Owners of Nintendo's Switch console will be able to continue playing online for free until 2018, the company announced today, at which point the service will be priced at $19.99 a year - significantly cheaper than equivalent services on PlayStation and Xbox.
Nintendo had initially indicated that the online service would launch before the end of this year, but owners of the console will be able to play co-operative and competitive games for free until sometime in 2018 - when "most" games will require a paid subscription.
Nintendo Switch Online will be available under three different pricing schemes: $3.99 a month, $7.99 for three months, or $19.99 a year, well below both PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold membership prices. However, this is very much in line with the ¥2,000 to ¥3,000 laid out by Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima in February.
In addition to online gameplay and special deals in the eShop, Switch Online members will also receive, "get to download a compilation of classic titles with added online play, such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight and Dr. Mario." Membership will also grant access to a smartphone app allowing voice chat, but Nintendo service said a "free, limited version" of that will launch this summer.
However, while this is technically a delay, many of the service's key features will be available in some form before a holiday season in which the Switch is likely to be very popular among consumers.
In March, reports surfaced that Nintendo had doubled its production schedule for the current fiscal year (ending March 2018) from 8 million to 16 million units, with another report emerging this week that production would now reach 18 million units.
Officially, though, Nintendo has said that it expects to sell 10 million units of the Switch in that period, after selling 2.74 million in its first month.