Thursday, July 20, 2017
Nintendo, Nintendo Switch Online is Bad and You Should Feel Bad
Oh, Nintendo. Nintendo, Nintendo, Nintendo. You really do amaze me. You put out some of the best games. When a plethora of pundits were calling you dead and irrelevant, you launched a console/handheld hybrid that managed to sell nearly 3 million units in only a few months. Fans and critics alike that have not been interested in Nintendo's offerings in years are foaming at the mouth for the Switch. So why would you go and make online communication features for the Switch, the system that no one can shut up about, a steaming pile of horse manure?
When Nintendo first announced that online game interactions with others would be handled on our phones through an app, red flags immediately went up in our heads. Some ideas sound great on paper but are terrible in execution. This, however, was an idea that sounded horrendous from the get go. Knowing something is going to be terrible is one thing. Experiencing just how terrible something is, well, that is so much worse.
Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo's app that functions (using that word very loosely) as the means for players to communicate with fellow players as of right now, is a absolute garbage. The app can't even do something so basic like work with the screen off, meaning you've got to constantly fiddle with your phone to keep the app up. Any kind of text message or notification will shut the app down and you'll have to start it up again. This means you cannot have anything else going on in the background while NSO is running. There's no match making and while you can do room chat, there isn't any way to do voice chat, proving once again that Nintendo is still living in the stone age.
Nintendo has always had a reputation for being a family friendly company, the Disney of video games. This hasn't stopped them from allowing M rated games on their consoles and in some of the more recent games, they've had alcohol along with some pretty eyebrow raising humor aplenty. Nevertheless, Nintendo's family friendly status is something they are never going to shake and perhaps the company doesn't wish to. This is probably why Nintendo chose to go with such a cumbersome way to interact with other players for the online service. Nintendo wants to protect the children, but the thing is, that is not Nintendo's job. On the back of any game that features online play under the ESRB ratings label, it reads "Online interactions not rated by the ESRB." This means that when little Timmy goes online and hears words his parents don't want him to hear, said parents can't hold the game companies responsible. Instead of not having any voice chat at all, Nintendo could have an option to have to have it disabled in parental controls, which is a feature that is actually built in the system itself.
It seems like Nintendo is so focused on all of the negative that can come from voice chat. I can understand the company's concerns. Gaming tends to bring out a lot of people's competitive nature and things can get pretty heated. We've all heard the stories of how people can and do get harassed during online sessions. There's usually a way to report these deplorable people and get them banned.
Having said all of that, I think Nintendo should also look at the good that could come from having a much better, non prehistoric online service that does have voice chat. It can be a great way to make friends. Anyone you come across online while playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS or Splatoon 2 are more than likely Nintendo fans, so that's already some common ground right there. Nintendo's got a great thing going with the Switch. Nintendo Switch Online, however, is a hot mess. Playing Switch games online is currently free, but come 2018, we'll have to pay for it. As it stands, paying $60 a year to play PS4 games online is a much better alternative than forking over $20 a year for a service that not even the most die hard Nintendo fans would deem passable.