For the first time ever, Nintendo is going to join Sony and Microsoft in making a paid subscription service mandatory for online games. The service, called Nintendo Switch Online, launches on September 18th and will change the way Switch owners use their system with the internet.
For one, games like Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that have had free online play up until now will lock that feature behind the subscription paywall. To soften the blow, Nintendo is offering perks like free classic games in the new service. Will these perks be enough to justify Nintendo's sudden shift in online policy? Read this comprehensive guide to Nintendo Switch Online so you can decide.
How Much Will It Cost?
Let's get one of the burning questions out of the way first. Nintendo Switch Online will offer four membership plans.
1 Month for One Person: $3.99
3 Months for One Person: $7.99
12 Months for One Person: $12.99
12 Months for Two to Eight People, the "Family Membership": $34.99
There will be a seven-day free trial when you first sign up. The official Nintendo website confirms that the Family Membership doesn't actually require the account holders to be related. That means you can get a group of Switch-owning friends to chip in for this plan together and get a year's subscription for under $5.
How Will This Affect My Gaming?
Almost all games that have online multiplayer will require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to use that feature. The Nintendo Direct trailer used already released games like Splatoon 2 and ARMS, as well as upcoming titles like Super Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, as examples. Both four-player and eight-player sessions were shown.
The only games that seem to be exempt from subscription requirement are free-to-play games like Fortnite and the upcoming MOBA Arena of Valor. At least that's what Arena of Valor's developer said in a recent interview.
Is There Virtual Console?
No, at least not in the way it was done before. The only classic games available via the service will be NES games. There will be 20 ready to play as soon as the service launches, with "new games added regularly." Titles include famous games like Donkey Kong and Balloon Fight, as well as lesser known ones like TwinBee and Wario's Wood's.
It doesn't seem as though you'll be able to download these games onto your Switch, rather that they'll all be made available from a Netflix-like menu. According to Eurogamer, you can play NES games without an internet connection, but you must connect at least once a week to retain your access to them.
The NES games support both local and online multiplayer. One unique feature of online play is that when you're not playing you can display a hand icon on the screen to guide or congratulate the other player. Or mess with them...
Do We Finally Get Cloud Saves?
Yes! Nintendo promises that the cloud saves, only available with a Nintendo Switch Online membership, will be easy and automatic. Your save data will be linked to your account, so you can access it simply by signing in on a new Switch.
There is one catch: not all games will support cloud saves. Splatoon 2 and Pokémon Let's Go have already been confirmed to not allow cloud saving. To see if a game you plan on purchasing supports cloud saves, you'll have to check its packaging or eShop page.
How Does Voice Chat Work?
Most games, particularly Nintendo-published ones, will do voice chat through a separate smartphone app.
The Nintendo Switch Online app actually already exists on both iTunes and the Google Play Store. Splatoon 2 players have even been using it for voice chat for a while now. Future games that will work with the app include Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Mario Tennis Aces, and the NES games.
Some games will get additional functions in the app. The only example we have right now is Splatoon 2's Splatnet 2. It lets players review match stats and acquire gear on their smartphones while the game is being played.
What Perks will members get?
There was a tease for "Special Offers" for subscribers in the Nintendo Direct, though no details were given. The Nintendo website shows two of these offers. The first is a pair of controllers that are shaped exactly like the original NES controllers. They come in pairs, are compatible with the NES games on Switch, and have rechargeable batteries. They're considered a special offer because only subscribers can purchase them. They run for $59.99 and will ship in mid-December.
Another, smaller perk comes in the form of free Splatoon 2 gear. Members who purchase the 12-month or family plan will get an exclusive download code for special in-game gear. The items are a Switch-themed jersey and matching sneakers, and will be given to subscribers in October.
Other perks are sure to come, but these two give us a peek into the kind of content Nintendo plans to offer its subscribers.
So what do you think? Is this enough to entice you to sign up for Nintendo's first subscription service? Or do you think we're being charged too much to play Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. online? Before you decide, at least give the free seven-day trial a shot. Nintendo got the Switch right, so it deserves the benefit of the doubt on this new experiment.