Nintendo Switch Online Launch: Here’s Everything You Get With Your Subscription

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Courtesy of Nintendo

Your days of playing Splatoon online for free are over.

Years after the release of Sony's PlayStation Plus and more than 10 years after Microsoft launched Xbox Live Gold, Nintendo is finally ready to enter the online marketplace with a new subscription service that rolls out September 18.

The service is called Nintendo Switch Online and, besides letting players play online games, it offers a lot of what fans of the Switch have been clamoring for and some of what they haven't. For $3.99 a month, or $19.99 a year, subscribers will get access to online game functionality, cloud-based saves and a growing library of games from the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

Online Multiplayer

While the Wii and the Wii U came with free access to the few online games that made it onto those platforms, the Nintendo’s Switch wants you to pay for it.

A subscription to this service will get you online, playing the Switch’s multiplayer games, and allow for voice chat over Nintendo’s companion smart phone app.

The timing of the service comes right before the December 5 release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo’s biggest game release of the holiday season. It promises to have a robust online component.

Meet the New Virtual Console

Instead of once again revamping its Virtual Console that sold many games for the big N on the Wii and the Wii U, Nintendo Switch Online is taking the road previously traveled by Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus. Subscribing to the service provides access to a library of NES games that Nintendo promises will grow.

The launch lineup for the service includes 20 titles, including many favorites like Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda, Ghosts’n Goblins and Dr. Mario. Additionally, Nintendo has announced upcoming games for the next three months, with three games becoming available each month. These include Metroid in November and Ninja Gaiden in December.

Not only that, but many of the NES games have been updated to include online multiplayer.

Finally, Cloud Saves, Finally

Ever since the early days of the Switch’s launch in March of 2017, many have found one of the system’s biggest weaknesses to be a lack of online save back up.

Before the launch of Nintendo Switch Online, there was no way to get saves off of one Switch and onto another one. Additionally, there was no one to retrieve saves if your console was lost or stolen. Nintendo was the only console manufacturer not to offer a way to back up data (and it still remains the only console maker not to do it for free). This was a feature that even took hackers a pretty short time to add to the system.

Well, cloud saves are now here with Nintendo Switch Online, but with a few caveats. In the fine print of the service details, Nintendo admits that “Save Data Cloud backup compatibility varies per game. Some titles, including Splatoon 2 and 1-2-Switch, are not compatible.” There’s no comprehensive list of what games are and aren’t compatible, so cross your fingers? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Additionally, as many have reported, Nintendo Switch Online does not guarantee that cloud save data will remain intact if your service lapses.

Special, Special Offers

Along with these other features, the Nintendo Online Service also will provide users with special deals, though only two have been outlined so far. One is a code for in-game Splatoon 2 outfits. And the other one is a pair of Nintendo Entertainment System-style controllers, which Nintendo is selling exclusively to subscribers for $59.99. The controllers slide onto the Switch for charging and will ship in December.

Nintendo has been infamously slow to adopt what many consider to be a modern, fully-featured online service. In many ways, this is a good start. But it still leaves many questions unanswered. Is the Virtual Console really dead? Will Switch owners ever be able to play Nintendo games from systems later than the NES? Will the offered NES games expire? How will we know whether a game is compatible with cloud saves? And why oh why do we still have to use Friend Codes?

Paying for an online service was an inevitability, one that Nintendo put off for a long time. But modern demand of connective features, the success of the Switch and the expanded offering of online compatible games meant the free ride was over. It’s the dawn of a new era. The era of Nintendo Switch Online.

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