Free online console gaming is now history as Nintendo Switch Online has finally arrived. Now that Nintendo has joined Sony and Microsoft in the land of online subscription fees, it's worth taking a glance at what the new service has to offer.
The pricing is worth mentioning first, as Nintendo has positioned the price of the service much lower than those of the competition. A year's subscription is £17.99 / €19.99, the monthly fee is £3.49 / €3.99, and three months' worth of subscription costs £6.99 / €7.99. That makes it substantially cheaper than, for example, PlayStation Plus. If you want a family account for multiple Online-subscribers, that costs £31.49 / €34.99 but covers up to eight accounts.
The most notable thing that the subscription covers is, of course, the online gaming. Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Arms now require the Switch Online if you want to partake in some online multiplayer gaming, but not all games require the subscription, as some third-party developer's games can still be played for free (Fortnite, for example). Nintendo has promised to put a note on the boxes of games about whether they require Switch Online or not, and the same information will of course be visible in the online store too.
Switch Online also makes cloud saving possible, but alas, just as with the online gaming side of things, not all games support this feature. At this moment, the likes of Splatoon 2 and the upcoming Dark Souls Remastered will not send their game saves to the sky, and the reason for this is fear of hackers, which is actually understandable. The downside is that your cloud saves will be erased six months after the subscription has ended, so if you don't want to continue paying for the service, it's advisable to return your cloud saves back down to earth.
Nintendo has also provided a mobile app, where some games gain a few little extras and player statistics can be viewed too. For now it seems to support only Nintendo's own games. The most important feature of the mobile app is voice chat though, even though the application has to be running all the time during the chat. It's better having this way than not having it at all... kind of.
Then there are, of course, the NES games. The online NES library comes with 20 playable games, with more added each month. The most notable launch games are Ghosts 'n' Goblins and Super Mario Bros. 3, but in October Solomon's Key will be available as well as two other games; in November Metroid will be added; and in December Nintendo is going to treat retro gamers to Ninja Gaiden and Adventures of Lolo. The NES games even support online multiplayer and voice chat, which is actually pretty neat. That said, they're also available offline, but when your subscription ends, the library will also be locked behind the pay-wall.
As a whole, Nintendo Switch Online is a bit of a sketchy package, and unless you play a lot of online games then it's probably one that you can easily do without. The library of NES games and the cloud saves are nice to have, but they aren't mandatory by any means. Then again, the subscription is quite cheap when compared to the competition. It's clear that the service is still taking its first steps, and so the coming months will hopefully show what the service is really about.