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Nintendo Switch Online Comes Into Focus

Nintendo Switch OnlineLate last week Nintendo announced a little more about its paid online service for the Switch console which will be conveniently called Nintendo Switch Online.  We knew a little about it prior to this announcement, but only in abstact: it will cost money, it's coming "later", and some form of classic Nintendo games will be included with the subscription and will be adapted to allow online play.  Now we know more.  Check out Nintendo's site to learn all about it.  Here's the high points:

  • You’ll be able to play compatible co-op and competitive games online by signing in with your Nintendo Account. Online play will be free for Nintendo Account holders until our paid online service launches in 2018.
  • 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.
  • Subscribers will get to download a compilation of classic titles with added online play, such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight and Dr. Mario.

All of this will set you back twenty dollars a year (slightly more if you pay month to month).  There's already lots of criticism about this announcement.  On the one side, you have complaints about being charged any amount of money while online play has been free on the Wii, Wii U, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS; dissatisfaction at Nintendo relying on a smartphone app for in-game chat while the competition can do it in-console; and of course the lackluster launch titles like Balloon Fight.  On the other side, what do you expect for $20 while the competition charges $60 for their services?  Like everything else Nintendo does in the online space, it's best to keep your expectations low and see what the company actually manages to produce.  I'm not clamoring to play Balloon Fight in single-player mode let alone online, but at least we can all be glad that Urban Champion isn't on the list. 

The fact of the matter is that Nintendo is rising back to the top of its game and leaving the free offers and generous discounts of the Wii U era behind.  The company can't keep Switches on store shelves.  They do not need to be charitable or offer enticing deals to sell units anymore.  I enjoyed the "please buy this, we're begging you!" phase of Nintendo history too when the company gave away a free game for buying Mario Kart 8 and gave back a percentage of each Wii U eShop purchase in store credit, but those days are over.  Even the fun freebies of Club Nintendo have given way to the lackluster loyalty program My Nintendo.  Nintendo leadership has changed and the company is ready to be profitable again, and those profits?  They come from us.