Once the Switch launches on March 3, 2017, you’ll instantly get access to features like online multiplayer gaming — including both co-op and multiplayer experiences — along with the Nintendo eShop, a parental controls app, the option to share screenshots to social media, and the ability to register and manage friends. More nuanced levels of interaction will be available between friends, including chatting and scheduling play appointments — it’s a big improvement over the awkwardness of juggling “friend codes” like in past Nintendo systems. In all of this, the Nintendo Switch Online is shaping up to be something very similar to the likes of Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus, which is a welcome improvement.
But, the major caveat with Nintendo Switch Online is that all of these features are only included during an introductory trial period for the service as a whole, meaning that once the real deal launches sometime in fall 2017, most games will require you to register for the paid monthly service if you want to enjoy any kind of multiplayer experience. Pricing is currently unannounced.
As an added incentive, subscribers to Nintendo Switch Online will also be privy to a “free” monthly 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.
Those with a PlayStation 3 or 4 are likely quite familiar with the monthly free downloads via PlayStation Plus, where gamers can scoop mostly indie games for “free” with their subscription. More often than not, they’re nothing special, but every now and then there’s a gem like Rocket League. With Nintendo Switch Online, you’re guaranteed to get free throwbacks updated with online play, which could mean co-op Battletoads or racing against friends in the classic Super Mario Kart or even a pill-popping, drug-addled match of Dr. Mario. And rather than the download now, play later mentality so common with other platforms, this allows Nintendo to focus its playerbase on games each month as if they were events rather than simply downloads.
But alas, there’s also the caveat that rather than have the download be free each month, any given NES or SNES game that gets put up on Switch Online will only be available to play for free for the month; gamers who want to keep playing will have to pay for the game.