Nintendo just launched a new smartphone app called Nintendo Switch Online. It is a companion app for Nintendo’s latest console (the Switch) and is currently available on iOS and Android for free. The Nintendo Switch Online app is designed to help enhance your online gameplay experience allowing you to check game-specific services (e.g. SplatNet 2 for Splatoon 2), invite friends to play with you via social media and in theory use voice chat while gaming. Whilst this sounds like a nifty system, its release has been a complete mess. With failed connections and set up so needlessly complicated it requires a degree to use, Nintendo fans have been harsh in their backlash.
But is this really that surprising? Nintendo aren’t known for doing things the easy way. In fact, if you ask most gamers what two words they would associate with Nintendo it wouldn’t be logical and simple, so lets run through a few of the hiccups of Nintendo’s new online voice service. The biggest of these is the voice chat feature requires the use of a smart phone app that is used externally from your Switch even though you need to set up the lobby for your chat room on the Switch itself. Sound complicated enough yet…?
Let’s break it down. First, there’s no way to group up and chat solely through the Nintendo Switch Online app itself. If you want to get your Switch friends together to talk you have to start a room together within the game. Go to the “Lobby”, select “Online Lounge”, and then “Create Room.” You must be signed in on the same Nintendo Account on your Switch and the Nintendo Switch Online app, you’ll then get a notification on your app and your room is ready. Once this is done options don’t really get any simpler. In the app you can invite friends to your new private room. Your options include inviting your current Nintendo Switch friends, users you’ve just met/recently played with, or via social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc). If you choose to invite via social media it creates a URL code in your chat room that can be shared anywhere online for people to click on and join. And for those concerned about security, as far as I’m aware you’re able to create a 4 digit security code for your private chat room.
Whilst the app does have its positives, it seems to have more negatives. During team play it will switch to team chat and isolate you from the main group until the round has finished, only dumping you back into group chat once it’s all over, it’s still very limiting. Firstly there’s currently no way for players to make a chatroom outside of a game at this current stage. What’s worse is that it’s also fairly unstable in its current form and has many complaining about disconnects alongside its awkward user interface.
Second and quite possibly worst of all is the fact that the app doesn’t support background use. If you need to minimise your app for some reason you’re temporarily kicked from the voice chat room, this also applies to shutting off your phone’s screen or allowing your mobile to drop into sleep mode (a fairly common feature). Many users have even complained about disconnection issues when pulling down the notification bar on their android phone, however being an iOS user this is something I am unable to verify. Thankfully switching back to the app does reconnect to the room in a second or two but I can’t help but feel like this shouldn’t be an issue to begin with and I’m not alone. The Nintendo Switch subreddit is currently exploding with backlash and I expect things to only get worse over the coming days.
Personally I’m actually not annoyed by the fact that I have to use my smartphone for voice chat, I generally will have my phone on me most of the time so it’s not that much of an inconvenience if at all to make this step. However my main concerns are over the connectivity issues, add to this the fact that we won’t be able to get any game audio from our headsets if we are all plugged into our phones, and it’s just not good product design. For those of you like me who want it all there is an awkward workaround where you plug a dongle into both your phone and your Switch (becoming the cable master) all for the sake of getting both audio at once, but is this really worth it or should Nintendo just do better? As always let us know your thoughts in the comments below.