Nintendo Switch Online service finally launches

George Boatfield looks at Nintendo's first subscription plan.

George Boatfield
5th November 2018
Image: Nintendo

Over a year after the initially planned rollout of the Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) alongside Splatoon 2, the subscription service finally launched on 18th September 2018. This introduces extra features to Switch users for a monthly fee while also placing previously free features behind a paywall. With this decision comes significant backlash from Switch owners.

The initial breakdown of the service was delivered via one of Nintendo’s signature ‘Direct’ broadcasts on 13th September 2018. In terms of pricing, the cheapest options include £17.99 for a 12-month individual membership or £31.49 for a 12-month family (8 people). Nintendo highlighted the five core features of the service: these are online play, access to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) library, cloud backup, smartphone app, and what they vaguely described as ‘special offers’.

Controversially, some games do not support cloud backup.

But what do these features actually include? The NES library allows users to play classic games on Switch, though not all of them have aged particularly well. This brings local and online multiplayer support, a first for NES. Currently twenty games are offered, including the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3 but Nintendo says that the library will continue to grow. As for the save data cloud backup, initial reports manufactured fears that this would be deleted as soon as a subscription lapses, but this has since been clarified as a six months limit.

Controversially, some games do not support cloud backup (Nintendo’s reason is to prevent hacking of games). Frustratingly, the smartphone app is still the only way to do voice chat via your friends list.  Whereas for the ‘special offers’, which are disappointingly limited to access to new NES-styled Joy-Con controllers and a download code for a cosmetic item in Splatoon 2.

This has received significant backlash from the core Switch fanbase, with plenty labelling it as poor value for money. This is not just down to the fact that users must now pay for an online service that was previously free (and which many  players criticise as lacking compared to the competition,), but also the meagre value offering of the services main source of content - the NES retro games library.

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