In the last couple of days, some Pokemon Sword and Shield fans were holding into hope that you would be able to access online features for the game without a Switch Online membership. This was due to some wording on the Pokemon Sword and Shield website, which mentioned "an in-game purchase option for users who do not have a membership." Nintendo has now stepped in to clarify what that blurb means. The following statement comes from a spokesperson for Nintendo of America, as provided to TechRadar.
"As stated on the Game Store pages for the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield games at www.nintendo.com, a Nintendo Switch Online membership is required to use the games’ online features. The games include an in-game option to purchase a Nintendo Switch Online membership for those who do not already have one."