Since the launch of the Nintendo Switch back in 2017, Nintendo has promised an online subscription service. But, more than a year after launch, the Nintendo Switch Online Service is yet to appear. Following several delays, Nintendo has finally announced the Switch Online Service release date, pricing and what benefits gamers can expect from the service.  

Here’s everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch Online Service ahead of launch later this year.

When is the Nintendo Switch Online Service going to launch?

While the Nintendo Switch Online Service was supposed to launch back in 2017, Nintendo took to the stage at E3 2017 to announce a delay until 2018. Speaking at show, Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime explained that the delay is because Nintendo "need[s] to get our digital environment world class."

“We wanted to make sure that it is a robust, well-executed online environment, and for the $20 annual subscription fee, the consumer says, 'This is a no-brainer. I want to participate. I'm all in.’”

There wasn’t much more said about the service until May 2018, when Nintendo fully revealed the features and launch date. It’s set to launch in September 2018, and from that point on, will be the only way that you’ll be able to play multiplayer games. And while there’s not a specific launch date in place just yet, Nintendo did confirm in August 2018 that the service would launch in the "second half of September".

How much will it cost?

With Sony’s yearly PS Plus subscription setting PS4 gamers back £49.99/$59.99 and Microsoft’s Xbox Live costing £39.99/$59.99 per year, the main concern for most Switch gamers is the cost of the Nintendo Switch Online Service.

Thankfully, Nintendo hasn’t followed the trend of expensive yearly subscriptions, and has announced that Nintendo Switch Online will set users in the UK back £3.49 per month, £6.99 for a three-month subscription and £17.99 to get access for a year. Those in the US and EU pay $3.99/€3.99 per month, $7.99/€7.99 for three or $19.99/€19.99 for a full year.

Even though the service hasn't actually launched yet, you can actually already buy three or twelve-month subscriptions from Amazon UK or Amazon US so that you're ready for the official launch.

There’s also a Family membership on offer; it’s a little more expensive and only available in the form of a 12-month membership, but provides the service on up to eight Nintendo Switch profiles – even across different Switch consoles. For that privilege, expect to pay £31.49/$34.99/€34.99 per year.

What will the Nintendo Switch Online Service offer?

So, what exactly is the Nintendo Switch Online Service and what does it offer? Essentially, it’s the Nintendo equivalent of PlayStation Now and Xbox Live Gold; it’s a paid subscription service that gives gamers the ability to play games with friends online. You’ll always be able to play single-player and local multiplayer games, but from September 2018, you’ll need to subscribe to access online multiplayer.

But, like Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo is set to offer other benefits alongside access to online multiplayer. The headline of the service is access to an ever-growing list of classic NES games at no extra cost. Nintendo has confirmed that there will be 20 titles available at launch, with more being added on a regular basis. Titles available at launch include Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Ice Climber and Balloon Fight, some of which will for the first time include multiplayer gameplay.

Depending on the game in question, Switch players will be able to join online competitive or co-op multiplayer, or take turns controlling single-player games. You’ll also be able to watch friends play single-player games online and ‘pass the controller’ at any time. And, like modern games, all classic NES titles will support voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app.

Though the service is yet to launch, you can already download the Nintendo Switch Online app for iOS and Android. It was introduced alongside Splatoon 2, and offers voice chat functionalities alongside game-specific functions. It’s limited to Splatoon 2 for now, but it’ll be opened up to all Nintendo Switch games at launch in September.

Oh, and for those worried about their precious game data, you’ll be glad to know that the online service also offers save data cloud backup.