Nintendo Switch Online
Nintendo Switch Online is a suite of features on the Nintendo Switch video game console requiring purchase of a subscription. Nintendo Switch Online features include online multiplayer, cloud saving, voice chat, access to a library of Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) games, as well as other promotions and offers. Following a period where some of its features were available to all users at no charge, the subscription service officially launched on September 19, 2018.
|Launch date||September 19, 2018|
|Members||over 10 million (as of July 2019)|
The Nintendo Switch was formally announced in January 2017, with its release on March 3, 2017. Nintendo stated in its pre-release announcements that the system would eventually require purchase of a paid "online service", but that they would be available to all users at no charge until the service launched. Features announced included a companion smartphone app, as well as access to a free Nintendo Entertainment System game per-month. The service was initially planned for late 2017. By June 2017, Nintendo pushed back the service's release until 2018, but did establish the pricing plans for the service, with an average annual price of US$20, depending on region. Then-Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé explained that the delays were to ensure that the service was "world-class", and had enough of its announced functionality available on-launch to justify its cost. Nintendo aimed for a lower price point in comparison to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, as the service does not include the same range of features as these subscription services provide. Then-Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima stated that the price point was a subject of importance in designing the Switch's online services, and that regardless of what competitors were doing, "it's a matter of getting our content to the consumer at a price point that would make them happy, and then we're willing to look at what else we can do going forward."
The Nintendo Switch Online service was launched on September 19, 2018. A Nintendo Direct two days before the release detailed the full set of features that would be part of the Online service, including a larger and persistent library of NES games for subscribers (with 20 available on launch, and more to be added on an ongoing basis), as well as cloud save support. The initial launch covered 43 markets, with more markets expected to follow later.
In September 2018, Nintendo Switch consoles imported to China started experiencing connectivity issues there, due to the Nintendo Switch Online service using Google's servers, which are blocked in China.
By December 31, 2018, approximately three months after its launch, the service had gained more than eight million subscribers. Nintendo reported in late-April 2019 that the service had 9.8 million subscribers. As of July 2019, President of Nintendo, Shuntaro Furukawa, confirmed that Nintendo Switch Online has over 10 million subscribers.
Nintendo Switch Online is required to access online multiplayer on the majority of titles. Some free-to-play multiplayer games, such as Fortnite Battle Royale and Warframe, are exempt from this requirement, and can be played online freely without a subscription.
Cloud storage allows save data for many games to be synchronized online, so it can be recovered if the user must move their Nintendo Account to a different Switch console. The feature is not available on games with certain forms of online functionality (particularly item trading and competitive rankings), citing concerns surrounding the possibility of abuse that could "unfairly affect" gameplay.
Players lose access to their cloud saves should they cancel or allow their subscription to expire, though have a grace period of six months to renew their subscriptions or recover these cloud saves before these saves are purged.
Users can voice chat through the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app on smartphones. Voice chat functionality is not available natively through the Switch console; Fils-Aimé justified the decision by explaining that "Nintendo's approach is to do things differently. We have a much different suite of experiences than our competitors offer, and we do that in a different way. This creates a sort of yin and yang for our consumers. They're excited about cloud saves and legacy content but wish we might deliver voice chat a different way, for example."
Past Nintendo consoles with online functionality had offered games from Nintendo's older console libraries through the Virtual Console, but would not use this for the Switch. Instead, Switch Online subscribers can access a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) app (Family Computer in Japan), which features a persistent and expanding library of classic titles from the system. The games are available as long as the user has an active subscription, and a user must connect online at least once a week to continue to access the titles while offline. Games with multiplayer modes support both local and online play; the online play function is the first for NES games.
Certain games also have an alternate version labeled "SP" ("Extra" in some regions) which either starts the player near the end of the game or starts the game with the maximum amount of items and lives. Most of the games released in both the Americas and PAL territories are the original NTSC-U versions, including their North American naming and 60 Hz support. The Western NES variant of the software is available in South Korea, whilst the Japanese Family Computer variant is available in Hong Kong.
During its first year, the Online service provided a new batch of NES games on a monthly basis. However, with the addition of SNES titles in September 2019, Nintendo has stated that new NES and SNES games will no longer be made available on a regular schedule though will continue to expand both libraries over time.
- Titled as Super Mario USA in Japan.
- Titled as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan.
- A Family Computer Disk System port of the arcade edition titled Vs. Clu Clu Land.
Announced in a Nintendo Direct on September 4, 2019, Super Nintendo Entertainment System games were added to the service worldwide with 20 games on September 5, 2019. They are available in a separate app from NES games. Games available at launch include:
- Brawl Brothers
- Breath of Fire
- Demon's Crest
- Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics
- Kirby's Dream Course
- Kirby's Dream Land 3
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Star Fox
- Stunt Race FX
- Super E.D.F Earth Defense Force
- Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
- Super Mario Kart
- Super Mario World
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
- Super Metroid
- Super Puyo Puyo 2
- Super Soccer
In addition to these, Super Family Tennis was included in Japan, while Super Tennis was included outside of Japan.
Offers and promotionsEdit
Switch Online subscribers are also granted access to special offers and promotions from Nintendo; on launch, those who purchased a 12-month subscription or family plan received special in-game items for Splatoon 2, and Nintendo opened exclusive pre-orders for special wireless controllers based on the NES controller, specifically intended for use with the aforementioned NES app. Similarly, a special wireless SNES-based controller designed to work with the Switch was made available to purchase exclusively to Online subscribers shortly after the service added support for SNES titles.
Coinciding with the anticipated release of Super Mario Maker 2, a price-reduction promotion was announced during the game's Nintendo Direct that was available exclusively to Nintendo Switch Online members. The promotion introduced "Nintendo Switch Game Vouchers", which allows purchasers to download two qualifying Nintendo Switch games for a set price of $99.99 MSRP, compared to a $120 sum of buying both games separately.
Nintendo has also offered free original games for those with an Online subscription. Tetris 99 was released as a free to play title for subscribers in February 2019, though has subsequently offered paid downloadable content and retail versions of the game for non-subscribers.
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