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Nintendo boss explains why Switch's online services were delayed

“When we launch something, we want it to be great. “

Nintendo Switch - blue and red Joy-Cons in Joy-Con Grip James Bareham/Vox Media
Chelsea Stark (she/her), executive editor, has been covering video games for more than a decade.

When the Nintendo Switch was announced in January, many were quick to ask about its online features — or lack thereof (including here at Polygon). It’s no secret that Nintendo consoles have lagged behind other companies in online features, and Switch was missing a few key things at launch: voice chat, cloud saves and entertainment services, to name a few.

Nintendo originally promised that online was coming this fall for the Switch, several months after its March 3 launch, but that was pushed until 2018. Polygon spoke to Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime to ask him the reasoning behind the delay.

“As Nintendo looks at the overall online digital experience there's a recognition that there's a lot of work to be world class,” Fils-Aime said. “And we pride ourselves ... We believe our IP is world class. We believe that when we create a piece of hardware it's world class. We need to get our digital environment world class. And that's what we're working hard to do. “

There are features that Nintendo is specifically prioritizing, Fils-Aime said, that he knows consumers expect. Those include voice chat, but also entertainment services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which he said Nintendo “recognizes are important for a device you can take with you.”

“As we were proceeding along development, there were things we wanted to do with Nintendo Switch online that extended the development time,” Fils-Aime said. “When you look at the products [from Nintendo] that have been delayed, typically it's worth the wait. Breath of the Wild is a great example.”

That also includes Virtual Console, Fils-Aime said, something that has been completely absent from the Switch despite its success on the Wii and Wii U. While Nintendo has mentioned the Classic Game Selection, a feature bundled with the online service that will give fans a free, classic Nintendo title with new online multiplayer, the ability to buy and purchase old games has been absent from the discussion.

“We wanted to make sure that it is a robust, well-executed online environment, and for the $20 annual subscription fee, the consumer says, 'This is a no-brainer. I want to participate. I'm all in.’”

We should find out if that’s true in 2018.

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