UPDATE: We now have official word from Nintendo of America that there won't be a separate payment option for online features. Instead, "the games include an in-game option to purchase a Nintendo Switch Online membership for those who do not already have one." So, it's a handy way to pay for online functionality when you need it, but it doesn't let you circumvent Nintendo Switch Online entirely – as it first appeared.
Annoyed? So are we. But you can read our original article below...
The upcoming Pokémon games on Nintendo Switch are set to launch this November, though players wishing to take part in online bouts with each other would usually require a subscription to Nintendo's paid online service – as you do for the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, or similar multiplayer games.
However, Sword and Shield seems to be doing things a bit differently, with an option to pay for online access for your Pokémon game alone.
- Pokémon Sword and Shield release date, battles, and features
- Nintendo Switch Online guide: what you need to know
- Here are the best Switch games (and Goose games) available now
The official Nintendo website cites the unusual payment strategy in the text below (emphasis our own): "Nintendo Switch Online membership (sold separately) and Nintendo Account required for online features. This game includes an in-game purchase option for users who do not have a membership. Not available in all countries. Internet access required for online features. Terms apply. nintendo.com/switch-online."
It's very effective!
By the sounds of it, even those without a full, paid subscription to Nintendo Switch Online will have a way to partake in online battles, trading, and the like – though we're yet to see whether it would be a cost-effective alternative, given the already low $3.99 / £3.49 / AU$5.95 price.
It may make a lot of sense for those largely using their Switch as a Pokémon machine. After all, the Pokémon Let's Go games didn't allow players to make use of Nintendo Switch Online's cloud saves, to prevent reloading saves with Pokémon you'd traded away. A standalone purchase option that focuses on the online features, without having to pay for a save feature you can't use, may be a smart way to utilize the options available.
However, Nintendo Switch Online relies on the pulling power of its biggest AAA games to sell the subscription – so it's hard not to see the standalone payment option undermining that, especially if this feature gets rolled out to other big-name Nintendo Switch games.
- What are the best Pokemon games?