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How Nintendo Switch Online compares to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold

What can you get out of each service?

man playing nintendo switch online Nintendo

Nintendo has detailed the paid online service for Nintendo Switch, simply named Nintendo Switch Online. The subscription service won’t launch until sometime in 2018 — later than initially planned — but Nintendo’s given us enough info to compare the console’s online features with those of its biggest competitors.

Let’s break down how Nintendo Switch Online works, alongside PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold. We’re looking at the most important elements, from pricing per year to exclusive game giveaways.

Nintendo Switch Online vs. PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Live Gold

Online service Nintendo Switch Online PlayStation Plus Xbox Live Gold
Online service Nintendo Switch Online PlayStation Plus Xbox Live Gold
Price per month $3.99 $9.99 $9.99
Price per year $19.99 $59.99 $59.99
Required for online gameplay? Yes Yes, but not for free-to-play games Yes
Games included free of charge? Yes; a selection of retro games is available with an active subscription Yes; a selection of PS4, PS3 and PS Vita games is available with an active subscription Yes; a selection of Xbox One and backward-compatible Xbox 360 games is available with an active subscription
Exclusive discounts? Yes Yes Yes
Voice chat? Yes; only through smartphone app Yes; no subscription required Yes
Cloud saves? TBD Yes Yes; no subscription required
Stream gameplay? No Yes; no subscription required Yes; no subscription required
Smartphone app? Yes; required for voice chat and creating online lobbies Yes Yes
Parties/groups/online lobbies? Yes; only through smartphone app Yes Yes
Comparing each online service. Polygon

Looking at them side by side, the Switch is set to have many of the same features as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One once its online service launches next year. The price is an obvious highlight; Nintendo previously hinted that its online program would be much cheaper than the others on the market. Although the smartphone app requirement is a sticking point, that Nintendo is giving players a chance to create online lobbies and easily access voice chat at all is a major step forward for the company.

The most obvious missing piece is cloud saves. Nintendo has yet to announce a cloud save feature for the console. A lack of cloud saves is a problem that some players have already run into. If you log hundreds of hours in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, only to lose your console, say goodbye to your save file forever. There’s no way to move save data from one system to another, Nintendo confirmed in March.

Until Nintendo Switch Online debuts in 2018, all players can access these features for free, so consider 2017 a yearlong trial period. Once the service is out, Switch owners not interested in paying the $20 a year will still have access to Nintendo eShop, their friends lists, sharing screenshots online and the Parental Controls app. They’ll have to say goodbye to online multiplayer, though, so anyone who’s gotten used to playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for free will have to think about subscribing in the coming months.

We don’t quite know everything about Nintendo Switch Online yet — will there be text chat? Does the app have any other exclusive features? (It’s not out until later this summer, and in a limited fashion.) Is the Classic Game Selection replacing the Virtual Console, and will it only include games from before the 64-bit era? We’ll update whenever Nintendo gives us more info.

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