The Nintendo Switch is finally getting a full online service, only 18 months after the hugely success console first launched.
The hybrid Nintendo console functions as both a home gaming device and portable handheld, and has blown all sales forecasts out of the water.
It sold over 10 million units in its first year alone, helped by a strong first-party line-up – two of the most lauded Zelda and Mario games ever made, to start – a number of high-profile AAA ports, and a flourishing ecosystem of indie games.
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That release schedule has slowed somewhat, and Nintendo will be looking to its online service to keep up momentum on the widely successful console. But what exactly will it give players that they don’t have already?
What is it?
Nintendo Switch Online is the – you guessed it – online service for Nintendo Switch owners. Much like Xbox Live or Playstation Plus, signing up to the service affords you a host of additional content, offers, and access to online multiplayer play. There’s also a tie-in smartphone app that provides players with in-game battle stats, voice chat functionality, and additional information on select titles.
Anyone with a Nintendo console will already have a Nintendo Account, which functions as your personal profile for downloading updates or buying games through the eShop.
This is, however, the first time Nintendo’s online service has required a paid subscription to use, so wary players will be looking to see if it matches up with equivalent offerings on competing consoles.
Officially, users must be 13 years old or over to sign up for Nintendo Switch Online.
When does it launch?
After waiting 18 months for a full online service, we now know the service will be launching proper in the second half of September.
While the month was leaked through an Amazon listing back in July, Nintendo has since confirmed the general release window.
What do I get?
That all-important question: what’s in it for you? The sections below will run you through everything likely to tempt you to Nintendo's paid online service.
Fight fight fight
Nintendo Switch Online will finally give you the online capability to play, compete, and cooperate with players around the world.
Online team-based shooters like Splatoon have proved hugely popular on the Switch, though committed players have had to make do with a fiddly workaround for enabling voice chat through the console.
With the latest in Nintendo’s iconic brawler series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, also arriving in November, it’s hoped that the fleshed-out service will prove a capable platform for competitive play – and pave the way for Nintendo’s hesitant foray into eSports.
Where are my classic games, already?
If the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting your favorite video game publisher wasn’t enough, your extra pennies each month will also net you access to a library of classic and retro games.
This isn’t the Virtual Console from the Wii and Wii U, though. Instead of a marketplace for one-off purchases of classic games, Nintendo Switch Online members will be able to play select titles bundled into their subscription.
At launch you’ll get 20 NES games, of which 10 have been announced so far:
- Ice Climber
- The Legend of Zelda
- Balloon Fight
- Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Dr. Mario
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Donkey Kong
There will reportedly be additional online features for cooperative and competitive play, though we envisage the exact specifications will vary between each game.
Save files for all
One sore point for users has been the omission of cloud saves for their games, meaning that a busted Switch console will take all your hard-earned progress with it. To prevent you having to start Breath Of The Wild all over again – again – the paid service will back all of your save files onto Nintendo’s own servers for safety.
We’d really have liked this for everyone, but it does add some more impetus for signing up to the official service.
What am I paying for this?
While the lack of online features at launch didn’t do Nintendo any favours, it helped that players were given access to a limited version of the service for free.
Why this was harder than on any other console isn’t clear, but Nintendo is clearly shaking things up a bit for the Switch.
This all changes when the paid service launches, requiring you to subscribe for a monthly fee.
Individual users will be able to sign up for £3.49 / $3.99 per month, with reduced rates for longer membership options (see box, right). There’s also a separate ‘Family’ option that includes allows up to 8 Nintendo Accounts to use the same subscription, for £31.49 / $34.99.
On price alone Nintendo Switch Online is the winner, though we’ll be waiting until September to see how well it compares to competing services.