Those that want to battle against trainers and trade online will have to pay. Nintendo has confirmed that Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! will both require players to subscribe to Nintendo Online if they wish to use the game's multiplayer features. The Switch's requirement of an online subscription is set to launch in September, and it will mark the first time that the company has charged for online play (both Microsoft and Sony also share this requirement).
Last month, the Nintendo Online subscription was officially announced. Players can now either purchase one month of access for $3.99, get three months for $7.99, or buy an entire year for $19.99. Additionally there will be family memberships for $34.99, which will allow up to seven accounts to use online for just one fee. A subscription is more than just having online access, as the service will also give players access to a selection of NES games, save data cloud backup, and various special offers.
Online multiplayer has been a longtime staple of the role-playing game series, as GameFreak has added a number of features such as Wonder Trade, Battle Spot, and the Global Trading System in past installments. In The Pokémon Company's official statement to GameSpot, they confirmed that both of the new Pokémon: Let's Go games will have online play including battling and trading with players locally and online. However, they state that both games will have a "somewhat simplified" feature set when compared to past titles in the series. Here's the full statement:
"Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu and Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee will have online play functionality. Battling and trading with other players over the Internet or locally will be available in these games. However, the feature set will be somewhat simplified in comparison to previous games in that there is no GTS, Wonder Trade, or Battle Spot (Rating Battle, Free Battle, and Online Competition, etc.) for example. Further details will be revealed at a later date. An active membership for the Nintendo Switch Online service, which is scheduled to begin in September of this year, will be required to access these features."
It's not a great look for Nintendo that the first Pokémon game to require players to pay for online multiplayer will be the title with the most limited multiplayer feature set. It makes it a much tougher sell than a game like Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon, that had a bunch of different ways to play online for free. The Pokémon Company (and Nintendo, for that matter) they'll have more details to talk about at a later time, but it's not likely they'll have a feature planned that will sway the minds of those that are already upset by the decision.
However, this is also a new start for Nintendo when it comes to online play, and it wouldn't make any sense to allow some games to use the online service for free while others require a subscription. They have to be absolute in their rules, or they will lack any meaning. So, while players might be upset at the moment, this requirement of an online subscription will eventually become the new norm just like it is on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.