity in many games. When clans first became a thing back in the OG Halo days, you didn’t have to participate. If you really liked multiplayer and didn’t like playing with randoms, joining a clan was a sensible option to fix this problem. But over time it has pretty much become a requirement in a lot of games in multiple genres. Take something like Injustice 2 where you get league rewards. This concept forces you to join and participate in a league or lose out on a steady stream of what can be really good rewards if your league is strong and active. A lot of games go out of their way to promote interaction among league members. Even mobile games with leagues now have built in chat functions, rewards for participating every day, and a number of other incentives to make you play cooperatively and actively with other people. This poses a problem for me.

I don’t particularly like playing games with other people online, but I take the commitment of joining an online team/community very seriously. When I join a clan, I’m part of that clan. I’m not just there to leech off other people without contributing. I contribute and I take my ability to contribute seriously. I make it a point to be as active as possible, contribute to the team goals/challenges as much as I can, and I don’t just abandon the league when a better option presents itself. Only in extreme circumstances will I change clans in a game. In fact, in the last 10 years I can only remember doing it one time. And there’s a long story behind why that happened. The problem for me in this scenario becomes ending the game. As I said, I always have an end goal. I’m not just playing to play. And even when I join a clan it’s in pursuit of that end goal. It’s not that I want to join. It’s that I believe joining will get me closer to my end goal faster and more efficiently. And it does. But when I reach my end goal I’m still part of a league.

Injustice 2 mobile league

I get angry when people just drop out of leagues for no reason. Especially when they’re an active player that makes a great contribution. When they suddenly just exit the league or stop playing without saying anything, it genuinely irritates me. Because the league was relying on that player. All the members helped that player obtain rewards that couldn’t be acquired as a solo player and in turn relied on that player to do the same in return. So when a person just drops out with no warning it feels like getting robbed. At least that’s how it feels to me. And I don’t want to make other people feel that way. But what happens when I reach my end goal for a game?

COD clan

This is a big issue for me right now. I’m in leagues in games that I’ve already completed for my purposes. But I don’t feel right just abandoning all those other players who have come to rely on my contributions as a strong, active member of the league. But it’s still my time and effort. So what am I supposed to do in this situation? Do I keep playing until the league gets strong enough to not need me anymore? Do I keep playing till the league collapses for whatever reason so I don’t feel beholden to anyone? Do I just quit without saying anything because screw everyone else as long as I’m happy? I genuinely don’t know the correct answer to this question. All I know is that I’m involved in games that I don’t want to be involved in anymore but I don’t want to abandon people who have invested time and effort into helping me because I feel like I owe them in exchange for that assistance.

Do gamers have a social contract with each other when they join clans? Is there an unspoken social responsibility to support those who have supported you in games and come to rely on your support? How do you leave a league?

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

The Downgrade of Upgrades

This week I published an article about how the better gaming technology seems to get, the worse the experience ends up being for gamers due to lazy and/or greedy development and publishing practices. I published this article on Gaming Rebellion but here’s the introduction:

no games bf

I think it’s fair to say that most gamers today have at least some feeling of like/love for technology. I can code a little bit, build a PC from scratch, troubleshoot most normal level computer issues, and have fixed more than one broken console. I’ve owned every Nintendo and SONY home console (not counting Switch) as well as two of the three Microsoft home consoles and every Sega home console except the Saturn. I’ve owned several handhelds, multiple tablets, multiple mp3 players, and I literally work for a computer component manufacturing company. It is not a ridiculous statement to say that I like technology. Yet it seems to me that as we, by which I mean consumers who call themselves gamers, are forcibly offered “better” technology with each passing generation of consoles, that playing video games has become more expensive and less convenient.

You can read the rest right here. Please check out my Author’s Archive for other articles by me on Gaming Rebellion.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.