What is Nintendo Switch Online?
Here's everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch, from pricing to release date to the suite of NES games available on-demand.
We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!
Nintendo has always been slow to embrace the world of online gaming. Through the birth and death of the Wii and Wii U, it mostly shied away from online multiplayer, dabbling here and there with games like Mario Kart Wii and Splatoon. The online infrastructure supporting these games was never anything more than functional, though. Even finding and playing games with your friends was a major hassle, involving impossible-to-remember friend codes and a total lack of voice chat. The only consolation was its price tag: unlike PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live, Nintendo's online service had always let you play against your friends over the Internet for free.
With Nintendo's latest console, the Nintendo Switch, all that is set to change. This time around, Nintendo is planning its own premium online service called Nintendo Switch Online which, like Sony and Microsoft's offerings, will require you to pay to play games online. It's not all bad news, though, as Nintendo is following in its competitors' footsteps and throwing in free games and discounts on its digital store for all subscribers. And while the service is unlikely to be as robust as PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live, its cheaper price makes it a considerably more accessible alternative.
The main reason to purchase Nintendo Switch Online is to play Switch games online against your friends. Admittedly, there aren't a whole lot of games that will require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription for online multiplayer at launch, with the lineup limited to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Mario Tennis Aces and Sushi Striker: The Way of the Sushido for now. Granted, many have been playing three of those games at no extra cost for quite some time now.
Pokkén Tournament DX, Payday 2, FIFA 18 and NBA 2K18 will require the same admission fee.
Free games have proven an effective salve for the sting of paying for online play. Both Microsoft's Games With Gold initiative and Sony's PlayStation Plus free games program have become immensely popular, to the point where they provide enough value on their own to justify the monthly subscription.
Nintendo is taking a similar approach with Nintendo Switch Online. While it originally planned on a more Netflix-style model where subscribers would receive a few games every month but only be able to play them for that month, the company has since backpedalled and redesigned its free-game offer to work the same way as Sony's and Microsoft's. Each month, Nintendo Switch Online subscribers will be able to download a compilation of classic Nintendo games modified to include online play. While functionality will differ between titles, some games will offer competitive play, co-op multiplayer or the ability to hand the controller over to an online friend while you spectate. All classic games also support voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online app.
To begin with, Nintendo will only be offering NES games as part of the free games line-up, with SNES titles "under consideration". On the plus side, subscribers can play these classic games as much as they want for as long as they maintain an active Nintendo Switch Online subscription.
There are 20 games coming at launch, but only 10 we know of so far:
- Balloon Fight
- Dr. Mario
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Donkey Kong
- Ice Climber
- The Legend of Zelda,
- Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros.
Again taking cues from Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo will be offering exclusive discounts on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. No specifics have been announced, but if Nintendo plans on competing with the deals offered through PlayStation Store and Microsoft Store, it's likely we'll see subscriber-only sales and pre-order discounts on a semi-regular basis.
Dedicated mobile app
For as much inspiration as Nintendo is taking from PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live, there are still a few areas where the company is doing things its own way. Case in point: the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app. Where features like voice chat, messaging and friend invites are built into the basic operating system of the PS4 and Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch offloads them onto your mobile phone. To chat with your teammates while you're playing Splatoon 2, you'll need to plug a headset into your phone, boot up the Nintendo Switch Online app and leave your phone sitting next to you while you play. Similarly, you'll need to use the app to send game invites to players on your Nintendo Switch friends list, as well as join games you have been invited to.
There's no denying this solution is a lot more fiddly than the built-in functionality on PS4 and Xbox One. That said, the portability of a mobile app allows for some handy features those two consoles lack. In Splatoon 2, for example, the Nintendo Switch Online app can be used to track the results of your previous battles, check the gear and weapons other players have been using, and view what stages are coming up in the game's rotation.
It remains to be seen how many games will take advantage of the mobile app's unique functionality, but if enough do, it could be the edge Nintendo Switch Online needs over PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live.
Purchase Nintendo Switch from eBay
Purchase the Nintendo Switch with grey Joy-Cons or Neon Blue and Red Joy-Cons from eBay today.View details
The full Nintendo Switch Online service isn't launching until September 2018, but you can still play Nintendo Switch games online right now – and for free, to boot.
All Switch owners have access to online multiplayer, voice chat and mobile app functionality from now until the launch of Nintendo Switch Online, all without paying a cent. The free games and eShop discounts won't be available until the full service goes into operation in September 2018, at which point it will require a monthly subscription.
If there's one thing Nintendo Switch Online has going for it, it's the price. At $29.95 for a 12-month membership, it's less than half the cost of Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus. This makes it far easier to look past its basic functionality and slimmer online games library.
If you're not ready to commit to a full 12 months, you'll also be able to buy one-month and three-month subscriptions when Nintendo Switch Online launches in 2018. A one-month subscription will set you back $5.95 while a three-month subscription will cost $11.95. Once you've decided you want to stick with it, though, you'll want to spring for the full 12-month subscription since it'll work out cheaper in the long run.
There will also be a family membership available which covers you for 12 months, costs $54.95 and allows up to 8 Nintendo Switches to connect online.
Here are those prices again:
- One month (30 days): $5.95
- Three months (90 days): $11.95
- 12 months (365 days): $29.95
- Family membership (12 months/365 days): $54.95
More guides on Finder
Finder Daily Deals: The 5 best online deals in Australia today
Today's best Finder Daily deals include: $1,250 off electric bikes, $70 off Nintendo Switch, $30 off Logitech G PRO X Lightspeed headsets.
eBay deals: Last chance to get 60% off Hisense TVs, half-price Switch controllers
eBay's weekly sales bonanza is back with half-price Nintendo Switch Pro Controllers, $200 off Sony sound bars, 60% off Hisense TVs and more.
Xbox Series S: Where to buy in Australia
Xbox Series S is a lower-cost alternative to the Xbox Series X. Here's a list of stores where you can buy the console for the best price.
The best SNES games of all time
The SNES was the king of the hill in the 16-bit retro gaming era; here are the 8 best titles that you should own.
10 best retro games (and where to buy them)
Retro games players and collectors love classic games; here are the best game picks for the most popular retro systems.
The 9 best Nintendo 64 games of all time
Nintendo stuck to its cartridge format for the Nintendo 64, which means it game library is small – but there are some truly perfect gems to be found there.
9 best Nintendo Game Boy Advance games of all time
Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance is home to lots of superb ports and even more original games – but which games are the very best?
How much data does online gaming use?
Online gaming gets a bad rep for needing fast speeds and using up your data, but it doesn't use as much as you think.
The best Nintendo NES games of all time
In the 8-bit era, the Nintendo Entertainment System was a global colossus of a games system, but which of its vast library of titles has stood the test of time?
The best Sony PlayStation 3 games of all time
While it’s only recently retro, the PlayStation 3 is home to a lot of really great games – but which ones are the very best?
Ask an Expert