Nintendo’s new console just got an online service

Nintendo’s history with online services on its game consoles is, to put it nicely, quite poor.

Game purchases never carry forward, nor do usernames and friend lists — each subsequent console’s service feels like Nintendo started from scratch. And in the case of Nintendo’s newest console, the Switch, it outright launched without an online service.

That changes today with the launch of Nintendo Switch Online, the new app from Nintendo for iOS and Android.

Nintendo Switch Online

With the new app, you’re able to do a lot of the standard online stuff you already do on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 — party up with friends, voice chat, send invites, and track gameplay progress. Rather than handling any of this directly on the Switch, Nintendo’s offloading that functionality to your smartphone. The app offers at least one neat benefit that we’ve seen: The ability to customise the app for specific games.

One of the first games to use the app is “Splatoon 2,” an online multiplayer-focused shooter that launches on July 21. Through the “Splatoon 2” submenu, you can interact directly with various aspects of the game — view stats, buy stuff for your character, and more.

Nintendo Switch Online (SplatNet)
Here’s what the ‘Splatoon 2’ service, ‘SplatNet,’ looks like in action. Nintendo

The Nintendo Switch has a variety of games that already have online multiplayer built in, including “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” and “ARMS,” but it’s not clear if they will also get dedicated areas on the Nintendo Switch Online app.

Outside of a digital storefront (the “eShop”) and a rudimentary friends list, none of the rich online features that people expect in modern game consoles are built into the Switch. No Netflix, no web browser, and no way to play games in a party chat with friends.

Nintendo’s taking steps towards a legitimate, paid online service in 2018 with the launch of “Nintendo Switch Online.” You’ll even get free, classic games every month as part of the membership. In the meantime, however, Nintendo’s offering free access to a limited version of the service that will launch in 2018. Get it on iOS here, and Android here.



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