Nintendo Switch Online: everything you need to know

Nintendo Switch review
Mike Epstein/Digital Trends

With the DS, Wii, 3DS, and Wii U, Nintendo offered online gaming for free. Thus far, this has also been the case with the Switch, but in 2018, Nintendo will introduce its first paid subscription service: Switch Online. Leading up to E3, Nintendo has revealed the service’s release window, pricing scheme, and even some of the free games members can expect to receive if they subscribe to the service. Here is everything we know about Switch Online.

Online on a budget

In contrast to Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus, players will need a Switch Online subscription to play games online once the service launches. This means that any online multiplayer games you were playing before, such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Splatoon 2, will have their online services disabled unless you subscribe to the service. Nintendo’s official site does say that “most” games will require a subscription, so it is possible that certain games may offer their online features to all players.

There is a silver lining: Where PS+ and Xbox Live Gold cost members $60 a year apiece, Switch Online will only cost $20 per year. It will also be available for $4 per month, or $8 every three months.

Pay to talk

In addition to supporting online features, a Switch Online subscription will be required to access voice chat through the console. The Nintendo Switch does not have native voice chat, so users will need to use Nintendo smartphone app in concert with the console to enable group chat.

Headsets will still be available, but they will require you to purchase a splitter device that connects to both the Switch and the user’s phone, which could affect the ability to play with the system when it’s docked. Players will also be able to try the smartphone app in a limited form this summer.

It’s a classic games service, too

A Switch Online membership will also grant members access to a “library” of classic Nintendo titles, with added online features. The compilation of games, initially from just the NES library, will be available as long as subscribers continue to pay, and they will have access to online features not found in the original versions.

Like Microsoft’s Games With Gold and PlayStation Plus, subscribers can play the games as often as they want. It’s unclear how often Nintendo plans to update the compilation with new titles, or if games will eventually be removed, à la Netflix. Thus far, Nintendo announced the following games will available through the Switch Online classic games library.

  •  Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Dr. Mario
  • Balloon Fight

Additionally, Switch Online members will receive additional deals through the Nintendo eShop, though Nintendo remains tight-lipped on exactly what this means aside from “discount on select digital games and content.”

Can I do anything online without it?

Players who don’t subscribe to Switch Online will still have access to some of the console’s online features, including eShop access, the ability to share images on social networks, access to the parental controls app, and the ability to manage your friends list.

When does it launch?

Nintendo will activate Switch Online in 2018. A limited version of the Switch Online smartphone app — which allows players to plan gaming sessions and use voice chat — is still scheduled to arrive this summer, presumably so Arms and Splatoon 2 players can make use of it.