Nintendo released the Switch console in March 2017. The company said it planned to introduce a full-fledged online service later that year, but the rest of 2017 passed without the introduction of the new service, and it seemed like Nintendo would take forever to actually bring a full online service to its newest console. That finally changed yesterday, when the company revealed the simply named Nintendo Switch Online platform.
Nintendo Switch Online appears to be a mix of something like PlayStation Network or Xbox Live with the Virtual Console present on Nintendo's previous hardware platforms. The service will let you play games with your friends, upload save data to the cloud, and use the companion app for voice chat and other functions. All of those features are common to modern consoles' online services and have been missed on the Switch.
Where this service differs from the others is with its inclusion of classic Nintendo games. The company said Nintendo Switch Online will offer 20 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) titles when it debuts; it revealed 10 of them with yesterday's announcement. That list includes Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, and other games sure to make anyone who owned the original NES wax nostalgic for a while.
But these aren't simple ports. Nintendo said in its press release:
For the first time ever, players will be able to enjoy these classic NES games online. Depending on the game, players can engage in online competitive or co-op multiplayer, or take turns controlling the action. Friends can even watch each other play single-player games online, and 'pass the controller' at any time. Every classic NES game will support voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. It will also be possible to play these games offline.
Those additions could help Nintendo use the same NES titles it's been selling to its customers in some form or another maintain their novelty. People want to play Dr. Mario over and over again, that much is clear, but they might not be willing to sign up for the Nintendo Online Service to do so. (Not that they'll have a choice--Nintendo told Kotaku that it's not planning to bring the Virtual Console to the Switch.)
Nintendo Switch Online is expected to debut in September. It will be available with four pricing options: $4 per month, $8 per every three months, $20 per year., or $35 per year for a "family membership" that covers up to eight Nintendo Accounts connected to a unified family account. Every option is cheaper than Sony and Microsoft's competitors, both of which start at $10 per month, which should appeal to the spend-thrifts out there.