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Ever since the Nintendo Switch was announced, many gamers have wondered how the system would handle online multiplayer. One of the biggest hits on Nintendo’s current console, the Wii U, is Splatoon, the kid-friendly team-based shooter that proved to be more popular and fun than anyone would have predicted. Though the game lacked a few features which many gamers consider to be basic features of online gaming, such as team chat, many fans hope that the sequel, Splatoon 2 on the Switch, will improve the online experience.
According to a recent interview with GameSpot, president of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime revealed that online chat would actually be handled using a smartphone app, as well as other online multiplayer services such as matchmaking and creating lobbies. Fils-Aime explains Nintendo’s reasoning:
We also think it’s a very elegant solution because if you’ve taken your switch on the go, you’ve put yourself in a hotspot, you’re looking at get a quick match of Mario Kart in, to whip out some sort of bulky, gamer headset is a bit of a challenge.
This begs the question, though: is the app an optional method for these online services, or is it the only way players will be able to chat and organize matches online? This question is especially pertinent considering that though the Switch launches in March, the app won’t become available to download until this summer.
There are some gamers who find the decision to make a smartphone app necessary for online multiplayer questionable, especially considering that competitor Microsoft has been providing gamers with online multiplayer since 2002 without the use of any other external hardware. There’s also concerns about children–Nintendo’s key demographic–not being able to play online with friends, as well as whether the app will end up eating through gamers’ phone data. Add to that the fact that gamers will eventually have to pay to use the online app, and it seems much more likely that gamers will end up using a free chat service like Skype instead.
In another recent interview with Time, Fils-Aime revealed Nintendo’s not-so-inspiring “secret formula” for success, which basically boils down to “we make smart choices, and we are oftentimes lucky.” So far, the online smartphone app doesn’t seem to be a smart choice, so Nintendo better hope it gets very lucky if it wants players to pay for voice chat.