Xbox and PlayStation established their paid online services years ago. Nintendo, a company that has always marched to its own beat, announced Wednesday via its website that it will finally follow suit in September. That means the online functionality Switch owners currently enjoy for free will be gated behind a paywall later this year.
Nintendo previously said the service would begin sometime in 2018, but the news that it will happen in September raises an interesting question. Since September tends to be a busy time for big game releases, will the service debut alongside some big online-focused Switch game—maybe the long-rumored Super Smash Bros., for instance?
Nintendo has yet to announce anything about the games coming out in the second half of the year, so we don’t know anything for sure. But getting charged for a service that’s currently free might go down easier if Switch owners got a big new Nintendo game to play online.
On the plus side, Nintendo said the online service will cost $19.99 per year. That’s significantly less expensive than Sony and Microsoft’s online services, which run about $60 when purchased one year at a time. There’s also a smartphone app on its way.
Sony and Microsoft also give away numerous games each month to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold subscribers. To compete, Nintendo said its service will let subscribers download and play classic Nintendo games on their Switches. Nintendo also said these games will have added online functionality, but what that means exactly remains unclear. We don’t know how many classic games will be available to subscribers, but Nintendo mentioned three games that will definitely come to the service: Super Mario Bros. 3, Dr. Mario, and Balloon Fight.
Another question is what Nintendo’s paid online service means for the Virtual Console. The Virtual Console is a digital store on Wii, Wii U, and 3DS that sells classic games from Nintendo’s past. Nintendo has yet to say if or when the Virtual Console will make its way to Switch.