Nintendo Switch Online has been rumoured for a long time. We discussed it on our retro gaming podcast last year and predicted a 2018 launch. Certainly in this day and age a console needs an online service as an option. Sony have PlayStation Plus, Microsoft have Xbox Live Gold, even Sega have their Forever program on Mobile. The Wii certainly had an excellent virtual store with all kinds of retro goodness but since then really nothing of note. We theorised that the classic consoles were a fore runner to a Nintendo classic online service. And now finally, there is a release date, an official name and some kind of vague yet firm details about what we can expect.
The service is called Nintendo Switch Online and it launches in September. Key features are online play, a mobile app that will link to your games, voice chat and a classic game selection. The pricing is USD $19.95 per year (around AUD $30) but you can have a rolling monthly subscription for around $5 or three monthly at around $10. Clearly Nintendo are banking on customer purchasing an annual subscription. It makes sense and is much cheaper overall. Although it is not clear whether there are any additional costs involved with the classic library.
The classic library would appear to be a winner on its own. Nintendo have a massive back catalogue and history has shown they are not afraid to use it. There are only three confirmed games as of now, Super Mario Bros 3, Balloon Fight and Dr Mario. The games are described as having online play, which is kind of interesting, but given older games tend to be turn based it is probably just easier to play by yourself. This part of the service is explained to be a downloadable compilation. I would almost think there might be a NES pack, Super Nintendo Pack, and who knows, maybe even an N64 or Gamecube pack. But I would be surprised if they give them away for free.
Of course some might consider the online multiplayer aspect of the service to be its key feature. You could be forgiven for thinking “hey, we can already play online?” which is true. However in Nintendo world, your ability to play online as you are right now is considered to be a free trial. When the new service goes live in September the free online gaming will go the way of the dodo. You will need to subscribe if you want to keep rocking the Luigi death stare online in Mario Kart.
Another aspect of the service is the Nintendo Switch Online app. Initially it will be compatible with Splatoon 2 but they intend to add the functionality to other games in the future. In regards to Splatoon 2, the app will let you visit the stores to buy gears, find out which multiplayer stages are being rotated, get your squad together and manage your invites. The Nintendo Switch Online app will also boast chat functionality both live and text and will automatically activate when the battle starts. The App itself is available now.
Aside from the above features, there will be discounts from the existing online store but there is no word on how much. Nor is there word of any monthly rotation of games like the Sony and Microsoft services. Given the comparatively low annual cost my bet is there won’t be. However the reasonable cost of the subscription will likely insure a high attach rate and a nice influx of cash for Nintendo. There is still plenty of time between now and September for the details of the service to change and hopefully we wont have to wait to long for more specifics.
What features do you think Nintendo should be including?