September 24, 2019 marked Nintendo’s 130th birthday. It’s crazy to think that a card and toy company has grown into a video game powerhouse. Well, these days, “powerhouse” is being a little too generous. Nintendo has made a huge comeback with its Switch console, and yet it continues to take steps backwards.
Case in point is its online offerings. A particular tweet on the anniversary date referenced this issue, and it nearly made me do a spit take with my coffee. It read:
Nintendo has changed a huge amount since it was founded 130 years ago. But there is one thing at Nintendo that has never changed in all that time!
The quality of its online service.
For whatever reason, Nintendo cannot get itself together when it comes to its online service.
The Switch still requires Friend Codes, a 16-digit code that both soon-to-be friends have to use to connect. With the Wii era, when PlayStation 3 didn’t have a decent online service and Microsoft was still fleshing out its Gold service, the Friend Codes sort of made sense. I say that in the loosest definition of “making sense.” They were a pain in the butt to enter in, but Nintendo also didn’t have a large offering of online, multiplayer games back then, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
When the Wii U entered the scene—I still say that was marketing’s biggest blunder, calling it the Wii U—it “caught up with” the other consoles of the same generation in terms of power and visuals. That included multiplayer games. Nintendo even created one of its own: Splatoon. However, the company didn’t feel a need to update the console’s online service.
It wasn’t until Splatoon started to hit big in esports that Nintendo decided to allow voice-chat support, but only on a game-by-game basis. The Wii U Game Pad mic could not be used as a game chat mic, and Nintendo never provided any headset accessory of their own. To make matters worse, headsets had to be plugged into the Wii U Game Pad, which made things trickier for players using the Wii U Pro Controller.
It’s all so backward and nonsensical when it really never had to be.
I figured things would improve with the Switch, but eh, not so much.
The Switch has made it slightly easier to add Friends. While it still requires a Friend Code, if you have a Nintendo Network ID, friends you’ve made from other platforms can easily be imported in. You can also search for friends via Network ID. So there’s one tiny improvement. Should you connect your Facebook or Twitter account, you can add friends via social media.
Somehow, with voice chat, Nintendo took a ginormous step backward. Voice chat is allowed, but once again, only with certain games. Even then, sometimes it will only work in specific game modes of the game. In addition, voice chat for these games can only be done via Nintendo’s Switch Online app, which is not available from the Nintendo eShop. The Switch Online app is for your iOS or Android device. At that point, you might as well just call each other or use Discord.
For a company that used to be so innovative in the world of video games, it’s amazing how much it still stays behind the times. One would think that since the console is included in almost all multi-platform AAA releases, the company would want to entice players to pick up the game on their console over the others because in addition to offering constant mobility, the Nintendo’s services are on par with the rest.
So far, the only enticing feature it has for AAA games is its mobility.