Nintendo Switch Online: launch date, cloud saves, NES games, and online multiplayer
Update: Nintendo Switch Online is going live later today, after some server maintenance and a new 6.0 system update to herald in the new service. We expect the launch at 8pm PST / 11pm EST / 4am BST, and will update this page once it's properly arrived. You can get ready for launch with some Nintendo Switch Online buying advice, or run through everything you could feasibly want to know about the service in our article below…
Nintendo Switch Online is on the horizon. A full year and a half after the Nintendo Switch first launched, the hugely successful console is finally getting a fleshed-out online service with free retro games, online multiplayer, cloud saves, and a host of other perks.
We finally have confirmation of the 20 NES games bundled in with your subscription, along with details of a week-long free trial – meaning you can test out Nintendo Switch Online's full service before you buy.
Nintendo also confirmed that a launch day update will permanently lock Switch user profiles to their linked Nintendo Accounts. This will ensure you can safely manage your cloud saves and game purchases, while restricting account access to only one specific user (no sharing Super Smash Bros Ultimate with your mates, then).
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The hybrid Nintendo console functions as both a home gaming device and portable handheld, and has blown all sales forecasts out of the water.
It sold over 10 million units in its first year alone, helped by a strong first-party line-up – two of the most lauded Zelda and Mario games ever made, to start – a number of high-profile AAA ports, and a flourishing ecosystem of indie games.
That release schedule has slowed somewhat, and Nintendo will be looking to its incoming online service to keep up momentum on the widely successful console. But what exactly will Nintendo Switch Online give players that they don’t have already?
What is Nintendo Switch Online?
Nintendo Switch Online is the – you guessed it – online service for Nintendo Switch owners. Much like Xbox Live or Playstation Plus, signing up to the service affords you a host of additional content, offers, and access to online multiplayer play. There’s also a tie-in smartphone app that provides players with in-game battle stats, voice chat functionality, and additional information on select titles.
Anyone with a Nintendo console will already have a Nintendo Account, which functions as your personal profile for downloading updates or buying games through the eShop.
This is, however, the first time Nintendo’s online service has required a paid subscription to use, so wary players will be looking to see if it matches up with equivalent offerings on competing consoles.
Officially, users must be 13 years old or over to sign up for Nintendo Switch Online.
When does Nintendo Switch Online launch?
After waiting 18 months for a full online service, we now know Nintendo Switch Online will be launching proper on September 18 in the US, though it'll be the early hours of the 19th in Europe and late morning in Nintendo's home nation of Japan.
While the general release window was leaked through an Amazon listing back in July, Nintendo has since given us the exact date. A planned Nintendo Direct livestream was expected to offer more details about the service, along with a firm launch date, but was delayed to September 13 due to a destructive earthquake that hit Hokkaido, Japan earlier in the month.
Why should I sign up to Nintendo Switch Online?
Nintendo Switch Online will finally give you the online capability to play, compete, and cooperate with players around the world.
Online team-based shooters like Splatoon have proved hugely popular on the Switch, though committed players still have to make do with a fiddly workaround for enabling voice chat through the console – and which only lets you speak with your friends.
With the latest in Nintendo’s iconic brawler series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, also arriving in November, it’s hoped that the fleshed-out service will prove a capable platform for competitive play – and pave the way for Nintendo’s hesitant foray into eSports.
Sadly there are still no dedicated servers, so players will have to make do with less reliable P2P (peer to peer) hosting for online matches.
Thankfully, we've had confirmation that the likes of Fortnite, Paladins, Warframe, and other free-to-play games won't require a paid subscription to the service.
What classic games do I get with Nintendo Switch Online?
If the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting your favorite video game publisher wasn’t enough, your extra pennies each month will also net you access to a library of classic and retro games.
This isn’t the Virtual Console from the Wii and Wii U, though. Instead of a marketplace for one-off purchases of classic games, Nintendo Switch Online members will be able to play select titles bundled into their subscription.
At launch you’ll get 20 NES games, with the full list now announced and listed in the box, right. There will reportedly be additional online features for cooperative and competitive play, though we envisage the exact specifications will vary between each game.
These will be followed by three additional titles each month – with the original NES Metroid coming in November, and the likes of Wario's Woods and Ninja Gaiden coming the month after. There's a full list at Nintendo's NES web page.
Does Nintendo Switch Online have cloud saves?
One sore point for users has been the omission of cloud saves for their games, meaning that a busted Switch console will take all your hard-earned progress with it. To prevent you having to start Breath Of The Wild all over again – again – the paid service will back all of your save files onto Nintendo’s own servers for safety.
This is in keeping with the save data on Playstation Plus, though any Xbox Live user can access cloud saving for free. But it looks like not every game will support cloud saves, either – including big names like Splatoon 2, FIFA 19, and the upcoming Pokemon Let's Go games.
While Nintendo Switch Online's cloud saving will be enabled by default for most titles, developers can choose to opt out to prevent online cheating – since reloading an old save file could restore items someone had traded to another player, or reset their online ranking.
What will Nintendo Switch Online cost?
While the lack of online features at launch didn’t do Nintendo any favours, it helped that players were given access to a limited version of the service for free. Why this was harder than on any other console isn’t clear, but Nintendo is clearly shaking things up a bit for the Switch.
This all changes when the paid service launches, requiring you to subscribe for a monthly fee – though you'll be able to sign up for a free seven-day trial, just to try it.
Individual users will be able to sign up for £3.49 / $3.99 per month, with reduced rates for longer membership options (see box, right). There’s also a separate ‘Family’ option that includes allows up to 8 Nintendo Accounts to use the same subscription, for £31.49 / $34.99.
Players will also be able to buy a subscription with My Nintendo Gold Points – a rewards service that gives you spending tokens when you buy games on the Switch eShop, and came into effect earlier this year.
On price alone Nintendo Switch Online is the winner, though we’ll be waiting until September to see how well it compares to competing services.