Nintendo’s online infrastructure for its hybrid home/handheld Switch console is unacceptable. I just tested it out with the help of GamesBeat reviews editor Mike Minotti, and we came away from the experience befuddled and angry. The app, which is available now for free on iOS and Android, enables you to invite friends to groups and to chat with them using voice on your phone.
But it is an awful experience.
Let me start by clarifying that Nintendo Switch Online does mostly work as advertised. You can connect your Nintendo Account to the device to sync it up with your Switch. I was able to invite Mike to a group, and we were able to voice chat. But using the app and the entire process surrounding it is backwards in a way that is shocking even for Nintendo. So while it “works” in the strictest sense of the word, I would say that it probably won’t actually work well enough for most people.
Your phone does all of the voice audio, so you need a way to plug your Switch into a splitter that will merge the sources so you can hear both the game and your friends. To do that, you’ll need to keep the Switch close to you because neither the Joycon pads nor the Pro Controller have a headphone jack. What are you supposed to do when you want to talk to your friends while playing on the TV? Sit two-feet from your display, I guess.
But if you do come up with a method to hear the game and the voice chat on the go, the Switch Online app is going to demolish your battery because it doesn’t work if you put your phone to sleep or switch to another app. Your phone’s display must be on and focused on the Switch Online app if you want to speak or hear your group.
Speaking of groups, inviting friends doesn’t make a lot of sense. You can’t actually use the app to start a party. Instead, you have to go to the Online Lounge option in Splatoon 2. That will send a notification to the app, and only then can you start inviting people.
But it’s not like that gave me a party that I could then take with me into other modes. Of course not — that is only exactly what you would want. Instead, I only had the option for a private match. I never ever use the private match option in games, and I don’t want it here. I want to team up with some friends who I can jump into some quick play matches with.
Also, if I decide to back out of a room after I made it, the party doesn’t continue on without me. The entire group disbands and has to start something new on their own.
Put simply, the Nintendo Switch Online app just doesn’t have any real party support — at least not yet.
And Nintendo is going to charge money for this? Next year this app will turn into a premium $20-per-year experience. How? I get that it could keep updating that app, but why would it build it like this in the first place. Why is it so convoluted?
Everything here is wrong. It is so broken and illogical that you have to wonder if Nintendo is doing this to keep a high barrier as part of some effort to protect kids. But kids will actually have the patience to figure this out. The rest of us? I guess I’ll talk to you on Discord … at least that gaming-party app keeps working when you put your phone to sleep.