Nintendo fans have had it good for a long, long time. Unlike Xbox and PlayStation owners, they’ve never had to pay to play their games online. This free period, like all good things, has come to an end. With the launch of Nintendo Switch Online–which is now live with the 6.0 system update–Nintendo has begun charging for online play, although there is a free seven-day trial available to sample it first.
As with Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus, anyone who wants to get the most out of their Switch will all but have to subscribe. (Note: this doesn’t affect Wii U or Nintendo 3DS owners; online service for those systems will remain free). And while it’s not ideal having to pay for something you used to get for nothing, you won’t have much of a choice.
- Buy a Nintendo Switch
- Pre-order a Nintendo Switch Online subscription
- Shop Nintendo Switch games
Here’s a look at everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online.
First, some good news: Nintendo Switch Online costs significantly less than the competition. While you have to pay $60 for a year’s subscription to Sony and Microsoft’s services, Nintendo only charges $20. You can order a subscription here. Here’s the breakdown of pricing for a single account holder.
- One month — $4
- Three months — $8
- One year — $20
If you have multiple people in your house who want their own accounts, you’ll need to spring for the family plan. It costs $35 per year and allows up to eight people to play online.
Now let’s take a look at what you get for your money.
With Nintendo Switch live, you won’t be able to play games like Mario Tennis Aces, Splatoon 2, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online without a subscription. The same goes for third-party games like the upcoming port of Diablo 3: The Eternal Collection.
If you look at the Eshop page for online first-party games like Mario Tennis Aces, you’ll see Nintendo has added a disclaimer warning that online play will require a subscription. Free games like Fortnite don’t have the disclaimer and can continued to be played online for free.
Nintendo Switch Online App
Some games, like Fortnite, have voice chat built in. Unfortunately, many games–including Nintendo’s first-party titles–don’t. And while voice chat is a standard built-in feature for PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live, that’s not the case with Nintendo Switch Online.
This feature is already in place, but to talk with other players while playing online, you need to download the Nintendo Switch Online app (you can grab it here: iOS, Android). Yes, you’ll need two separate devices to play and talk to people online.
Save Data Cloud Backup
If you were to lose your Nintendo Switch and buy a new one, all of your save data would be gone forever. But with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, most of your save data is backed up on Nintendo’s servers.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and cool breezes when it comes to Nintendo’s cloud saves. Some games don’t support online save data, and if you let your subscription lapse, you could lose your saves.
Access to Classic NES Games
PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold subscribers get free games each month they can download and play on their respective systems. Nintendo Switch Online subscribers will get a similar benefit, but with much older games.
When Nintendo Switch Online launches, subscribers will get access to a selection of 20 classic NES titles. The games will also have added online play, so you won’t need your second player to be in the same room with you. Here’s the launch lineup of NES games:
- Balloon Fight
- Donkey Kong
- Double Dragon
- Dr. Mario
- Ghosts ‘n Goblins
- Ice Climber
- Ice Hockey
- The Legend of Zelda
- Mario Bros.
- Pro Wrestling
- River City Ransom
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Tecmo Bowl
Nintendo has also announced what games are coming to the service through the end of the year. In October, we’ll get Solomon’s Key, NES Open, and Super Dodge Ball. November will bring Metroid, Mighty Bomb Jack, and Twinbee. In December, Nintendo will add Wario’s Woods, Ninja Gaiden, and Adventures of Lolo.
Nintendo will also offer exclusive special deals and offers to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. So far, the company has detailed two of these offers. One is a download code for exclusive in-game Splatoon 2 gear that will be available for anyone with a 12-month membership. The other is the ability to purchase the Switch-compatible NES controllers seen above.
That’s all we know so far about Nintendo Switch Online. Presumably, more information will be available as the release date nears.
Some links to supporting retailers are automatically made into affiliate links, and GameSpot may receive a small share of those sales.