The Nintendo Switch's Online Service Has Some Weird Details

Nintendo Switch Online launches tomorrow on September 18, and in the past few days, we’ve learned a bit about the new features coming as part of the service and how they will affect the games involved.

Switch Online is Nintendo’s version of Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus, and like both of those services, it costs money: $29.95 a year, or $5.95 if paid per month.

Also, you’ll need it to play most Switch games online, as well as get access to other benefits, like the ability to backup your save files in the cloud as well as play classic NES games with modern online features.

This is Nintendo, though, so while the service sounds similar to Xbox and PlayStation’s existing ones, there are some other hitches involved here—some good, some not so good.

You won’t need Switch Online to play Fortnite.

The most popular game in the world right now is exempt from Nintendo’s new online program according to an FAQ on the company’s support website. If Fortnite is all you play online on Switch, you might not need the online subscription.

Tencent confirmed that Arena of Valor, a free-to-play MOBA that is currently in beta on Switch, won’t require a membership to play online either, and according to a forum post by Digital Extremes, neither will Warframe.

Screenshot: Nintendo

The service is free to start.

When Switch Online launches, it will have the option for a seven day free trial.

You can use gold coins to pay for the subscription.

Every time you buy a Switch game, you get gold coins: five per dollar for digital purchases, and one for each dollar of physical goods. Nintendo has confirmed that those gold coins, worth 1 cent each, can be used to pay for Switch Online.

2995 coins would pay for the annual $29.95 price. It’s not the same as free, but it’s still a nice perk, especially for people who already buy a couple of small downloadable games a month and have the coins saved up.

Cloud save backups will eventually disappear if your subscription lapses.

Switch Online will automatically backup your save files for most games (notable exceptions include Splatoon 2 and Dark Souls Remastered).

That’s only in effect while you’re subscribed, though. If you drop out of the program, those backups are no longer guaranteed. This isn’t surprising, but it is unfortunate, since the Switch doesn’t let you backup your save files yourself. For comparison, the PS4 keeps cloud saves for up to six months after a PS Plus subscription expires, and Xbox doesn’t require a paid subscription for the feature at all.

The NES games that come with Switch Online can be played offline for up to seven days.

Switch Online launches with 20 classic NES games which can be downloaded and played through a single app.

Others will get added to the lineup in the coming months. This library of games is stored locally and can be played offline, but you’ll need to connect your Switch to the internet at least once a week in order to access them.

The NES classics will have HD resolution, save states, visual filters, and a cursor that can be controlled by another player.

The UK and Australia Nintendo websites mention “HD resolution, filters and special save states” as new “enhancements,” with no further details. Nintendo of America has also provided a screenshot of what the second player’s cursor will look like with a clue to how it’ll function.

Basically, you can play a game like Super Mario Bros. with a second person who, when they aren’t playing, can move a hand-shaped cursor around to “applaud” you for being awesome and also point out (literally) all of the secret blocks and warp locations.

More games will be compatible with the voice chat app.

Nintendo’s solution to the Switch’s lack of a dedicated mic was to create a smartphone app so you can connect and talk with the people you’re playing with. If that wasn’t absurd enough, the only game that’s been able to use the app for the last year has been Splatoon 2.

That’s about to change. Early patch notes for Mario Tennis Aces show the game will be compatible with the voice chat app starting September 19, and the NES games coming with Switch Online will also be able to utilise it. Nintendo has confirmed support will eventually be added to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Arms as well, but did not specify when or whether support will also come to third-party games.

We’ll know a lot more when Switch Online finally launches tomorrow.


    It seems that the free to play online multiplayer games are the ones exempt.
    So Paladins should also remain playable without paying for the service.

    This whole online program seems to be a complete and utter mess and honestly not worth it at the moment. Even if you got it just for the cloud saves, the fact that you more or less instantly lose them should you let the service lapse is a rather large oversight. It's also unclear whether you can still access those cloud saves locally after the expiration as the wording seems to suggest that cloud saves stored locally are still counted as part of the service.

    Then there's the whole shmozzle with the NES controllers which can only be bought by subscribers to the online service and even then can only be used with the NES library that's provided as part of the subscription. I have no idea what Nintendo is aiming for with this service though I'm guessing they're hoping Splatoon 2 and Super Smash will be big drivers of subscriptions.

      So what your saying is, Nintendo have done a Nintendo?

      It's super cheap and we've known it would be coming for over a year now I think. Nowhere does it state that you instantly lose your cloud saves, just that they won't be available forever. There'll be some sort of grace period for sure.

      What does "access cloud saves locally" even mean? There are local saves and cloud saves. They are two different things. Local saves on your console. Cloud saves that are your local saves backed up to the cloud. What are local cloud saves?

      Surely you don't have to prove that you're a subscriber to BUY the nes controllers? Unless you have to buy them online through the switch? I'm sure Nintendo wouldn't turn down the money? You'd just need to have the subscription in order to use them as I'm guessing they only work on the nes games. This idea that only subscribers can purchase the controllers is weird and confusing and surely can't be right? Are jb hi fi going to demand to see your Nintendo membership card before they sell you a product?

      Huh? "Cloud saves stored locally"? Cloud saves are not stored locally. Cloud saves are stored on the cloud. What are you talking about?

      They also never said you instantly lose them the moment your subscription lapses, either. It just says "eventually", meaning there will most definitely be a grace period.

    Oh please Nintendo!
    2995 gold coins just to pay the $29.95 price tag for a 12 month Nintendo Switch Online Individual Membership that is bullshit! There's no way I'm not coughing up the money or My Nintendo gold coins to purchase the Nintendo Switch Online Service Membership.
    You guys need to fix this mess right now and your smartphone app is getting poor reviews.
    I suggest you shut down the Nintendo Switch Online Service smartphone app and sort it out for yourselves.
    I'm not coughing up my cash to just to purchase the 12 month Individual membership and turning on the automatic renewal feature fuck no.
    You can't be charging us via a credit card or PayPal account to purchase or renew this membership.
    You cannot be serious Nintendo!
    Fix up this fucking mess right now!

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