Switch multiplayer: Nintendo releases details of its $20-per-year online service

Since the Nintendo Switch launched, online play has been free, but naturally limited by the number of games available. Nintendo has long been threatening to introduce a fee for online, and many fans were a little ware of this – and for good reason. And much as I enjoy playing Mario Kart online, just being able to say “I am using motion controls” from a drop-down of pre-prepared, family-friendly phrases seemed like pretty weak online integration to be paying for on a monthly basis.

Switch multiplayer: Nintendo releases details of its $20-per-year online service

Well, Nintendo has revealed a bit more on the service it hopes you’ll be paying for from this September. Called Nintendo Switch Online (you have to assume the repeated delays weren’t from brainstorming names, then), the service costs $3.99 (~£3) per month, or $19.99 (~£15) per year, which is pleasingly competitive with Xbox Live or PSN Plus – especially when you consider that there’s a $34.99 (~£26) per year family membership which covers eight accounts.

Although it’s important not to be too generous here – although that is indeed considerably cheaper than Sony and Microsoft’s offering, the benefits are nowhere near as good, as things stand. Yes, like PS Plus and Xbox Live you get free games, but if you thought Sony and Microsoft were digging deep into the bargain bin for their free games, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Nintendo is starting with 20 games at launch, and they’re all from the NES era, so over 30 years old. Not that they’re bad as such, it’s just that perhaps getting the five-year-old Rayman Legends this month wasn’t such a raw deal with hindsight. In contrast, Nintendo has currently announced ten of the titles, with more to follow:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Donkey Kong
  • Dr. Mario
  • Ice Climber
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Mario Bros.
  • Soccer
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Tennis

Now these aren’t quite the same games you played in 1985: Nintendo says they have been modified for online play, letting you compete with others, share your screen or pass the controller. But still, some N64 or GameCube games would be nice. In fact, get Sega to give you the rights to Super Monkey Ball online, and I’ll sign up for life.

Other than the free NES games and the ability to continue playing Mario Kart and Splatoon 2 online? Well, the Nintendo Switch app will continue to let you chat to friends, and there will be special offers for members, but perhaps the most important addition is save data backup.

Hallelujah!

Hard as it is for non-Switch owners to believe, there’s currently no way of getting your Switch saved games off the console. That means that if you brick your console (via a third-party dock, say), then that 150-hour Zelda saved game is gone for good.

That’ll still be the case if you don’t have a Nintendo Switch Online account, of course, but some might consider $3.99 a month a small amount of protection money to ensure their time investment is kept safe and sound.

Nintendo Switch Online launches in September 2018.

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