Nintendo Needs to Improve Their Online Play

Nintendo Needs to Improve Their Online Play

Last generation, the Xbox Live Party system was one of the main features fans of the console leveraged to support their claims that 360 was, somehow, better than the PS3. This generation, the PS4 developed a party system of their own and people seem happy with it. It seems clear that gamers like the ability to talk with their friends, uninterupted, online. So, why doesn’t Nintendo seem to care?

It’s true that the company has been slow to embrace online, but it’s also clear that they’re doing their best to come around. They’ve established matchmaking and player ranking of sorts in some of their biggest franchises. They’ve done an excellent job supporting titles with quality DLC. They’ve even put voice chat into their games. Well, kinda.

Mario Kart 8 ‘s chat system is perplexing. When playing with friends, players can communicate with one another using the microphone that’s already built into the Wii U gamepad. That’s fine in their book. But once you start a match, voice chat immediately ends, leaving players to save their smack talk, jokes and comments for the brief moments between matches. This waiting understandably takes a lot of the zest out of pretty much anything anyone has to say. Moments pass and jokes lose their timing, but why?

One might speculate that Nintendo is still pampering its players, shielding them from a harsh, online world. But why let them talk at all, then? Why not manage this with parental control settings? Why not work around these fears in some way, if that’s really the issue? Of course, it very well may not be the issue. It may be a technical one.

In a recent Nintendo Direct, the company stated that players would be able to chat with one another on the player select but added, “while you’re battling, in order to keep your connection as strong as possible, we’ve disabled voice chat.” This comes shortly after recommending the Wii Lan Adapter, a required peripheral if a player wants a wired connection for online play and a rather strange ommission from the Wii U’s packaging. In 2014, with nearly every gaming platform offering competant, voice chat enabled, online play, Nintendo should maybe consider putting some resources into sorting out these problems.

It’s not that I don’t understand part of their reasoning. They envision their products being ideal for children and families and the omission of proper online play isn’t that big of a deal through that lens. Unfortunately, their reasoning shows a disconnect with reality. A lot of Nintendo fans are, in fact, adults. Adults enjoy convenience in their play since they have a good deal of responsibilities to deal with in their day to day. The ability to connect to their friends at anytime from anywhere is an important one.

The other issue in the lack of chat support comes from what kind of games Nintendo makes. Largely, engaging but ultimately silly and absurd ones. Ones that are designed to be enjoyed with other people, but when you don’t let those people talk to one another, you’re taking out a crucial human element. Communication is key.

The inconsistency they exhibit is also confusing. Last generation, Nintendo developed a room mic for Animal Crossing and launched a string of advertisements portraying families chatting away. This peripheral was hardly used by Nintendo for any other games. Then, on the other side of the coin, we have Splatoon .

Nintendo Needs to Improve Their Online Play

Splatoon is a third-person, four on four shooter that sees players spreading ink around a map to gain influence. The game is developed and published by Nintendo, and is one of the first new IPs we’ve seen from them in quite some time. During a conference, Hisashi Nogami of Nintendo stated that he was still deciding whether or not he wanted to include voice chat in the game. Within months, the decision was made and now Splatoon will include fully functional voice chat; an important feature for a team-based shooter.

It may not seem like a huge deal to some, but it’s hard to imagine the inclusion of voice chat, complete with proper parental settings, being an overwhelming issue for gamers. Its inclusion would appeal to a large group of players who are currently being alienated by Nintendo’s weird approach to online. Perhaps it’s something we, as gamers, should be more vocal about. Unless, that is, we’d like to go on downloading Google Hangouts and Skype to our phones as a suboptimal workaround.

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