Today we’re having a look at the state of Nintendo’s online services in 2020, with a particular focus on their online services. They’ve come a long way, but is it enough?
Following suit with other consoles, Nintendo introduced a paid online service on their massively successful Switch console from September of 2018. Up until that time, the online services were free. Naturally, this was a blow to players who had up until that time enjoyed online multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon 2 free of charge. Nintendo had to add value.
Enter NES Online – Nintendo’s answer to to Xbox’s Games With Gold and Sony’s PlayStation Plus. Drawing from their extensive back catalog was a fairly obvious move. This gave subscribers access to 20 mostly first party NES games neatly wrapped in a dedicated app. Depending on who you asked, this was great value especially since they had committed to adding 4 new titles every month.
Roughly a year later, Nintendo fans rejoice – a similar app with a collection of SNES games was added. With that, Nintendo also announced that they would not be adding games as regularly. Fair enough. With around 100 titles between the 2 services as of writing, this is tremendous value.
This all sounds very good. There is more to the story, though.
1. Friend Codes
Nintendo is a creature of habit. If it ain’t broke, as the old adage goes. I do find it puzzling that they carried over friend codes to this new generation. It’s a little bothersome to boot up my Switch so I can recall my friend code each time I want to add someone. Switching (bad pun, I know) to a gamertag system a-la Xbox or Steam would be much more convenient.
2. Voice Chat
Even more puzzling than Friend Codes is the way Nintendo has handled voice chat. In order to use it, players are required to download the Nintendo Switch Online app on their smartphone and link it to their Nintendo account. Sure, my smartphone is hardly ever out of reach, but juggling more than one device to do something as simple as talking to my friends while pwning them in Mario Kart is laughably inconvenient. I think I have used the service maybe twice. More trouble than it’s worth.
Instead of using Nintendo’s clunky app, my friends and I have resorted to using services like Facebook Messenger in it’s stead. If I’m going to use my phone to voice chat, may as well do it this way.
This one is a little divisive, as some players prefer to play games without chasing achievements. Achievements are a nice record of one’s in-game exploits, at the very least. Completionists revel in collecting them all. I don’t see why Nintendo has not implemented an achievement system, those who don’t like it could turn it off.
Nintendo scrapped Miiverse coming into the new generation, yet inexplicably Miis have hung on as some sort of awkward relic from the past. You can still make them and use them as an avatar. Much like friend codes, they seem dated and out of place on the Switch.
If the intention was a clean breakaway from the disastrous Wii U, they should have scrapped Miis entirely. It isn’t really an inconvenience like some of my other points, more of a head scratcher.
Who doesn’t love customization? While not exactly having anything to do with their online services, the lack of themes on the Switch so far in it’s lifecycle is somewhat jarring.
I remember having a decent collection of neat themes on my 3DS, complete with different sound effects and such. The Switch’s menu is comparatively bland and uninteresting.
There is no feature that allows you to message your friends on Nintendo Switch. Sure, this kind of feature is sometimes abused by toxic players. I know Nintendo wants to keep their platform as sterile and family friendly as possible, but these kinds of restrictions on player interactions are unacceptable.
Once again, like the voice chat scenario, this forces me to break my immersion so I can type a message on my phone. You would have thought they had learned from the Wii U that more than one screen is generally a no-no.
Is It Enough?
Nintendo has come a long way with their online services. That much is true. It’s hard to say they have done enough to bring their platform on par with the rest of the world, but as always, Nintendo marches to their own beat delivering games of the highest quality.
Nintendo might not be a world leader in online services, but they have done some things right. If I had to choose between a top quality online service or top quality games, the latter would always have my favor. In the end, as a consumer, I don’t think I should have to choose.
What do you think of Nintendo’s online services in 2020? What leaves you scratching your head? Feel free to comment below!