When Nintendo announced the details of its online service, the company did so many things right. Nintendo selected an incredibly competitive price, charging users just $20 a year to use its service, a third of the cost of Xbox Live and PSN. Nintendo chose to expand its strategy for classic games; opting for a Netflix-like service rather than a temporary rental. For all intents and purposes, Nintendo’s online service should stand toe-to-toe with its competitors, at just a fraction of the cost. Well, except for that little detail about its phone app.
Had Nintendo decided to add in a phone app for additional functionality, that would have been an incredibly intuitive idea. Imagine being able to use your phone to play mobile games that connect with Switch titles. Or, having the ability to purchase games on a phone to download onto your Switch at home would be excellent. Nintendo might even figure out an intuitive way to tether your phone to your Switch using its app. All the potential new features that could be borne out of a Nintendo app would be very promising when connected with its online service.
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Instead, Nintendo opted to do something strange. It seems like one of the biggest online features – voice chat – will not only be exclusive to its phone app, but will not allow cross game chat. What a bizarre decision, and one that infuriates me when considering the rest of its online service. This app could have been the opportunity to move Nintendo forward in the digital age, something that could have put it up against its competitors. Instead, Nintendo chose to implement its online service in a way that can’t even check off the most basic online features. What good is paying for voice chat if I could use my phone for its intended use, a simple phone call?
Thursday’s announcement of the Switch headset wasn’t just hectic, but stunningly unnecessary. Just take a look at this thing below. This graphic made me facepalm so hard that I still have a dent in my face.
Note: Theoretically, any headset plugged into a smartphone should work. But, that still adds an unnecessary step. Moreover, as a Splatoon-branded headset, the marketing seems to suggest this is the recommended way to voice chat.
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Essentially, what you have is a phallic-shaped dongle in the middle, with not one, not two, but three chords! You really have to take your hat off to Nintendo. They managed to take a task that should require just a single headset plug, and managed to turn it into a multi-stepped, three-chord, phallic dongle monstrosity of an endeavor. Truly, what is the point?
First off, this more or less defeats the purpose of using Nintendo’s online service to chat at all. Yes, it automatically allows you to chat with those in your multiplayer room; but they only let you chat with your friends anyway. Moreover, you probably already have those friends on Facebook, Skype, Discord, or literally any other free online chat service that allows you to chat without Nintendo’s silly online constraints. In fact, despite the nice look of this Splatoon headset, I can’t imagine any competitive Splatoon player taking the time and effort of dealing with this headset rather than just turning on the Discord app.
The other primary concern comes out of arrogance on Nintendo’s part. Not everyone has a smartphone. There simply are Nintendo Switch owners out there that do not have the means to download their phone app. Switch players also include children and younger teens, some of which do not have any phone at all. Nintendo has essentially thrown its customers “into the future” and told them to deal with it. In reality, this feature is not at all futuristic, but just a giant pain.
Sometimes it seems like Nintendo knows what it’s doing. For example, Nintendo’s marketing for the Switch is some of the most “aware” I have seen from the company in years. Nintendo’s online service reveal, featuring a low price, classic games, and an integrative phone app, seemed both intuitive and modern. It’s a shame that Nintendo pulled a move that is so… Nintendo. Instead of connecting the last dot that would have made its online service great, Nintendo went for a strategy that is clumsy, out-of-touch, and ultimately infuriating to any gamer that is familiar with modern online infrastructure. Hopefully, this reveal is not the final version of Nintendo’s online service; the company still has time to put together an online strategy that can bring the company into the future.