It’s been over a year since Nintendo first introduced the Switch Online service. It’s a subscription-based network service that gives players access to online multiplayer and cloud saves in the majority of games.
Via a recent report from Nintendo’s January 2020 Investor’s Briefing, the company revealed that the current amount of Switch Online subscribers is 15 million “paid membership accounts”. For a console that has a user-base of over 50 million, that means that a lot less than half of the Switch’s audience actually has a subscription. Nintendo President Furukawa flat-out acknowledges this in the report, and mentioned that Nintendo “will continue to enhance the appeal of the service to bring more features and more fun to Nintendo Switch.”
In the 15 months since its launch, Switch Online really hasn’t grown all that much in terms of functionality. It still lacks what many gamers consider to be rudimentary features, like a system-based messaging system and achievements. Also, unlike the network subscriptions on other consoles, Switch Online doesn’t have any huge incentives for joining other than playing online and cloud save functionality. PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold both offer a handful of free games each month. Nintendo, on the other hand, only offers a selection of NES and SNES games for free—and the selection hasn’t been updated in months.
Personally, I don’t play online on Switch all that much outside of a few matches of Rocket League every now and again. But, there are definitely some folks out there who are likely interested in playing but don’t want to spend the money. It will be interesting to see what Nintendo has in store to benefit existing users and attract new ones.