Nintendo Switch online service: monthly games not really ‘free,’ smartphone-based multiplayer chat

Adam Westlake - Jan 14, 2017, 9:00 am CST
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Nintendo Switch online service: monthly games not really ‘free,’ smartphone-based multiplayer chat

As you’ve probably already heard, Nintendo has finally announced its new Switch console in full, and there’s a lot to be excited for, including all the interesting ways games can be played on the system, both at home and on the go, as well as the new game lineup, which includes a fantastic-looking new Zelda title. However, in the day that’s passed since all the details were revealed, a few less than pleasing tidbits have also surfaced, mostly focused on the Switch’s online service.

For the Switch, Nintendo says it will be making the console’s online service — which includes online multiplayer — paid subscription-based this time around, but not until sometime this fall. The fact that it will be paid isn’t a big deal, as most gamers are used to that with Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus, but Nintendo hasn’t said how much it will cost or exactly what the service will entail, leaving many wondering what the costs will be beyond the initial system purchase.

Everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch

The other big disappointment about this paid service has to do with one of its claimed perks. Nintendo announced that subscribers will be able to download and play a classic NES or Super Nintendo game for free each month. The catch, however, is that players will only have access to that game for that one month, after which they’ll need to buy it if they still want access.

As it reads on Nintendo’s website:

Monthly game download

Subscribers will get to download and play a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES) game (with newly-added online play) for free for a month.

This isn’t the case with the Xbox One’s Games with Gold program or Sony’s PlayStation Plus, where the games offered for free each month can continually be played after they’re available, as long as players remain a paying subscriber. What Nintendo is promoting for the Switch’s service is more like a free one-month rental.

As for other functions of the online service, such as online lobbies and in-game voice chat, it appears these won’t be available until sometime this summer. What’s interesting here is that Nintendo is saying everything will be done via connection with a “smart-device,” i.e. a smartphone app.

“Our new dedicated smart device app will connect to Nintendo Switch and let you invite friends to play online, set play appointments, and chat with friends during online matches in compatible games ─ all from your smart device.”

In other words, functions that could be handled by Skype or any other smartphone messaging app for free. If it weren’t for the fact that basic online play will be locked behind the paid subscription, using a phone app to handle in-game chat doesn’t sound like much of a perk. Who knows, maybe the integration between the console and this app will be really slick and smooth? But the idea of jumping back and forth between two devices to invite friends or talk to them during play seems less than ideal.


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