Nintendo announced some Switch Online details last week, giving a clearer picture of what their new, paid online experience will include. In addition, we got a look at the “innovative” headset and chat system Nintendo plans to use.
The first big note was that the Switch Online services will be $20/year (with options of $8/3 months and $4/1 month). This is much cheaper than the competitors, and seems fair in comparison.
Both Sony and Microsoft require $60 base line price for a yearly subscription to their respective services. Sony provided free online for PS3 and then required its PS Plus on the PS4. Both services both provide additional “benefits” from the online subscription as well.
What You Get
Twenty bucks will get you the traditional online access to multiplayer games, headlined currently by Splatoon 2 when it releases. Notably, Switch Online will be free until 2018, so we will get a taste for what the online services will look like before having to pay.
It will be very interesting to see what online games will be available on the Switch. We’ve had the first Splatoon, Super Smash, and Mario Kart, but Switch and Nintendo consoles are not well known as the place to play Call of Duty or Battlefield, which are a big draw to online services. If Pokemon makes its way onto Switch, would trading or battling require paid online access? I really hope not.
Along with the expected multiplayer, Nintendo has announced a “Classic Game Library,” which at this time seems to include games such as SMB3 and Dr. Mario. According to the official response, these games will also have “added online play.”
Would this include the “multiplayer” back and forth from NES SMB3? Would it allow speed run races against online opponents? Leaderboards? It’s unclear exactly what this additional functionality would include.
More important is what the library concept will mean for the Virtual Console shop items. Will this replace that? Will the same games be available if both options co-exist? Will the Classic Game library include N64 or Gamecube titles? Wii titles? This will be something to watch for.
Online multiplayer and the associated access to game have become standard fare for paid console online service. PS Plus and Xbox Live both give out a library of games each month, although the quality of the games has seemingly reduced since the inception of the concept. If Nintendo can add value in its free library, they might gain an edge, along with the big price discount.
So, the new headset concept design leaked online and it hasn’t been pretty. After Nintendo boldly declared they would eschew a bulky, obtuse headset. Annnnd, it looks like they are giving us just that.
First, I’m not sure how such a design could pass muster. After doing so much right, its a bit disappointing for Nintendo to miss the mark here. It certainly doesn’t leave a good impression in how the actual online experience will be (away with friend codes…).
I do not want to connect my phone to chat through a console to friend. I do not want multiple wires connecting everything to do so. The big question I have is: How does this work when the Switch is docked?! I’m not sure of the design limitations, but did they really overlook Bluetooth compatibility with the Switch?
Basically, this will push me to eschew a headset entirely (at least for chat purposes). There are simply way easier options if you are trying to chat with friends you know outside the console itself. Why not use Skype or Discord or any other method since you are tethered to the phone anyway.
In sum, I am happy that Nintendo’s online services will come at a discount. I’m sad the last vestige of free online play on console is now a forgotten memory. I’m optimistic of the Classic Library as a Netflix of Nintendo games, but hope that they don’t just give us shovelware.
If Nintendo can quickly figure out the headset debacle, that’d be great but it looks like we are stuck with it (which means no chat when the Switch is docked?). That’s sad to see, and I hope that philosophy doesn’t seep into the rest of the online experience.