The current state of online play

Nintendo announced yesterday that its paid online service for the Switch, dubbed Nintendo Switch Online, will launch in 2018 at a price considerably lower than that of its competitors. While PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold each run $59.99 per year at retail, Nintendo’s service will carry a price tag of just $19.99 per year.

The services and benefits offered don’t seem to be in the same category, let alone the same league, so this makes sense. But it’s still a good sign.

Nintendo Switch Online

Multiplayer has been the primary benefit of Xbox Live Gold since its inception. Sony followed Microsoft’s lead with the launch of the PlayStation 4 in 2013, making its formerly benefit-driven PlayStation Plus service a requirement for online play in the current generation. It was inevitable that Nintendo would join its console brethren in charging for online multiplayer, and they announced as much at the big Switch reveal event in January. Online multiplayer on the Switch will remain free until the launch of Nintendo Switch Online in 2018.

The other online subscriptions are more than just online multiplayer, though. PlayStation Plus launched with access to its Instant Game Collection its sole selling point. That’s evolved into a growing collection of “free” games, with six new games across three platforms being added every month. Microsoft introduced Games with Gold, which is largely the same, offering two Xbox One games and two Xbox 360 games to subscribers every month. Both services also offer subscribers occasional discounts on digital games and add-ons.

Nintendo was prepared for this. Kind of. They announced that subscribers to their then unnamed service would receive access to a new classic game each month—but only for that month. That’s since changed, as confirmed by Kotaku, to provide subscribers with access to a library of classic games currently dubbed the Classic Game Selection. The service will also include eShop deals, checking another box marked by PlayStation and Xbox.

On paper, everything seems up to snuff. But this is still Nintendo, so there are a couple caveats. Unlike the more powerful PlayStation and Xbox consoles, Nintendo’s Switch doesn’t have voice chat and online lobbies built into the hardware, instead outsourcing those features to a forthcoming smart device app. And of course Friend Codes still exist in 2017, so Nintendo is staying consistent with its half-catch up half-doing its own thing routine.

Nintendo Switch Online is a step toward the console-wide parity and an industry standard even as Nintendo continues to do anything but the industry standard with many of its choices. It remains to be seen whether the service will be worthwhile, but setting the price (and expectations) low gives it a good chance of catching on. I know I’ll be subscribing, assuming I’ve found a Switch by then.

[source: Nintendo]



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