If you’ve predominantly been using your Nintendo Switch to enjoy single-player offline games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe serves as a reminder that free online multiplayer on Nintendo’s latest console is a luxury that won’t last forever.
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) April 28, 2017
Reviews of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe have been predominantly favorable, with many critics and players citing an enjoyable multiplayer experience that many say has been greatly improved from the Wii U version thanks to additional battle modes. It’s also helpful that all players have access to all the maps. There is no DLC divide among players, since all the supplemental content that has to be purchased separately in Mario Kart 8 has been packed into the cartridge in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
While Microsoft and Sony have charged for online multiplayer services for years, Nintendo has kept multiplayer free for all of its consoles up to this point. Currently on the Wii U, players can pick up and play a game of Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart 8 with anyone who owns the game and can connect the system to a stable internet connection. On the Nintendo Switch, players will only be able to connect, chat, and play with those who subscribe to the Switch’s online services — a change that may significantly segment the game’s player base.
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) April 26, 2017
To help encourage its fans to subscribe to the service, a report by Nikkei states the estimated pricing for the online services is around 2,000 to 3,000 yen for an annual subscription. That translates to about $18 to $27 USD per year, which is significantly less than the $60 annual subscription gamers pay to play online on an Xbox One or PS4.
According to Nintendo, the following features are planned to be part of Nintendo Switch’s paid online services program.
- Online multiplayer and group chat — “Our new dedicated smart device app will connect to Nintendo Switch and let you invite friends to play online, set play appointments, and chat with friends during online matches in compatible games — all from your smart device. A free, limited version of this app will be available for download in summer 2017.”
- Free game downloads each month — “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.”
- Subscriber-exclusive deals — “Special offers for subscribers may include discounts on select digital games and content.”
Based on the overall descriptions, it sounds a lot like what Sony and Microsoft offer with their respective PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live online service programs. However, there are some key differences based on the current specifications. Although gamers get to download a free game each month, the game is only playable for free for a month. As described, it means subscribers can essentially rent a game for a month, rather than downloading it to keep forever or having it added to their library for as long as their subscription remains active.
Another major difference is that there is no in-game chat option. Players have to connect their Switch to an app on their smartphone or tablet and use that to chat. Additional details explain that the app “connects to your Nintendo Switch system via your linked Nintendo Account to provide an online lobby and voice chat for compatible multiplayer games.” Based on these descriptions, it sounds like players could be limited in their chat options based on their smart device’s capabilities. Full details on how the app-based chat system will work have yet to be outlined.
For now, though, Nintendo Switch owners who have multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Bomberman R can enjoy the online services using the free trial that runs until later this fall, when the paid services are scheduled to launch. More multiplayer games are set to release before the subscription becomes required to play, such as Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers and Splatoon 2.
[Featured Image by Nintendo]