The Nintendo Switch will require a paid subscription for online gaming, and we now have an idea of how much it will cost: 2,000-3,000 yen per year, which is between $17.63 and $26.44.
Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima gave the price range in an interview with Nikkei today, telling the Japanese newspaper that “with paid [services], we will be able to fully commit to customers.” The Switch will be the first Nintendo system on which the company will charge for online play; neither the Wii nor the Wii U required a subscription for networked multiplayer features.
That range is much cheaper than the cost of Microsoft’s or Sony’s online services. Even if Nintendo were to charge $29.99 a year in the U.S., it would be half the price of an annual subscription to Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus, both of which cost $59.99. An Xbox Live membership is required for online gaming on both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, while a PlayStation Plus subscription is necessary only on the PlayStation 4, not the PlayStation 3.
The cost difference seems to make sense considering what we know of the feature set of the Switch’s online service. It will offer one free NES or Super NES game per month to subscribers, but unlike the monthly free games that come with a PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold membership, each Nintendo game will be free only for the month in question. Once the next month rolls around, it will feature a new game, and the previous title will no longer be free. Nintendo is adding online play to these 8- and 16-bit games.
It’s also worth noting that with the Switch, Nintendo is relegating many features that are typical of an online gaming service — voice chat, online lobbies and other social elements — to a dedicated mobile app. Those features will not be accessible directly on the console, and the company’s existing social network, Miiverse on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, also will not be available on the Switch.
We’ve reached out to Nintendo for more details on the Switch’s online service, and will update this article with any information we receive. Nintendo will launch the Switch worldwide on March 3, and the online service will be free until it fully goes live this fall.