Yesterday it was announced that the premium online services for the Nintendo Switch are to be delayed until 2018, with Nintendo previously having slated the features for an Autumn 2017 release. Various new details, including the price of the service, what it will include and how certain features are expected to work, have been discussed and explained on the Switch’s page on Nintendo’s own website (see here), but while some of these details are being met with enthusiasm – such as the low $20 price tag for a year’s subscription – others, such as the set up for the voice chat system, are already facing harsh criticism from fans and professionals alike.
Nintendo have stated that the Switch’s online services have been designed first and foremost to give its users the ability to ‘enjoy online multiplayer gaming’, whilst also including ‘a dedicated smartphone app that connects to your Nintendo Switch system and helps you connect with friends for online play sessions’. In essence, it gives Switch players access to the same features that PlayStation and Xbox users currently enjoy – the ability to play multiplayer games online and utilise a voice chat platform at the same time – whilst also offering unique membership perks, discounts and features.
Costing only $19.99 USD for a year’s subscription, with options for 1-month and 3-month memberships available for $3.99 and $7.99 respectively, the upcoming subscription for the Nintendo Switch has been met with approval from fans who see it as both proportionate and affordable for what Nintendo is offering. It has been promised that eShop discounts will be available on many titles for subscribers to the service, and until the premium features launch next year, Nintendo has promised to provide its online multiplayer features for free, meaning that you don’t have to panic just yet – you can still play Mario Kart online and not have to pay for it.
One important thing to note about the upcoming online for the Nintendo Switch is that in order to utilise the full online features of the console and most of its games, it has been made clear by Nintendo that a Nintendo account will be necessary. If, however, you intend to only play the console offline or are only interested in single-player games, there will be no need for you to create or link a Nintendo Account to the console – meaning once you’ve set it up, you can immediately start playing.
Perhaps the most exciting feature of the Switch’s premium online to have been clarified in yesterday’s announcements is its ‘Classic Game Selection’ (name subject to change), which offers subscribers the option to download and play a variety of classic titles on their console – and with added online features. Examples provided by Nintendo of titles that will be available include Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight and Dr. Mario – so if you’re a fan of Nintendo’s retro classics or their virtual console services, the Switch has great things coming your way.
It had previously been implied that these classic games would only be available to subscribers for the month of their release, but the consensus now is that they will be available to subscribers for as long as they are paying for the Switch’s online services – much like the free titles offered to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Gold subscribers. With a huge arsenal of classic popular games at its disposal, this is certainly a deciding feature of the online service for many that will determine whether they invest in a subscription.
The most controversial reveal by Nintendo though is, undoubtedly, how the Switch’s online lobby and chat features are intended to work. As previously announced, online communication features for compatible games are to be offered via a specialised smartphone app rather than on the Switch console itself, and some of its features have been announced today as including the ability to invite friends to group play sessions, voice chat, and the ability to set play appointments.
The above diagram and image was unveiled early yesterday morning in a tweet by Hori Japan, showcasing their newly-announced Splatoon-themed chat headset for the Switch, and is responsible for much of the criticism that has been thrown Nintendo’s way. Whilst the headset itself looks amazing, the requirement of the specialised smartphone app rather than in-house software means that in order to be able to hear both in-game audio and chat audio at the same time, the headset has to be connected simultaneously to the smartphone and its app and the Switch – resulting in the above wire-filled nightmare.
Nintendo have thus been criticised for their lack of voice chat implementation into the Switch console itself, being accused of relying on third-party technology and forcing players to adopt a very impractical way of playing. Comparisons to Sony and Microsoft have been running rife, as both offer their players the simpler solution of plugging a compatible headset into the 3.5mm output on the console controller, or else utilising a Bluetooth-enabled headset, as their online communication features are included as an on-board feature of their consoles. Many fans have since been demanding that the Switch receive an update to implement voice chat onto the console, too, rather than being forced to use the external smartphone app.
Whilst looking complicated on the outside, the Splatoon Hori headset is promised to offer crisp stereo sound, a removable and flexible microphone, and replaceable coloured earplates amongst other features. Designed to look like the gear worn by the Inklings of the Splatoon world, no price tag has been allocated to it as of yet, bar the Japanese price of ￥3480 (excludes tax) – meaning that we will all have to wait to find out its availability and cost. Its release date, however, has been confirmed – July 21st 2017, to coincide with the release of Splatoon 2.
A limited version of the specialised smartphone app for the Switch is slated to release this summer, giving users insight into what it offers and how it works, and the opportunity to test it out before its formal release next year to tie in with the introduction of the paid online services. Whilst it is too early to speculate on how successful the app and all of the other premium features currently announced will be, it is clear that Nintendo intends to offer more services than has currently been stated, and as such it will be interesting over the coming months to see what else they have in store.
For a brief summary of the features available to regular Nintendo Switch users and those upcoming for paying subscribers to Nintendo’s premium online services, see the image above. As always, stick with us right here at Quillstreak for the latest Nintendo news and updates.