After months of speculation, Nintendo has finally detailed the paid online service that is coming to their Switch console. It was first announced during the Switch premiere in January that Nintendo would soon require a paid subscription for their online games. They were going to be emulating the PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold model, and offer some free games every month to subscribers. We now have specific details of what Nintendo's service will offer.
The Nintendo Switch Online service won't come into effect until 2018, which means that you can enjoy Mario Kart 8, ARMS, and Splatoon 2 for free until the end of the year. There will be three payment options for the service: one month will cost $3.99, three months will cost $7.99, and a year will cost $19.99. The European prices have not been adjusted, so it will cost €3.99, €7.99, and €19.99 for people outside of America. For those prices, you will be able to play Nintendo Switch games online and have access to their needlessly complex voice chat app. You will also receive access to exclusive Nintendo eShop discounts and sales.
Those who subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online will also receive access to the Classic Game Selection. These are classic Nintendo Entertainment System games, that will have added online functionality. So far, the three games confirmed to appear on the service are Balloon Fight, Dr. Mario, and Super Mario Bros. 3. The original announcement for the online service said that the free games given out as part of the service were only temporary and could only be used for a month at a time. This restriction seems to have been lifted, as there is no mention of specific time frames in the update.
If you don't want to subscribe to the service, then you will still have limited access to the Switch's online functionality. Everyone will still be able to access the eShop, they can post screenshots to social media, and add friends online.
This announcement is a huge boon for Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch Online service is a third of the price of its competitors and its cost is less than the price of outright buying the retro games on the eShop. Having a service charge should finally push Nintendo into improving their online functionality so that it rivals PSN & Xbox Live. The Classic Game Selection has the potential to offer improved versions of incredible games, rather than the indie schlock that gets shoveled onto PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold every month. Nintendo has the potential to create the Netflix of video games with their vast library of amazing retro titles.
There is one question that consumers will have to ask themselves before signing up for this service: will the Nintendo Switch have enough online games to justify a subscription cost? Nintendo needs to use the upcoming E3 show to give us enough reasons to hand over our cash.