Nintendo Switch Online has had its fair share of hiccups since releasing worldwide in September 2018. With that being said, a low annual cost and the addition of NES and SNES games were great steps in the right direction toward combating any issues that consumers have had with online connectivity and the less than stellar Nintendo Switch mobile phone app.
Right now, NSO subscribers have access to online play for games like Splatoon 2 and Fortnite, access to a library of NES and SNES games, Cloud storage for save data, use of the smartphone app, and a final category called "special offers." Special offers have been explored in a couple of ways with the release of Tetris 99, the exclusive SNES controller, or Nintendo Game Vouchers. Free monthly games like PS Plus or Xbox Live are pretty unlikely for the time being, but there's one thing that Nintendo did right earlier in the year and something it really should do more of - free game trials.
What is a Nintendo Switch Free Game Trial?
Seemingly out of the blue, Nintendo posted on their official Twitter that all Nintendo Switch Online subscribers would be able to download and play Mario Tennis Aces entirely for free. The free trial lasted for seven days from August 7 - 13 and gave NSO subscribers access to the full game as a download including the Adventure Mode, Tournament, Co-op, Free Play, and the new Swing Mode. Essentially, the trial worked as if the player had purchased the game, only with time-gated access.
Unlike a demo or beta, Nintendo made it so that any progression would carry over if users decided to buy the full game once the trial was over. On top of that, while the free trial was only available to Nintendo Switch Online users, Mario Tennis Aces was also given a 30% discount on the Nintendo Switch eShop from the start of the free trial until August 20th - a full week later.
For a limited time, #NintendoSwitchOnline members can experience the full #MarioTennis Aces game on #NintendoSwitch for free from 8/7 at 10am PT – 8/13 at 11:59pm PT!https://t.co/Yuxlbxs2rx pic.twitter.com/2nvEXH8mYN— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) August 1, 2019
How Could Nintendo Expand on Free Trials?
Plenty of AAA games on the Nintendo Switch eShop have demos available to download and for many of them, progress does carry over. However, demos are very limited vertical slices of the overall experience and they’re not always going to reflect the full game. Offering a limited-time free trial gives NSO users the chance to play as much or as little as they want across any game mode without limitations.
Nintendo Switch Online already offers a library of NES and SNES games that NSO subscribers can play at any time, so it’s unlikely that Nintendo would adopt a system similar to PS Plus or Xbox Live free monthly games. What Nintendo could look at incorporating is monthly or quarterly free game trials with an eShop discount - offer players more chances to try out some of their first-party offerings such as Yoshi’s Crafted World, which released earlier in the year and managed to sell 1.11 million copies. That's a very impressive number but shows player's hesitation to try something new and unfamiliar when compared to Splatoon 2’s 9.02 million.
Other Potential Games
As of June 30, 2019, Nintendo reported that Mario Tennis Aces had sold 2.75 million copies, making it the tenth highest-selling games on the Nintendo Switch. What this indicates is that Nintendo is willing to use its most popular franchises to helps boots sales of both the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Online. Offer a free trial for Super Mario Party, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with progress set to carry over and a discount on the full game is a great incentive for people on the fence to finally subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online.
At the same time, there are plenty of first-party Nintendo games that have sold very well but could still benefit greatly from this kind of attention to either boost sales or get the game in more player hands for a potential sequel in the future. Arms, Hyrule Warriors, Pokken Tournament DX, Kirby Star Allies, and Yoshi’s Crafted World are just a handful of games of where this could have or could still benefit. All of these games have sold between 1-3 million copies, impressive numbers at launch, but they’re nowhere to be found on the sales charts each month like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
For many players, the cost is one of the most significant factors that prevent them from being able to play the vast majority of high-profile AAA games that release each year. Free game trials aren’t going to change the world when it comes to Nintendo Switch Online, but they are a great idea that could benefit both Nintendo and players.
Nintendo Switch Online is currently available for $3.99 per month, $7.99 for 3 months or $19.99 for a 12 Month subscription - much cheaper than what PlayStation and Xbox offer. Nintendo also offers a Family Membership which costs $34.99 for 12 months and can be shared between up to eight Nintendo accounts.