The Nintendo Switch Online app is a complete waste of phone storage, home screen space, and time in almost every facet of its design.
If you want to talk to your friends and play Splatoon 2 at the same time, you can use Discord, TeamSpeak, Skype, or you could use the Nintendo Switch Online app. I’d been tempering worrisome naysayers up until today by encouraging them to try the app, give it a shot, see what happens when it comes out. It might turn out to be convenient, I said. It might be worth it for certain types of matches, or with certain people, I said. What if you don’t want to make a Discord server? What if you’re going to play with folks you don’t know as well?
Screw it. Download Discord. Make a server for all your voice chat needs, and use it. Download whatever other voice app you want to use to play Splatoon 2 with your friends. Don’t use the god-awful Nintendo Switch Online app. Save the paltry 61.90 MB on your phone for literally anything else. Discord only takes up 47.08 MB, so you could install that and Neko Atsume for just over the amount you’d need for the Switch app. Then you’d be able to talk to your friends while you play Splatoon 2 together and look at cute cats in between matches. You can just barely do half of one of those things with the Nintendo Switch Online app.
Last night, I downloaded the Nintendo Switch Online app and got together with a fellow reviewer pal to check out how the thing works. I’ll hit the few positives first: SplatNet is sort-of-okay. A quick reference for what stages are up at any given point can be handy when deciding how badly I want to play the game on a given evening, though for the record it’s something that another non-Nintendo app offered for free during the first Splatoon.
I do like all the gear and player stats I can track, though I’m not really sure why they need to be tied to a phone app instead of just somewhere accessible in the game. When I’m out and about, I am very rarely thinking about my Splatoon 2 strategies. I don’t anticipate this app is going to change that. Actually, the fact that I can’t break them down in-game annoys me. Instead of opening a menu, I have to find my phone and download this app.
You can also purchase gear through SplatNet for utterly exorbitant prices, and I’m not confident this gear is any better than any other gear you could buy in the shops. It has the same amount of slots, certainly, and its abilities are all ones I’ve seen before. Maybe there’s some hidden benefit I’m missing, but it seems ridiculous to buy gear this way to me. Perhaps it’s intended as a way to get specific pieces more often than the daily rotation of the shops. But it’s too pricey. No thank you.
But what really turns my tentacles about this whole thing isn’t SplatNet, it’s the Nintendo Switch Online app itself. My friend and I decided to try the voice chat feature and get in a few rounds of Turf War. I opened up my phone around 5 p.m. to send him an invite to play with me later that evening, only to find that the only way I could send him anything was by getting into Splatoon 2 and inviting him into a lobby. Well, okay then. I opened up Slack and sent him a message instead, making a “play appointment” (a feature we’re apparently getting with the “full” version of the app next year) to play together at 8 p.m. Awesome.
Just before 8, I opened up the game and began looking for where I could invite him. The only option available that allowed me to connect with the phone’s voice chat was in a Private Match. I could not voice chat with my friend in Turf War or Ranked Matches, the two types of game I play the most. It is my understanding that voice chat will work for League play and Salmon Run co-op, but I was unable to test this to see if it was true.
Private Match only includes friends–no one else. I was given the option to invite friends, social media friends, and others I had used the voice chat app with before. That last one doesn’t make any sense to me; I guess it’s for if you play with a friend of a friend and want to play with them again later, but I’m not sure. Since it was just the two of us, we started a match up to see how it worked and promptly lost touch with one another. You can only talk to your team while playing a match, and there’s no option to toggle that on or off.
Another thing? You can’t just open other things on your phone and stay in the lobby. So if I want to Google, say, “How to download Discord,” I completely disconnect from the match while I have it open on my phone.
So, let me recap. The Nintendo Switch Online app in Splatoon 2:
- Lets you chat with friends in Private, League, and Salmon Run only; not in Ranked or Turf War
- Only allows you to send these chat invites from within the game
- Chat enabled during matches only if you’re on the same team
- Has a mute button but no other sound options
- Disconnects you if you do literally anything other than having it open
- Has no text-based message options, no play appointments, no other way of contacting people beyond inviting them to a game you’re currently waiting in a lobby, hosting
My question is: why does this exist? There are dozens of free chat options out there now that do all that and plenty more. Why would it not have been easier to let us plug in a headset into our controllers and just talk to whoever the hell we wanted? Why is it so hard to put a Parental Control setting into the free Parental Control app (a separate thing from Nintendo Switch online, mind you) to turn off voice chat for kiddos, or an option in the menu to turn it off yourself if you, a grown adult, don’t want to listen to random people taunting you? Why would it be impossible to make such a feature friends-only, but still let us use it in the modes we actually will be playing most of the time?
Nintendo, a Large Game Company With Resources, should absolutely know better when designing something like this for an online community. Microsoft and Sony have mostly figured it out. Other free online services have figured it out. This bass-ackwards app is more insulting in its limited scope than no voice chat at all.
There are no answers to these questions beyond “Nintendo gotta Nintendo.” I’ll be keeping tabs on this app’s progress as it gains more features going into 2018, especially as it becomes a part of a service I’m expected to pay for. As it is now, the features are so limited; it’s barely worth the price of a free app. But until this app is at least vaguely clears the minimum of what everyone else is offering, I’ll be doing all my Splatoon 2 team chatting on Discord.
The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, App Trigger or FanSided as an organization.