Nintendo was a little late to the online party. While Microsoft stormed ahead with its Xbox Live service and Sony got to grips with the PlayStation Network, Nintendo was languishing with inconvenient friend codes and limited voice chat options.
After a lengthy wait, Nintendo Switch online offering is now up and running. As you're probably aware, it brings with it the ability to save games in the cloud, access to a host of classic NES games, and of course online multiplayer. The downside is you have to fork out £3.49 / $3.99 to Nintendo every month.
Nintendo Switch: online multiplayer
- Basic service has been online for a while
- Full service finally launched in October 2018
Online multiplayer was available in some games from the launch of the Nintendo Switch, but now it's here in full – if you're willing to pay for it.
We've already had a play around with the console's companion app, which was compatible with Splatoon 2 right away: you could invite friends to matches, and voice chat with them, even if the whole process was rather cumbersome.
Using a separate device isn't ideal, and connectivity usually wasn't perfect. Whether the full Nintendo Switch online service turns out to be a winner remains to be seen.
What we can tell you is that regular updates to the Nintendo Switch companion app and the firmware on the console itself have continued to introduce some very welcome features – such as the ability to add friends directly from your 3DS and Wii U Friend Lists.
Nintendo Switch: local wireless multiplayer
- Easy to set up and join other players
- Supports up to eight Switch consoles
Local wireless multiplayer within a game such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe works very well in our experience.
We used three Nintendo Switch consoles to have six people playing at once and found the entire process simple to set up, with no lag or connection problems.
To set up an online multiplayer game using local wireless, players simply start up Mario Kart and select local wireless mode for either one or two players within the game itself. After this, one player will set up a room which the other players then join, and the player who set up the room selects the race rules.
Each player will be given the chance to vote for their track preference and the game will randomly choose a track from those that players have voted for, much like online play works.
If you have two players to one console, then the screen will split for each of you to see your place in the race, but you won't see what everyone else is seeing on their screens unless their consoles are in front of you.
In the specific case of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the maximum number of players that you can have in a single race over local wireless is eight, with one or two players per Switch.
However, if you don't have multiple consoles then up to four friends can play on a single Nintendo Switch console in TV mode, or in tabletop mode.
Alternatively, if you have a lot of friends and a lot of consoles to hand, up to 12 consoles in TV mode can be connected via LAN Play, with one or two players per connected Nintendo Switch. However with each player required to have their own USB Ethernet adaptor, it's unlikely that many outside of tournaments will end up using their Nintendo Switch consoles in this way.
Nintendo Switch: online service
- Limited functionality at launch
- Full service arrived in October 2018
Nintendo’s online service certainly looks better than what it's offered in the past, but it still falls short of what competitors Sony and Microsoft are doing.
The service costs $3.99 / £3.49 / AU$5.95 if you're paying month by month, with the monthly cost dropping slightly if you commit to more months at once.
And remember those are the prices for one user. If you've got a family on your Nintendo Switch then you'll be looking to sign up for the more expensive family plan which costs £31.49 / $34.99 per year. It seems like a fair bit more, but it does allow up to eight accounts across multiple consoles, meaning you get a decent discount if you know a few people with Switch consoles who are willing to split.
Large parts of the service function through an app on your phone, so you'll have to have it on you if you want to use some of the online functions.
The service also offers its own somewhat limited version of Sony's PlayStation Plus free games and Microsoft's Games with Gold, giving players access to a small library of 20 NES games at launch (with modern features like online multiplayer). Nintendo is promising to add more NES games regularly.
Something a lot of people have been waiting for has also arrived with the online service: cloud saves. Those who subscribe to the online service can finally back up their saves for the games they've plugged hundreds of hours into (though they do have to pay for the privilege).
Though the Switch launched without the popular video streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime we've come to expect from consoles, Nintendo was quick to promise that these services would come to the console 'in time', though we haven't seen much yet.
Hulu is the first of these services to have launched. It's US-only, but we're hoping this is a good sign that other streaming services will be arriving soon. It certainly sounds as though YouTube could be imminent.
Nintendo Switch: eShop online store
- eShop available at launch with modern games
- Retro games available through Nintendo Switch Online
Like the Wii U before it, the Nintendo Switch features an online store that will allow you to download games rather than buy them in-store.
If you're looking to download your games instead of buying them in a physical format, you'll want to invest in a microSD card. The console's internal memory is limited to 32GB, an amount which is already too small for one game, Dragon Quest Heroes.
As for the Virtual Console seen on previous Nintendo devices, that's not coming to the Nintendo Switch. Instead, retro games are available through the online subscription service we've already mentioned.
Although the eShop could do with a few more titles to choose from, we like its minimalist design. Along the left are sections for Recent Releases, Coming Soon and Redeem Code and there's also some search functionality too.
You can add upcoming games to your Watch List, and there's also a section for downloading previously purchased titles to your Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is clearly planning to continue to add to the store as time goes on, too.