Nintendo Really Doesn't Understand Online Play
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Nintendo games are often brilliant multiplayer experiences and very family friendly, which seems to be part of the company’s philosophy. The thing about it, though, is that family’s don’t always live together. Less likely is a scenario in which friends consistently live together. As such, it would be brilliant if Nintendo better embraced online gameplay to facilitate some good ol’ fashioned multiplayer bonding. Unfortunately, the company isn’t all that good at this.

A good example of Nintendo dropping the ball comes in the form of Super Mario Maker 2. This game is poised to be one of the absolute best 2D Mario experiences and I look forward to sharing my creations with others. I would also like to play some co-op with my friends back in New York. It would be great! Nintendo has shown that cooperative Mario is a formula that works well. Hell, it is even including that in the title. Strangely, you won’t be able to choose who you play with. Instead of friends and family, you’ll be matched up with random people. What?

This is, of course, not the only time Nintendo has dropped the ball. We live in a time where online multiplayer represents a substantial portion of video game history, and we’re at the point where it’s a pretty consistently good experience; developers have sort of ironed things out at this point. Nintendo, however, remains behind the times, and this has been the case for a long while now. The first egregious example is the Nintendo Wii, although you could argue that the Nintendo GameCube was slightly behind its contemporaries in this regard too.

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The glowing oddity of online gaming on the Nintendo Wii is its use of something called friend codes. Friend codes are a string of letters and numbers that gamers can use to add one another to their respective friend lists. Not only do they lack personality, but they are entirely unwieldy. I don’t have my credit card memorized, so it’s very unlikely that I’m going to be able to recite my damned friend code to a new acquaintance. It’s also unlikely that they’ll recite a code back to me. Thanks for killing a potential friendship, Nintendo. These friend codes are still in place today. 

Another trend started by the Nintendo Wii is a lack of a built-in ethernet cable. It’s recommended, in most cases, that gamers use a direct line between their console and their router for an ideal internet connection. The Nintendo Wii used wireless, unless you purchased a low quality USB adapter. The Nintendo Wii U did the same thing. And, wouldn’t you know it, the Nintendo Switch is in the same boat.

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Voice chat is also something that I consider essential for a good online experience, but Nintendo also opts out of facilitating this in any convenient manner. There was a cute attempt with Animal Crossing: City Folk to incorporate a room mic so you could broadcast all the sounds of your living room to a friend. Mostly, this has been lacking. Nowadays, Nintendo has opted to use a smartphone app for connecting people in voice-to-voice chat. Once again, it's a strange and unwieldy route. In the company’s history, very few of its games have supported voice chat, but I’d figure it would at least be watching and learning from competitors.

To be frank, very few of the company’s games have actually supported online multiplayer, either. Nintendo is getting better about that and online games are more common, but it is definitely not present in every first party multiplayer title. I’m not exactly sure why Nintendo insists on being different in this regard but, when it comes to online play, Nintendo is missing out on a lot of potential.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin Maltbie

Contributing Writer
Date: 06/05/2019

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