After a more than controversial start, Nintendo just redeemed the Switch Online Expansion Pack in one fell swoop. Beginning March 18, subscribers will be able to access all of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s upcoming DLC at no additional cost, which will add 48 new tracks to the evergreen title until the end of 2023.
If you ever needed an incentive to subscribe, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC is most definitely it. Not only does the Booster Course Pass ensure that Nintendo’s most popular Switch title will keep people racing for many more years to come, but when you consider that the upcoming DLC costs $24.99 / £22.49 on its own, then the $49.99 / £34.99 / AU$59.95 for a 12-month subscription to Nintendo’s premium service suddenly looks rather reasonable.
It helps that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the best online multiplayer experiences on the platform, too. Many Switch owners (myself included) probably only subscribe to Nintendo’s online service in the first place so they can continue racing against other players across the globe. And if that’s the case, you might as well buy the Expansion Pack and get Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s DLC as part of the deal – you’ll be paying $44.98 / £40.48 if you choose to buy the DLC separately and subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online anyway. In fact, that means UK Switch subscribers could actually end up paying £5 more than they might need to if they don’t pick up the Expansion Pack.
Show me your moves
Of course, the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass isn’t the only perk of subscribing to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. To my surprise, Nintendo has steadily added more N64 and Sega Genesis titles to the service, instead of drip-feeding games at its usual glacial pace. Paper Mario and Banjo-Kazooie have already arrived, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is coming to the N64 library this month. On Sega Genesis, we saw the additions of Altered Beast, ToeJam & Earl, Dynamite Headdy, Sword of Vermillion, and Thunder Force II. Not a bad start, and efforts from dataminers show that many more titles are likely on the way.
But that’s not all: the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack also includes free access to the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise DLC. That means DLC for the two best-selling Switch games now resides on Nintendo’s premium subscription service, and again, Happy Home Paradise costs $24.99 / £22.49, 50% the price of a 12-month subscription to the Expansion Pack.
That’s a huge audience that Nintendo can tap into, many of whom will no doubt find the prospect of racing on brand new tracks and playing a whole new Animal Crossing expansion incredibly appealing. The N64 and Genesis library of games should always have been the cherry on top of the Expansion Pack service, not the entire cake, and it appears that Nintendo has thankfully realized this.
Nintendo’s plan for the Switch Online Expansion Pack has suddenly become crystal clear, then. It can no longer be viewed as just a paywall that cordons off classic titles. Instead, it has the potential to be a service that houses DLC for all the best Nintendo Switch games, titles that many of us are still playing today.
It’s time to play online
However, if Nintendo’s recent Direct showcase taught us anything, it’s that the company is also taking online play extremely seriously (at long last). Yes, the Switch will fundamentally never be able to deliver the type of social experience that PS5 and Xbox Series X can with party chats, instant messaging, and sharing content. But we’re seeing a positive trend of Switch titles implementing online play in a notable way, rather than as an afterthought.
In 2022 alone, we’ll see Splatoon 3, Mario Strikers Battle League, Nintendo Switch Sports, Advance Wars 1 + 2 Re-boot Camp, No Man’s Sky, Disney Speedstorm, SD Gundam Battle Alliance, MLB: The Show 22, Portal 2, and many more all include online multiplayer, which is rather unprecedented to see on a Nintendo console. Especially as not even three years ago, we were lamenting the omission of online multiplayer in Super Mario Party, which at the time should have been a given.
It’s clear that Nintendo is not only focusing on making its Switch Online Expansion Pack service a tantalizing proposition but that it also wants to ensure more people are playing online in general.
Expand your possibilities
The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack was initially criticized for being too expensive and for not offering enough content, a complaint that was absolutely fair at the time. The jump from $19.99 / £17.99 / AU$29.95 for a 12-month subscription to $49.99 / £34.99 / AU$59.95 just to access N64 and Sega Genesis game was ridiculous, honestly, but now it seems like a really good deal that only promises to get better.
If Nintendo continues to put delectable DLC onto the Expansion Pack, the value proposition will only grow more apparent. Perhaps it could, eventually, put the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC on there, or whatever downloadable content comes to Splatoon 3? Either way, Nintendo’s using the power of its excellent IPs to drive subscribers to its online services instead of banking on people’s rose-tinted glasses and nostalgia. And that’s exactly how it should be.
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