With Splatoon 2 set to launch tomorrow morning, Nintendo has gone ahead and released their Switch Online app, bringing social features and game-specific functionality to your smart device.
Arriving earlier this week for iOS and Android, the Switch Online app is Nintendo's bizarre answer to gaming with social functionality. If you've been following Switch news at all lately, you've likely heard quite a bit of outcry in this particular department.
In short, the Switch Online app is how Nintendo aims to let players handle things like voice chat, inviting friends into games, etc. Instead of games (or the console itself) having those features baked in, you'll instead need to download the app and have it running on your phone in order to fully enjoy stuff like cooperative gameplay.
The first in-app application to take advantage of the tool is Splatoon 2, which arrives tomorrow, July 21, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. Sure, you can jump into matchmaking and group up with friends directly from the game, but you'll want to use the app if you aim to send out invites or actually chat with those folks.
As Polygon is reporting, there are a couple of interesting tweaks Nintendo is throwing into the online formula here, but there are also quite a few things that are frustrating gamers. For starters, you could use voice chat functionality with the Dreamcast and original Xbox, but Nintendo decided it wasn't especially important to have as part of the standard ecosystem of the Switch. This is, of course, despite the fact that the company is trying to make a harder push into competitive and cooperative gaming.
In the plus column is the Switch's ability to send links to join games through just about any online source. While early reports state that this functionality is janky at best, it could be a handy tool once it gets firing on all cylinders. In other words, from the app, I could post a link directly to Twitter, Facebook or gaming message boards that would allow people to more easily jump into my hosted game without the need of swapping Friend Codes and the like first.
Sadly, that seems to be where the positives end. Everything the Switch Online app offers is available from the hardware or software directly on competing platforms. We're having trouble finding sense in Nintendo saying, "fine, we'll include it, but in a way that is far more obtuse than has been done for the past two decades."
Finally, we understand that you'll need the app to be running and have your phone on constantly if you want to use the app. If your phone goes to sleep or the screen turns off, you're disconnected. If you want to look up a map or gear details real quick, you'd better use another device. Also, apparently the app is a bit of a battery hog, so enjoy that extra wear and tear on your phone.
Since Splatoon 2 is the only game that uses the app right now, this probably isn't that big of a deal for many gamers. But once additional games that would be enhanced by this functionality start rolling out, we imagine the groans are only going to get louder. And don't even get us started on that extremely unnecessary microphone set up the Switch is currently rocking.