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We've already seen with parental controls on the Nintendo Switch that the company is keen to utilise apps to link into the new system. In some respects that's a smart move, making it easy and flexible to adjust settings like that without needing to access the console; after all, we always have our smartphones on us.

What's intriguing, when you read the official information for the 'Online Service' details, is how an app will feature in that - whether that's a good thing or not is down to opinion.

As made clear in the main presentation, from the Fall season playing games online will require a subscription, following the lead set by PlayStation and Microsoft with their home consoles. It will be free for early adopters with a Nintendo Account, however, until Autumn / Fall.

Meanwhile a 'free, limited' version of the app for online messages and chat will launch in the Summer, which looks like it's planned to tie in with Splatoon 2, as a logical conclusion. There's some key wording (on the site and in some interview comments) that suggests voice chat will be exclusive to the app:

Our new dedicated smart device app will connect to Nintendo Switch and let you invite friends to play online, set play appointments, and chat with friends during online matches in compatible games─all from your smart device.

Whether third-parties will be able to produce conventional headsets that run out of the Switch itself is something else. It's seems feasible, based on Nintendo's remarks on that page and elsewhere about voice chat through the app, that it could be a way for it to retain control, determining which games have compatibility.

Another key area to pick up on relates to the 'free' monthly game. For those thinking this would be like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Games With Gold, there may be some disappointment. Each month you get a NES or SNES game to play, and then it disappears to be replaced the next month. It's been confirmed that you don't get to keep the game, but merely have an option to buy it.

Subscribers will get to download and play a Nintendo Entertainment System™ (NES) or Super Nintendo Entertainment System™ (Super NES) game (with newly-added online play) for free for a month.

Beyond that, discount offers will be available to those subscribed to the service.

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There are some positives here, but certainly also some steps back. The retro game trial will likely be underwhelming to long term fans, while the arrival of voice chat is a positive as long as the app in question works well, and as long as it's used frequently. After all Wii U and 3DS support voice chat, but you could count the games that support the feature on one hand.

The key thing will be the price, of course. In the UK Xbox Live Gold is £5.99 per month or £39.99 for a full year, PlayStation Plus is the same.

What do you think of the early details around the Nintendo Switch Online Service?

[via nintendo.com]