After months of delays and speculation, Nintendo has finally revealed that the Nintendo Switch will have its own online subscription service come September. Once that arrives, you’ll need to pay to play against friends online, although Nintendo is a bit more generous than you might expect. So the question becomes, how does this stack up to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold? The truth is that it’s a bit of a mixed bag, although it does have what gamers have been demanding.
It wins on price, certainly. Even monthly, Nintendo only wants $4 a month, but that drops to $20 a year, which is a third of a yearly membership for PlayStation Plus or Live Gold, at $60 a year retail, and still substantially cheaper even with the enormous sales you can get on PS Plus and Live Gold. Part of this is likely that Nintendo doesn’t support native voice chat, so it’s compensating gamers who put up with the convoluted app by cutting the price. It also offers cloud saving, which is a definite plus if you’ve sunk 100 hours into Breath of The Wild.
There are also $35 “family plans” that get a subscription for up to seven other Nintendo Accounts, and the subscription is portable; if you use your account on someone else’s Switch, you’ll be able to use the features. So it’s fairly clear Nintendo is using the Netflix model of online subscriptions, where it really doesn’t care how you log in as long as you get on the service. Other online features, like the eShop, screenshot-sharing, and pinging friends will remain free. You also won’t need the service to network your Switch to other Switches nearby.
Where it may lose out is games. Both PS Plus and Gold offer both steep discounts on library games and free games every month, a deal that’s become a pretty big savings for heavy players, with games like The Witness and Mad Max free to download. Nintendo’s rival for that is a subscription to a curated list of NES games, some of which will rotate out every month. For the price, it’s a nice extra, especially for nostalgic fans who don’t want to drop what the eShop is asking for a game they’ll play once. While the games will all have “added online functionality” of some sort, such as online play or screen sharing, though, it’s not the same as getting a modern game.
Still, if you own a Switch and love playing with your friends, the service is so cheap, and Nintendo is working with everyone’s budget in mind, that the service is worth it. And if you enjoy NES games, renting them for a couple of bucks a month as a side benefit isn’t the worst deal. Still, we’ll be curious to see if Nintendo tries anything else with online gaming, or if it just settles for offering low-cost services.