Right off the bat, I’m going to say this: I grew up with Nintendo consoles. From the original Nintendo Entertainment System through the Virtual Boy and up to the Nintendo Switch, I’ve owned all of them. Thanks to my job, I can say the same for the Xbox and PlayStation line, but growing up? I was all Nintendo. I had a Genesis, got a Saturn but missed the Dreamcast until I scooped one up from eBay during college.
My point here is that I don’t have a personal vendetta against Nintendo. In fact, one could argue that I have a preference for their platforms given my history. I also have a great vantage point on their past when it comes to design choices and decisions.
This Nintendo Switch Online app and the way voice chat works? It’s so stupidly frustrating, and it’s so typically Nintendo.
What are they doing?
If you’re playing catch-up, here’s the deal. Nintendo just released Splatoon 2 on Thursday. It’s a great game. They also dropped the Nintendo Switch Online application. That app does a few things, but its chief function, one might argue, is serving as a way to form parties with friends and, yes, voice chat in Splatoon 2.
In fact, the app is required for voice chat, because the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a built-in grouping or voice chat application.
We learned this week that the Nintendo Switch Online app must remain open and your phone’s screen must stay on in order for voice chat to work continuously. If you swap apps to respond to a text, voice chat drops. If your screen times out, voice chat drops.
Want to play Splatoon 2 on your Switch in handheld form? You’ll need the system, your phone and some headphones. The app’s requirement to keep your screen on will absolutely rip through your phone’s battery life, so you’ll want to either plug it in or keep a backup battery nearby.
We’ve come to this, and it’s red hot garbage.
This is totally Nintendo, though, isn’t it?
This is the same company that once required players to swap friend codes in order to be friends. Friend codes were randomly generated series of 12 numbers. They just moved on from this system, sort of, in the last couple of years.
Nintendo is the same company that, in America, marketed the Wii U almost squarely at kids. Heck! They’re the same company that called it the “Wii U,” causing customer confusion and frustration as regular consumers couldn’t tell that this was a whole new console. Nintendo is the same company that discontinued the NES Classic while it was stupid hot. They still haven’t even offered pre-orders for the SNES Classic. We have no idea what’s going on with the Virtual Console on the Nintendo Switch, and they still can’t make enough of them to go around.
The thing is that Nintendo is downright brilliant in most of the areas I care about. They’re second-to-none in game design, and they have a penchant for designing knockout systems. Look at the Wii, the SNES, the Game Boy Advance, the DS and the Nintendo Switch. These are stunning consoles that often arrive with completely new ideas.
Nintendo takes big risks like betting on motion control or dual screens, and sometimes they knock it out of the park. Other times they don’t, but they always swing.
And then they do tone-deaf stuff like this Nintendo Switch voice chat “solution.”
Ultimately, I still love my Nintendo Switch. As it stands now, I won’t use their app to chat with friends. If I want to play Splatoon 2 while talking to someone else, I need to bust out my phone, invite them to a party, bust out my laptop, open up Skype (or Discord, Hangouts, whatever) and chat with them that way. I need like 50,000 things just to play the way I want to.
Nintendo, figure it out. Your Switch is a damn fine console, so don’t let this gum up the works.