Nintendo’s online service for the Switch is finally official. Launching later this year for $20 a year, Nintendo Switch Online will let you play games online, access classic Nintendo games and exclusive discounts, and chat with your friends in-game (well, if you have a special smartphone app).
It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than what Sony and Microsoft offer, but is it worth the money? Let’s dive in.
Nintendo Switch Online costs $4 per month, $8 for 3 months, or $20 for a full year. You can also get a 12-month family membership for $34.99, which allows up to eight different users to access Switch Online, even if they’re on different Switch consoles.
Switch Online is currently slated to launch in September 2018.
Photo: Shaun Lucas / Tom’s Guide
You’ll also need Switch Online to chat with your Switch pals online… using a separate mobile app. An early version of the app is currently available for use with Splatoon 2, and it’s much more cumbersome than being able to simply chat with friends right from your PS4 or Xbox One. Here’s hoping things get smoothed out by the time the paid version of the service hits in September.
Additionally, Nintendo Switch Online will finally bring cloud saves to the Switch, allowing you to back your saves up online “for most Nintendo Switch games,” according to Nintendo. That could come in handy if you break your Switch, or decide to buy a second one.
Switch Online will also get you exclusive discounts, similar to what you’d see on Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus. Oh yeah, and there’s one more big thing…
Switch Online will also get you access to a compilation of classic NES games dubbed “NES – Nintendo Switch Online” (yes, that’s the actual name). The service will include 20 games at launch, with more to be added over time. These retro titles will feature online functionality, including competitive and co-op play as well as the ability to virtually “pass the controller” to an online friend.
Here are the 10 confirmed titles so far:
While the full Nintendo Switch Online service won’t roll out until this fall, the free Switch Online mobile app launched on July 21 alongside Splatoon 2. The app lets you view stats and set up matches for Nintendo’s upcoming multiplayer shooter, as well as voice chat with friends mid-battle.
Our first experiences with the app showed that it has a lot of room for improvement, as its chat functionality refused to work in the background, unlike just about most smartphone communication apps on the market. Fortunately, Nintendo fixed this problem in a Sept. 12 update, but the app is still limited to supporting only Splatoon 2, where it only supports private matches.
Considering we haven’t gotten to try most of the the service for ourselves yet, that’s hard to say. On one hand, $20 a year seems like a fair asking price for online gaming, especially considering that both Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus will run you $60 annually. However, those two services offer lots of extra perks, including a healthy selection of free games every month that run the gamut from brand new indies to recent triple-A hits.
Personally, my biggest gripe with Switch Online is that voice chat is tied to a separate mobile app. The fact that you have to pay for this privilege is kind of insane, especially since you don’t even need a premium membership to chat with your PS4 or Xbox One pals right from your console. Still, Switch Online’s library of NES games is very solid, and the cloud saves alone could make it worth $20 a year. We’ll know for sure how well Switch Online stacks up come September.