Nintendo Switch Online racks up 32 million subscribers in spite of criticism

Nintendo Switch Online
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo Switch Online has now surpassed 32 million subscribers, an increase of roughly 6 million since last year according to a recent management briefing (opens in new tab) from the house of Mario itself.

As reported by GamesRadar (opens in new tab), the boost in subscribers to the online service was no doubt helped along by the addition of a higher tier, Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. This premium tier sets players back quite a bit more than the base subscription, but adds Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive collections to the service alongside access to Animal Crossing: New Horizons' Happy Home Paradise DLC.

During the briefing, Nintendo took the opportunity to state that it will "continue to improve and expand both Nintendo Switch Online and Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, striving to provide services that satisfy customers." This has been hinted at by the company in the past, with plans to increase the number of games available for its newest retro game collections, but access to future DLC packs could also be a possibility.

Mario Kart 64

(Image credit: Nintendo)

A boost of 6 million subscribers since the prior year is nothing to sneeze at, and as mentioned, Nintendo Switch Online has likely been helped along by the Expansion Pack tier. 

This is in spite of ongoing criticism of the service's inadequacies, such as unstable online connections for certain games, input lag and audio desync for the retro collections, too.

At the time of writing, the Nintendo Switch family of consoles has collectively shifted over 92 million units (opens in new tab). That means roughly one-third of Switch owners are paying for the online service, which is fairly impressive considering its shortcomings compared to the arguably superior Xbox Live and PS Plus.

Naturally, we're expecting Nintendo's numbers to rise over Black Friday and the Holiday period in general. The company has admitted that it won't be able to meet demand for the Switch during this time, meaning that stock is likely to sell out completely.

Analysis: Why is Nintendo Switch Online so successful?

There's no secret formula to Nintendo Switch Online's success. The base subscription is remarkably affordable, costing just $19.99 / £17.99 for 12 months. At that price point, you're getting online play, cloud saves and a collection of NES and SNES titles accessible via dedicated apps. It's a great deal.

Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack is a more controversial beast, hiking the price up to $49.99 / £34.99 for 12 months, with currently no option to pay on a monthly basis. This likely makes the higher price harder to stomach for some, but it hasn't stopped others from opting into the premium tier to gain access to a litany of N64 and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive titles as well as substantial DLC for Animal Crossing fans.

And it could be the DLC inclusion that proves to be the ace up Nintendo's sleeve. More retro additions are great, of course, but we're willing to bet a good number of players signed up to the Expansion Pack tier for access to the Happy Home Paradise DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

It's a move that could prove to be quite smart in the long run. The Expansion Pack could become a way for Switch players to access substantial DLC packs without having to buy them. Kind of like an Xbox Game Pass for downloadable content.

This would all hinge on any given game's popularity, of course. Animal Crossing already has a massive install base of 35 million players, and is among the 10 best-selling Switch games to date. That said, sales numbers are rarely an issue for Nintendo's first-party roster, and upcoming titles like Splatoon 3 that are likely to feature paid DLC could benefit from the Expansion Pack treatment.

As it stands, we're cautiously optimistic about Nintendo Switch Online's subscription numbers. While the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack stumbled out of the blocks, it seems that enough players have already deemed the extra cost worth it, especially for what the service could eventually become.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Writer

Rhys is Hardware Writer for TechRadar Gaming, and while relatively fresh to the role, he's been writing in a professional capacity for years. A Media, Writing and Production graduate, Rhys has prior experience creating written content for app developers, IT firms, toy sellers and the main TechRadar site. His true passions, though, lie in video games, TV, audio and home entertainment. When Rhys isn't on the clock, you'll usually find him logged into Final Fantasy 14, Halo Infinite or Sea of Thieves.