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Nintendo and the Splatoon Chat Problem

Splatoon 2 has recently launched and has been received very well, with decent reviews and stellar sales. In Japan, the game sold over 670,000 copies in its first three days of release, and that’s counting only physical sales. No clue how many copies Nintendo has sold in America, but it’s a certainty that it’s also relatively high.

Splatoon was a certified hit on the Wii U, bought and played by millions—fans ate up Nintendo’s take on team shooters, with the focus being on splatting with ink instead of shooting with bullets. Splatoon 2 has given fans more of the same in regard to more single player missions, new maps, and some fan favourites, and even the new horde/co-op mode, Salmon Run. The game seems to be hitting the right notes for fans new and old, but there is one thing that still irks me, and others, and that is how the game handles voice chat.

In Splatoon on the Wii U, if I was going to play with some friends, most of us had a PlayStation 4, so we would start up our PS4s and start a party chat, and then invite each other on there before switching over to the Wii U. It took a second console to have us splatting to our hearts content. The first game had no chat support, which can be attributed to Nintendo’s desire to keep the game very family friendly, and their fear of people getting in chats with random teammates that would do nothing but trash talk. It was fairly irritating, but if you paid attention to your map, you could do fairly well. Now, without the second screen and having to bring up a map, it’s a bit harder to see what’s going on, so strategizing is needed a little bit more.

Seriously, look at this mess.

Sadly, Nintendo has come up with a solution that is pretty awkward and cumbersome. Basically the Switch has no mic support, and Nintendo is relying on players to use their phones for communicating. As I still haven’t a clue as to why Nintendo would go down the route of relying on a smartphone app, I wonder if it’s related to some technical issues in designing the Switch or maybe just to save some money—regardless, it’s fairly annoying. Players need to download the Nintendo Switch app, and within the app they are able to access hubs for various games, such as Splatoon 2. The Splatoon 2 hub is pretty interesting, as it lets you know how much ink you’ve splatted, your record for the last number of games, and things like that. This is where things start to fall apart a bit.

In Splatoon 2 you start up a lobby for your game session, and then you can go into the app and enter the session. From there you can invite friends, but they also need to fire up the session on their system and enter the lobby before you can start chatting. However, if you’re in the chat app, you can’t hear the music and sound from the game, so Nintendo and other parties have come up with a dongle that you can also connect your headset, phone, and Switch so you can hear the game and the voice chat.

The licensed headset for Splatoon 2. Would be better if it were connected to the system.

What in the world, Nintendo?

I know that the bulk of Nintendo’s games will be games like Super Mario Odyssey, that players will mostly be playing offline so that chat isn’t an issue, however, the fact that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still selling great, Splatoon 2 is out, and there will be FIFA and NBA 2K18 coming out this year, you would think that they would have made an in-system mic and chat setup more of a priority. From what I have seen, the app is good for keeping track of stats and all, but the party chat setup seems beyond ridiculous. I even asked a number of my friends who are playing the game frequently, and none of them use the app for chat, instead choosing to use Discord for party chats, which is also an app, but one that players are familiar with and can be used to chat with players playing other games as well.

(Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo)

I’ve no idea what the future is going to bring for Nintendo and how it handles—rather, mishandles—online services and interactions, but hopefully it’ll come with something better than what they have now. It’s been great seeing games like ARMS and Splatoon being developed by younger teams at Nintendo, so hopefully the young blood can convince the old guard to figure out how to better handle online gaming. Until then, I’ll keep using my PS4 for party chats when I play Nintendo games, which just seems wrong.

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