Paying to play console games online isn’t a new concept — Sony and Microsoft have made this a requirement on their respective PlayStation and Xbox systems for years now.
However, Nintendo Switch Online — Nintendo’s answer to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold — marks the Japanese gaming giant’s first foray into offering online game services at a premium.
The long-teased service is coming soon, too — on Tuesday, September 18th, to be exact.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online in Canada.
As the name suggests, this service will allow you to play Nintendo Switch games online. Since the Switch launched in March 2017, Nintendo has offered a trial period of sorts to allow Switch owners to play games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 online. Going forward, though, you’ll need to Switch Online membership to access online features in most games. Some titles, like Epic Games’ ever-popular Fortnite, can be played online without a Switch Online membership.
It’s important to note that the Switch itself does not natively support voice chat functionality. Instead, Nintendo is offering this feature in a companion ‘Switch Online’ Android and iOS app. With your mobile device, you’ll be able to use headphones or a Bluetooth headset to communicate with other players in online game matches. Voice chat will continue even if you exit the Switch Online app. The app will also manage game invites.
Finally, the Switch Online app is set to offer game-specific features. For example, the app will give you access to Splatnet, a Splatoon 2-centric hub where you can view your game stats, check out upcoming game stages and more.
Presumably, Nintendo will offer similar features for other multiplayer-centric titles, like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, although Splatoon 2 is only supported title at the moment.
One of the key features of PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold is their monthly offerings of free games. Switch Online will offer a similar feature, albeit one with a more retro flair to it. Every month, Switch Online subscribers will be able to download original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games at no additional cost.
Further, each of these games will feature some sort of newly added online functionality. For example, the original Mario Bros. game will let you play co-op with a friend online for the first time ever.
At launch, there will be 20 NES titles to play through Switch Online:
- Donkey Kong
- Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Balloon Fight
- Ice Climber
- Dr. Mario
- The Legend of Zelda
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Double Dragon
- River City Ransom
- Ghosts’n Goblins
- Tecmo Bowl
- Pro Wrestling
- Ice Hockey
The following titles are also slated to come to the service over the next few months:
October — Solomon’s Key, NES Open Tournament Golf and Super Dodge Ball
November — Metroid, Mighty Bomb Jack and TwinBee
December — Wario’s Woods, Ninja Gaiden and Adventures of Lolo
Nintendo hasn’t revealed any of the 2019 games yet, but it promises that new titles will be added the service “regularly.” Given that Virtual Console — Nintendo’s line of downloadable classic games — isn’t set to come to the Switch, the Switch Online service is the next closest thing.
Once your Switch Online subscription ends, you’ll lose access to your NES games. Further, Nintendo says you’ll need to connect your Switch to the internet at least once every seven days to keep the NES games saved on your system.
For a while now, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers have been able to use external storage devices to back up their games. Moreover, all Xbox One owners and PS Plus subscribers can upload save files to the cloud for further peace of mind.
Backing up game saves on the Switch has been more difficult, however, given that the system uses a micro SD card. In some cases, fans have even lost their many hours put into the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey once their Switch became defective.
I sent my Switch to @NintendoAmerica for repairs (it stopped connecting to the dock) hoping they'd do a system transfer to a new Switch for me.
Instead, they lost ALL of my save data for my dozens of Switch games (Zelda, Mario etc)
Nintendo, you NEED a cloud save system ??? pic.twitter.com/HmcMq29s7u
— Brian Altano (@agentbizzle) February 2, 2018
Thankfully, the Switch Online’s Save Data Cloud feature allows you to automatically back up game saves to the cloud whenever an internet connection is available. Because save data is linked to your Nintendo Account, you’ll be able to access your cloud saves simply be signing into another Switch and downloading them to the console.
While Nintendo says “the majority” of Switch games will support cloud saves, there are a number of titles that will not, including Splatoon 2, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eeeve! and Dark Souls Remastered. Nintendo told Game Informer this was to ensure “fair play” and prevent players from doing things like “regain items that had been traded to other players, or revert to a higher online multiplayer ranking that had been lost.”
The Nintendo Switch Online FAQ portal originally stated that cloud data cannot be retained once a Switch Online membership expires. However, Nintendo has since clarified that users will have up to 180 days after their membership ends to resubscribed and access their previous cloud saves.
Further, Nintendo has confirmed it will lock Switch user profiles to Nintendo Accounts in the upcoming 6.0.0 system update that coincides with the launch of Switch Online. Therefore, Nintendo advises that all users verify the correct profiles (particularly in families with parent and children accounts) are linked to the appropriate Nintendo Accounts.
Nintendo has promised a variety of Switch Online-exclusive product offers will be available over time. Currently, this includes the ability to purchase retro controllers for the NES games offered through the service, as well as an in-game Splatoon 2 outfit.
Nintendo says more exclusive offers will be revealed in the future.
Each Switch owner can take advantage of a free Switch Online seven-day trial, after which you’ll have to pay for one of the following options:
- One month (single account) — $4.99 CAD
- Three months (single account) — $9.99
- Twelve months (single account) — $24.99
- Twelve months family membership (supports eight Nintendo accounts) — $44.99
For comparison, annual memberships of PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold cost $69.99, although it’s worth noting that those services offer more recent games for free, rather than titles from the ’80s and ’90s.
You’ll be able to buy a Switch Online membership in the Nintendo eShop on the Switch or on Nintendo.com.
Alternatively, you’ll also be able to spend My Nintendo Gold Points on a Switch Online membership. The My Nintendo program, which is free to sign up for, allows you to earn Gold Points by using apps and buying select digital games. These points can normally be redeemed for rewards like discounts on downloadable games and in-game content, but now, you’ll be able to put them towards Switch Online memberships as well.
Since the portal to purchase the Switch Online is not yet live, it’s unclear exactly how many Gold Points you’ll need for a membership. However, based on how Points are distributed, you can have an idea of how many you’d have to spend. With the program, five percent of the purchase price on eligible digital purchases and one percent of physical purchases get converted into Gold Points. Given that information, you would have enough to buy a one-month subscription after purchasing a regular $79.99 game (which would give you 400 Gold Points, equivalent to $4) in addition to a smaller title.
The eShop will be down for maintenance on September 18th from 5pm to 8pm PT/8pm to 11am ET to prepare for the 6.0.0 system update. Nintendo will announce on social media once maintenance is complete, at which time a Switch Online membership will be available for purchase.
Will you sign up for a Switch Online membership at launch, or are you happy to stick to single-player games for the time being? Let us know in the comments.