I already know what hell I’m going to have for putting “Nintendo” and “live service” in the same sentence, but hear me out: Nintendo’s online games would be so much better if they had longer-term support. . I’m sick of investing myself in multiplayer games like Splatoon 2, Pokken, and Arms, only to have them quickly abandoned and lose any chance of growing a strong, loyal community. I view online gaming as an investment of my time and money, and wish Nintendo would provide better long-term returns.
When I say “live service” people often think of either free-to-play games, heavy microtransactions that emphasize quantity over quality, or some misguided, company-driven design to take advantage of the latest gaming trends. . There’s no reason to take the worst examples of live service and paint the entire industry with the same brush. For every Clash of Clans or Marvel’s Avengers, there’s Apex Legends, Destiny 2, Fortnite, and Final Fantasy 14. These games have all grown over the years, both in terms of content and the size of their communities. With Nintendo games, the best time to play is usually the day they are released. Without further development, Nintendo ends up letting most of its games die on the vine.
Splatoon is probably the best example of a series that would thrive with a live-service model. Splatoon 2 seemed like a necessary sequel given that the first Splatoon was on the Wii U, but why do we need Splatoon 3 instead of continued support for Splatoon 2? It had a decent live service release schedule for the first two years with new weapons, map rotations, and Splatfest events, but it suddenly came to a halt. The Octo expansion was a single-player campaign that only offered new character options in multiplayer when it should have been a whole new season for multiplayer as well. As excited as I am for Splatoon 3, this would be so much better as a paid update for Splatoon 2. I feel burned knowing that Splatoon 2 will completely die as soon as Splatoon 3 is released, and I’m hesitant to jump into Splatoon 3 knowing that it will only receive a little support before Nintendo leaves it in the dust as well.
Nintendo clearly understands the importance of long-term support for its games. That’s why we’re getting a pass for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe after five years instead of Mario Kart 9. Nintendo doesn’t want to split the player base (or sales) between two different versions of the game when ‘he can just develop more content for the game that everyone is already playing. This is the philosophy he should bring to all of his online titles.
The obvious argument against this is that Nintendo will make money selling new games instead of developing content for a game no one plays anymore. While this is true, it is also shortsighted. The reason people drop out of Splatoon 2, Pokken, or Arms is because there’s no new content to keep them engaged. It becomes a viscous and inescapable cycle. Super Mario Party disappoints players because it has limited features, but instead of making Super Mario Part a more valuable game, here comes Mario Party Superstars. Mario Party Superstars hasn’t received a single update since its launch in October. Will Nintendo make Superstars a better game or release another Mario Party in a few years? The story says the latter, but I hope to see more of the former.
When you treat each game as an ever-growing platform, it tells players that it’s safe to invest their time in it. Nintendo games are extremely laid-back and family-friendly, but that doesn’t mean they have to sit on the shelf until your cousins come over for Thanksgiving. Splatoon, Arms, Pokken, Mario Tennis Aces, Mario Golf: Super Rush, Mario Maker 2, Mario Kart, and upcoming Mario Strikers all have the potential to be hobby games that people will continue to play for years to come. In reality, they’re all good for a weekend or two before you put them back in the case and never think about them again.
I’ll even take it a step further and include games that are primarily focused on single-player campaigns. The New Pokemon Snap update which added three new courses was a nice surprise, but I’d like consistent map pack releases, as was the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC. Imagine if Super Mario 3D World got a new class every other Friday that the whole community could play and talk about the same way we link on Wordle. I’d be so much more willing to try out games like WarioWare: Get it Together if I knew it would receive occasional updates and be part of the conversation again.
The live service won’t be the best for every type of game. Metroid Dread and Breath of the Wild are comprehensive packages that will benefit much more from sequels than from incremental content updates spread over many years. But too often, Nintendo releases games and quickly moves on, leaving behind any potential for long-term success. It shouldn’t take five years and 40 million sales of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to secure DLC – DLC and post-launch support should be part of almost every Nintendo game’s development plan.
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