Nintendo hasn’t always had the best history with online gaming, especially when it comes to basic functionality like, you know, voice chat. But with the announcement of Nintendo Switch Online, it looks like Nintendo is trying to make a competing push for a legitimate online gaming service—with that Nintendo twist, of course.
First, let’s look at pricing. Nintendo is the clear winner in that category compared to its main console competitors. While Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus are both $59.99 a year, Nintendo Switch Online will only cost you $19.99 a year, with one-month memberships and three-month memberships going for $3.99 and $7.99, respectively. Not only that, but online gaming will still be free until the Nintendo Switch Online’s services officially launch in 2018.
When the service does launch, Nintendo Switch Online members will get access to voice chat, a buffed-up “Classic Game Selection” program, and special discounts in the Nintendo eShop.
We knew that voice chat was going to be utilized through a smart phone app. What we didn’t know is how that would work. Well, in classic Nintendo fashion, it looks like it’s going to be an over-complication of what should be a fairly standard feature.
The Switch’s app will let users set up appointments with friends, invite friends to games, and “chat with friends during online matches in compatible games.” That sounds like Nintendo Switch Online won’t have a normal party function that almost all online gaming services offer, including PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live. Fortunately, a test version of the app will be available in summer 2017 before the full version of the app launches in 2018, so we’ll have a chance to try the app soon enough. Just make sure you’ve got a couch three feet from the TV if you’re docking your Switch.
Where Nintendo seems to be stepping up its game is in the Classic Game Selection program, as well, which has seen a drastic improvement since it was first announced.
Given that games like Arms, Splatoon 2, and a likely Smash Bros. iteration will live and die by their online multiplayer, it will behoove Nintendo to offer a competitive online gaming service. For Nintendo’s sake, hopefully Switch Online will be that service, but it looks like we’ll be waiting until the full service launches in 2018 to find out.