Nintendo fans will soon have to start paying for the privilege of playing video games online with their friends.
The video game company has finally revealed when online functionality, which has been free to access for all players since the launch of the Nintendo Switch last year, will become a paid-for extra for owners of the console.
Switch Online will launch on September 18 2018 and cost £18 ($20) for an annual subscription, or £3.49 ($3.99) for a month.
This marks the first time Nintendo has charged players to access online multiplayer features, which were available for free on the Wii and the Wii U.
A free seven-day trial will be available to all Switch owners at launch.
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Nintendo fans will soon have to pay for the privilege of playing the online elements of their favourite games. Switch Online will launch on September 18 and cost £18 ($20) for a year’s subscription, or £3.49 ($3.99) for a month
Nintendo announced plans for an online subscription plan back in March 2017, when the Switch first hit the shelves.
Unlike Nintendo, rival consoles Xbox and PlayStation rolled-out their paid online subscriptions – Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus – at the same time as their latest generation consoles.
This will be the the first time that Nintendo has ever charged for people to play online on one of its gadgets.
It will give video game players access to online features in popular titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Splatoon 2.
There will also be exclusives for Pokémon Let’s Go! and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
In addition, players will be able to access a back catalogue of classic titles from the firm’s first console – the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
The 80s video gaming machine was responsible for the launch of some of the brand’s best loved characters, including Mario and Zelda.
In a written statement of its website, a spokesman for the company said: ‘You need to join the service to play online in Nintendo Switch games such as Splatoon 2, ARMS and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
‘Access to features such as online leaderboards and rankings does not require a paid Nintendo Switch Online membership.
‘You can join by purchasing a Nintendo Switch Online membership from locations such as Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch, or the official Nintendo website, after the service launches.’
This will be the the first time that Nintendo has ever charged for people to play online on one of its gadgets. It will give players access to online features in popular titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Splatoon 2. Pictured is a scene from Super Mario Odyssey
The move comes after Nintendo announced in July that its quarterly profits had jumped 44 per cent in the fiscal first quarter, thanks to increased sales of Nintendo Switch game titles.
The firm revealed it had now sold 19.67 million units of the Nintendo Switch as of June 30, 2018.
The hybrid console, which works as both a TV connected console and as a portable system, has been a huge hit for the firm.
The Japanese maker of Super Mario and Pokemon games said its net profit totaled 30.6 billion yen (£211 million / $274.9 million) during the April-June period, compared with 21.3 billion yen a year earlier.
WHEN WAS THE NINTENDO SWITCH RELEASED?
The Switch hit shelves across the world on Friday, March 3, 2017, selling for £279.99 (around $340).
It was released alongside its first two games, including an update on an early classic – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – and a multiplayer party game called 1-2-Switch.
More games – including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, another release based on a fan favourite – have been released since.
The tablet-like console clicks into the Nintendo Switch Dock, connecting it to the TV.
The Switch hit shelves across the world on Friday, March 3, and is selling for £279.99 (around $340)
In this version, the controller can be used much like a classic system, with grips and buttons on both sides.
But, these components can be detached to create two independent Joy-Con controllers as well.
For single player use, one person can play with a controller in each hand.
Or, two people can play using one Joy-Con controller each.
Quarterly sales rose 9 percent to 168.2 billion yen (£1.1 billion / $1.5 billion) over a year earlier while operating profit surged 88 percent to 30.5 billion yen (£210 million / $274 million).
Kyoto-based Nintendo credited new game titles for Nintendo Switch for profit growth.
One of the new titles, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, sold 1.4 million units between May and June.
The Switch is a hybrid game machine that works both as a console and a tablet.
Hardware sales of Nintendo Switch also trended upward since the video game expo E3 was held in the U.S. and software sales are in good shape with upcoming launches of key titles, the company said.
Switch’s popularity helped offset declines in hardware and software sales of Nintendo 3DS.
HOW DID MOBILE GAMING AND THE SWITCH SAVE NINTENDO?
Nintendo has had a rough few years.
Following disastrous sales of its Wii U console, investors clamoured for the Kyoto-based firm to close down its home console division and focus on smartphone games.
Super Mario Run, the first time one of Nintendo’s iconic video game characters appeared on a device that wasn’t built by the company itself, set download records across the globe when it launched in December 2016.
Super Mario Run topped 40 million downloads just four days – becoming the fastest game to reach the milestone in App Store history, Nintendo revealed at the time.
However, Nintendo shares tumbled after it was revealed only a tiny percentage of players were willing to pay the £9.99 charge to unlock all of the content in the game.
‘Mario is arguably the most popular gaming franchise in the world, yet we see only about 8 percent of those who try the game actually purchasing it,’ Sensor Tower analyst Spencer Gabriel said.
However, Nintendo does not appear to be deterred, with a slate of new mobile games scheduled to launch between now and March 2019.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is quietly working on a Legend Of Zelda adventure for smartphones and tablets to launch in late 2018, and Nintendo recently confirmed its best-selling racing game – Mario Kart — would be headed to iOS and Android smartphones before early 2019.
Elsewhere, the Kyoto gaming company has seen enormous success with the successor to the Wii U, Nintendo Switch.
The home console, which can be on a television or on-to-go thanks to its in-built six-inch touchscreen and detachable Joy Con controllers, has seen enormous demand.
At its most recent earnings call, Nintendo almost doubled its full-year operating profit forecast.
Sales of the all-new console, which includes its own version of Mario Kart and Legend Of Zelda, have exceeded the company’s estimates and outstripped those of its predecessor, the Wii U.
Nintendo also raised its year-end Switch sales forecast to 14 million consoles from 10 million.
This new annual target would alone exceed lifetime sales of 13.56 million consoles for the Wii U, which was on the market for about five years.