When the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack tier was announced last fall, there was a lot of discussion around what it might cost, with that discussion turning into discourse once the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack price was officially announced. Many players just couldn't justify more than doubling the price of their current subscription for a handful of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, but Nintendo sweetened the deal by folding their new Animal Crossing Happy Home Paradise DLC into the package at no additional cost. This raised the question of if this was a one-time addition, or would Nintendo continue to add DLC for their most popular games to the service. With the most recent Nintendo Direct, that question has been answered, as Nintendo appears to be on the right track by adding the new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC courses at no additional cost to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.
48 Courses at a $25 Value for NSO Subscribers
Though it may be disappointing that we're not getting Mario Kart 9 anytime soon, the fact that Nintendo is launching 48 additional courses for an eight-year-old game is both surprising and somehow makes so much sense. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the single best-selling Nintendo Switch game at over 40 million units sold, and it's the best-selling Mario Kart game of all time. The install base is massive, and if Nintendo is putting their focus on gaining even more Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, Mario Kart 8 is the right track to be on. This is a game that appeals to nearly every demographic, from casual Nintendo fans to longtime players of their longest franchises. For many, the $25 price point will be enticing, but what will be even more tempting is becoming a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscriber.
As of September 2021, Nintendo Switch Online has a little over 30 million subscribers. It's unclear how many of those have upgraded to the Expansion Pack tier, but growing this subscriber base is something the Japanese gaming company will surely put a larger focus on as we get further into 2022. Rumors of a Game Boy and Game Boy Advance tier have been circulating for months, as well as calls to continue adding NES and SNES games to round out their library. To increase the value of this service and gain even more subscribers, Nintendo needs to bundle in additional content for gamers, which is why choosing to add the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC tracks to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is both a brilliant move from a business perspective while also benefiting gamers.
To keep the relevance of their online subscription intact, Nintendo will need to continue growing their services and add even more value to their most popular games. The Mario Kart 8 DLC announcement isn't just exciting for Mario Kart 8 fans, but it officially starts a trend of something we might see going forward with future titles. This will make the decision to adopt a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription that much more enticing for many of the 100 million+ Nintendo Switch owners out there.
What Other Games Could Get DLC Added to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack?
Currently, Mario Kart 8 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons are the two top-selling Nintendo Switch games as of the end of last year. The other games that occupy the best-seller list in order include Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Pokemon Sword and Shield, and Super Mario Odyssey. With the 2022 Nintendo game lineup including anticipated titles like Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3, the sequel to Breath of the Wild, and even the most recent surprise of Nintendo Switch Sports, the company has a lot of leverage to work with when considering adding DLC and additional features to the Nintendo Switch Online tier.
Shortly after launch, Breath of the Wild got two great DLC packs that added both cosmetic items as well as additional story quests. It's likely that the Breath of the Wild sequel will also have some form of DLC down the line, and I predict that these downloadable packages will be added to the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack tier. Likewise, Splatoon 2 got the amazing Octoexpansion DLC, which added 80 playable levels in a single-player campaign where you got to play as an Octoling. If Splatoon 3 is going to follow in its predecessor's footsteps, I anticipate within a year of launch we'll see additional support for that game. Plus, given the popularity of Pokemon Legends: Arceus, I wouldn't rule out additional content coming out for this title, either. There is a lot of potential for Nintendo to hit it big with ongoing support for their most popular franchises, and it's looking like if they stick on their current track, the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack tier could be one of the best values ever put out by the company.
Should I Get Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack?
Admittedly, the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack tier has been slow to really get off the ground in terms of value. It offers a handful of excellent Nintendo 64 games, plus WinBack, but the poor emulation has been criticized. Nintendo has released some patches to fix some of these issues, but it is still very difficult and uncomfortable to play these titles with Joy-Cons, making it a necessity to purchase their proprietary Nintendo 64 controller for Switch. This was definitely intentional, but it would be easier to stomach if you could actually order the controllers, as they've been sold out essentially since launch.
I'm a big proponent of buying content when you know exactly what you're getting and not the implied promise of content later. I collect amiibo, but I never know exactly what kind of value the amiibo will offer in terms of in-game functionality, as it could work with a video game released years after the fact and unlock an amazing item, feature, or game mode. But I have no way of knowing that when I purchase it at launch. I get it anyway because I like the figure. Any in-game functionality is a bonus to me. You take a similar gamble if you're not already sold on Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. If you're going to pay the $25 anyways for the Mario Kart 8 DLC courses and have even a passing interest in any of the games currently available on the service, I say go for it and become a subscriber, especially if you want to play online and don't already have a base NSO subscription. If all you play is Mario Kart and you have no intention of picking up any other game, then pay your one-time fee and have a blast racing.
As for the future of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, it's unlikely they'll stop supporting the service with additional DLC. In a way, this is their answer to competing services like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus, the latter of which will also be getting an overhaul later this year. The future belongs to games, not consoles, and Nintendo first-party titles are where the company has always excelled. We're five years into the Switch lifecycle, the console just surpassed the Wii as their best-selling home console, and it's not showing any sign of slowing down. With the Mario Kart 8 DLC inclusion, Nintendo shows they're on the right track with their subscription services -- let's just hope they don't get blue-shelled at the finish line.