Nintendo Switch Online—the online service for Nintendo Switch that Nintendo has been hyping up since the console’s release—finally launched on September 18th, 2018. So what do subscribers get for signing up for Nintendo’s first ever online service? Well, right now, unfortunately, not a whole lot. Currently, there are three ways to pay for a single Nintendo Switch Online subscription,—$3.99 for one month, $7.99 for three months, and $19.99 for a year—, with a fourth option reserved for the family plan at $34.99 for one year of service, which is a requirement for Switch consoles with multiple user accounts. Nintendo Switch Online allows players to continue playing all of their favorite Nintendo titles online. Certain games, like Fortnite, will not require a paid subscription for online play. The service launched with 20 NES games all updated with save states and the ability to suspend gameplay at any time. Some of these NES titles, like Dr. Mario, also include online multiplayer for the first time ever. However, online play for these titles does not support online chat via the Nintendo Switch Online App and it appears that you can only invite friends to play these games with you online; there is no matchmaking of any kind to connect you with random strangers.
Nintendo has promised to release three new NES games every month starting in October with Solomon’s Key, NES Open Tournament Golf, and Super Dodge Ball. It remains to be seen if Nintendo plans to add SNES, or even N64, Gamecube, or any of their past handheld titles in the future. If previous Virtual Consoles are any indication, the best we will get is SNES support added within the next 6 months before the service is forgotten about. I hope I am wrong, though, and that Nintendo will use Nintendo Switch Online as an outlet to provide players with the Virtual Console experience they’ve always wanted: an ever growing and expanding library of classic Nintendo titles across all of the company’s past platforms including N64, Gamecube, and Nintendo Wii.
What will likely rub many people the wrong way right now is that a paid subscription is required for the Nintendo Switch Online app which was once free. Currently, the app still only supports voice chat for a handful of Nintendo titles including Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and the special features integrated into the app for certain titles only offer support for Splatoon 2.
The most appealing feature so far that has everyone willing to fork over the monthly or yearly asking price is Cloud Saves. Luckily, My Nintendo Gold Points can be used to purchase Nintendo Switch Online, although they cannot be used for auto-renewal. However, as per Nintendo’s FAQ, Cloud Saves cannot be kept if a subscription lapses. As originally revealed during the Nintendo Direct on September 13th, Nintendo Switch Online will also come with exclusive discounts and promotional offers for subscribers, and so far these promotional offers appear to be like the physical rewards and offers that were available through Nintendo.com before it changed to My Nintendo prior to the Switch launch.
The first of these offers that will be available to subscribers is the set of Nintendo Entertainment System Joy-Con controllers. While these things are nifty in that they look like classic NES controllers, they are really only useful in playing local multiplayer for the NES titles, as there is no analog stick like on standard Joy-Cons, no share button, and no NFC scanning option for amiibo support. This makes the $59.99 asking price for these controllers a little hard to swallow since there is such a limited pool of games to use them with. Also, this deal is only available to those with an active paid subscription to Nintendo Switch Online.
While the service’s price point is sweet—who can really complain about a measly $3.99 a month or $20 a year for the service? I can only recommend Nintendo Switch Online in its current state to players who are already playing Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Mario Kart 8 regularly as these games now require the service for online play. While the NES games on offer are cool, especially with added online multiplayer, I see them more as a novelty since there aren’t really any titles that are “Must-Haves” for me with the exception of Dr. Mario. If Nintendo drops support for this service early, like they have done with the Virtual Console services in the past then nothing will compel people to jump on board with this service. If however, Nintendo continues to actively add three or more NES games per month and refines and enhances online chat and the online app features, I could see the service being successful within about a year’s time. As it stands now, though, I would say to save your money and see what happens with the service before jumping in, unless you just can’t live without Splatoon 2 and Cloud Saves.