After years of being the only major game console maker to continue to offer online services for free, Nintendo is finally following both Sony and Microsoft in launching a branded online subscription that will be required to play games with friends over the internet. It’s called Nintendo Switch Online (apparently), and if you’re wondering how the value proposition stacks up against its competitors, here’s the breakdown.

Nintendo Switch Online

  • Cost: $3.99/month, $7.99/3-month, $19.99/12-month
  • Required for online play, lobbies, and voice chat
  • “Deals” on Nintendo eShop games
  • “Classic Game Selection,” which means free access to old-school games like Super Mario Bros. 3, Balloon Fight, and Dr. Mario.

Xbox Live Gold

  • Cost: $9.99/month, $24.99/3-month, $59.99/12-month
  • Required for online competitive and cooperative play, parties, and party chat
  • Discounts on digital games from the Xbox Store
  • “Games with Gold” free full game downloads twice per month

PlayStation Plus

  • Cost: $9.99/month, $24.99/3-month, $59.99/12-month
  • Required for online competitive and cooperative play
  • Discounts on digital games from the PlayStation Store
  • Free full game downloads of six PS4, PS3 and PS Vita games every month

Okay, so Nintendo is essentially bringing itself into parity with its competition, albeit with a weaker selection of free games (classics, compared to modern full releases) and for a much, much lower price. In fact, a year’s worth of Nintendo Online is less than a three month subscription to either PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. That’s a very good thing for a company without a solid record of providing stable online connectivity (anyone remember the lag on Smash?), and even if you’re not heavy into competitive or cooperative play, voice chat with friends and freebie downloads from the eShop pay for the cost of the service with ease.