Complaints and concerns about Nintendo’s first paid online service, which will launch later this year for the new Switch system, softened a bit on Wednesday. That’s because the still-unnamed service now comes at a price — and a surprisingly cheap one, at least for the console space.
For now, the price figure comes from Nintendo’s Japanese president, Tatsumi Kimishima, who tells the Nikkei Asian Review that Nintendo Switch owners can expect an annual fee of between 2,000-3,000 yen (equivalent to $17.60-$26). $40). Even if Nintendo largely rounds that figure out for US gamers, that cost will likely still come in at half the $60 per year for rival services Xbox Gold and PlayStation Plus.
Like its rivals, the Nintendo Switch’s online services will be required to access certain types of multiplayer matchmaking and in-game voice chat. The Switch will handle this differently than other systems – via a smartphone app, which syncs connectivity and chat with the console. This decision may be due in part to the system’s headphone jack being in the hardware, which is not accessible when the system is in “TV dock” mode. Other controllers, including the Switch’s “Pro” controller and standard Joy-Con wands, don’t have their own headphone jacks. (Nintendo has not announced whether the system’s Bluetooth functionality will support players’ native Bluetooth headsets.)
An upcoming Switch game, Capcom’s Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, works independently of this app-based matchmaking system. As viewed for the press, the game offers matchmaking within the console. It’s unclear whether this game’s online modes require payment for the Switch’s service. Exactly how the app will work is unclear, but a Japanese Nintendo Twitter account be on a few details. Players can add friends to online matches, either through a regular friends list or by combing through social media services, and their ability to voice chat, at least in the coming Splatoon 2will be limited to ‘friends only’.
Switch’s service, such as PS+ and XBLG, will also grant access to downloadable games, but not as generously. Paying players get access to limited-time downloads of Virtual Console classics from older systems. As announced, the service will give unlocked access to certain games (or maybe just one game) per month for paying members, then the unlocked games will be rolled over to new titles at the end of the month. XBLG and PS+ give players access to all their monthly unlocked games as long as they remain paying members.
These restrictions may be easier to tolerate with a lower price tag — a price that could be as low as $20 — though the service’s exact launch date is unclear. Nintendo announced the existence of the service at the last major Switch press event, indicating that it would first launch in a “free trial” status before players would start charging. It will be Nintendo’s first paid online service since the launch of “Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection” for the portable DS system in November 2005, along with Mario Kart DS and other games.
Start brushing up on your Nintendo VR wish list
The Nikkei interview also featured an intriguing mention of virtual reality as a Switch capability. “If we can solve the problems with games, [VR] comfortable for long hours, we will support it in some form,” Kimishima-san told Nikkei, though he declined to give an estimate of the time.
The short quote raises all-new questions: Are the Joy-Con controllers capable enough to support tracking in virtual space? Would the Joy-Con’s infrared camera somehow be used in a VR mode? Would the Switch’s screen fit into a headset, a la Samsung’s GearVR? Would additional hardware be required to keep display performance up to demanding VR standards? Can we please get a new one? Metroid Prime gaming in VR? (Excuse the latter, I just had to ask.)