Trick to get Animal Crossing online multiplayer access on Nintendo Switch free for seven-days

Plus how to play online for a year for £3ish (norm £18) on your Nintendo Switch

Even many non-gamers will have heard of Animal Crossing, with the most recent game New Horizons being Nintendo's biggest Switch release ever. But if you want to play Animal Crossing or other games online the Switch - so that you can play with friends etc - you have to pay a yearly subscription. I've found a trick to get online access free for seven days, plus how to save on costs if you want to buy it after that.

As a Nintendo gamer and a big Animal Crossing fan, I decided to pre-order the game (after researching the best price) when lockdown came in just before my birthday. The game's been out a few weeks now, but prices are still very similar to the pre-orders - about £40 for a download code from CD Keys or £43 for a physical copy from ShopTo* (currently on back order).

Did I buy the game so I could have an online birthday party? Yes. Yes I did.

How to get seven days of online play FREE for Animal Crossing - or any other game

If you’ve got a copy of Animal Crossing New Horizons, or any other Switch game allowing online play, you may want to play online with friends, especially as you can't see them in-person right now. So you go to the Dodo in the game and he informs you that you can't?! That's because you need an online subscription to Nintendo Switch Online, which is usually £17.99 a year for an individual membership, or £3.49 for one month.

Here's my sister and I enjoying playing online free for seven days being photobombed by Gala (the pig)

Here's the trick - do this before you buy anything:

  • Log in to the Nintendo e-shop on your Switch.
  • Select the 'Nintendo Switch Online' option on the left side.
  • Select 'free 7-day trial'.
  • Enjoy seven days of FREE online gaming.

Important: You'll be shown the exact date and time your free trial ends, so make sure you cancel before that time to avoid paying for a month's online (£3.49) after your seven-day trial expires.

It's worth noting than on the free trial you can play most games and use a lot of the features, but you'll not be able to get discounts on items such as controllers or extra 'free' downloadable game content that fully-paid online members have access to - which brings me nicely on to the next section...

How to pay less than £18 a year for online access

If you've finished your seven-day free trial - or previously had one - and liked playing online then you might be tempted to let your Switch auto-renew so you can keep playing. Don't do it! There's a clever way to pay less than the normal £17.99 a year for access - which will especially interest anyone in a multiple-Switch household.

Family memberships can be bought by anyone aged over 18, who can then add up to seven other accounts, all of which will be able to access online play and benefits individually. So, if you've more than one person in your household with an account it'll make it cheaper. You don't need to buy direct from Nintendo - you can get online access codes from other retailers, which may cut the cost even further.

Here are the best prices I found - I've also included cheaper ways to get online solo if you'd prefer that.

Shop Price/year (individual, 1 account) Price/year (family, up to 8 accounts) Saving vs individual Nintendo account
Nintendo e-Shop £17.99 (individual, 1 account) 🔴 £31.49 (family, up to 8 accounts) 🔴 £14.05 per account (equiv £3.94 each)
ShopTo* £14.85 (individual*, 1 account) 🟢 £24.85 (family*, up to 8 accounts) 🟢 £3.14 individual, £14.88 per account (equiv £3.11 each)
CDKeys £14.99 (individual, 1 account) 🟠 £26.49 (family, up to 8 accounts) 🟠 £3 individual, £14.68 per account (equiv £3.31 each)

If you've a code or discount for CDKeys that makes it cheaper for you, it might be worth ordering from it instead.

How to get access for a year for £3ish

Here's the second trick - you add people to your 'Family group' via the email they've used to set up their Nintendo account. So technically, you don't have to live with the people in your family account... or even be family at all. So if you've seven friends and/or family members, you can pool your resources and get access for a year for £3.11 each.

If you're the one buying the account, you'll be able to add and remove people as the admin - just don't let the power go to your head. If one of your friends or family is the admin then it's worth being nice to them - the power might go to their head.

Even if there's only two of you that want online access, at the cheapest price I found it'll cost you each £12.43 - a saving of £5.56 per person on Nintendo's price. Just don't beat your lockdown buddy too badly at any competitive online games, or you'll be in trouble!

Here's me wishing on a star in the game. What did I wish for? It's a secret... Ok, it was pizza.

Have you been gaming more recently? Are you playing Animal Crossing? Have you used these tricks? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter.