Being perfectly honest, I’m very happy with many of the games that I saw at Thursday’s Nintendo Switch Presentation. ARMS, a new IP that may be more than meets the eye, is giving me a Splatoon vibe. It’s a game made from Nintendo’s budding developers and was made with fun and frenetic gameplay in mind. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has a new battle mode and has additional stages that look pretty freaking hype. The confirmation of a Fire Emblem Warriors game was also definitely on my wishlist as well, but there’s one slightly (not slightly) irking detail with Nintendo’s upcoming plans for the Nintendo Switch that did not sit well with me. No, I’m not talking about the super expensive controllers and add-ons, though that also sucks, but I’m talking about this online service situation.
Before I talk about the low points of Nintendo’s online service, I want to talk about the aspects of Nintendo’s online service that actually leave me quite impressed. Friday, shortly after the Nintendo Treehouse livestream, Nintendo of America posted a video of Nintendo’s new smart phone app for parental controls on the Switch. The trailer featured a very funny and cute showcase of Bowser monitoring the gaming habits of Bowser Jr. In the trailer, they featured in depth ways for parents to take charge of their children’s gaming experience such as, setting a timer so that the child does not exceed their bedtime or any time that exceeds the comfort zone of the parent in charge. The smart phone app can also monitor what games are being played on the child’s device. Every time the child logs onto a game, the parent receives a notification of what they’re playing. Of course they also showed that you could block online access and online features as well. This is one of the best things Nintendo could have done for new hardware. While they have always had parental controls on both their handhelds and their console devices, this is definitely a method that would make most parents feel more secure with their children playing on the Switch, meaning that Nintendo is leaving it up to the parents to monitor their own children’s playtime…and in the process keeping themselves out of the rest of our business.
The official Nintendo Switch website vaguely highlights a smart phone app that will allow players to make gaming appointments with pals, send game invites to pals, and even allow for voice chat with pals while gaming. This is a huge jump from what we had on the Wii U. On the Wii U, you could see your friends online, but had very little interaction with them outside of Miiverse, a bootable app separate from the overarching user interface. There was no universal game invitation system. There was no voice chat nor party chat in most games. Sure the Wii U had that one-on-one video chat app, but it was useless for talking and gaming simultaneously. Nintendo’s online service up until now was not a focal point for their systems.
Although Nintendo is accounting for more online connectivity this time around, the way that they are doing it is not ideal and does not deviate from the main issue with the Wii U or 3DS – having to go outside of your gaming device just to interact with friends for some online gaming. Nintendo continuously makes this process more cumbersome than it needs to be. While I understand this online app connects directly to the Nintendo Switch opening up these features, it still does not alleviate past issues that have ailed the company in their struggle for online features. The kicker is that they plan on charging users for this service. I personally think Nintendo needs to rework this. The Switch itself needs to have this functionality built in and the smart phone app should act as a companion.
According to Nintendo’s official website, these are the services that will be available if you pay the service fee or not. The service fee is currently unknown.
As a person who has been enjoying the comforts of free online services on PC and Nintendo devices in the past, I’m not exactly thrilled about Nintendo putting online gaming behind a pay wall, but if you’re going to do it, it needs to be as easy as possible while also providing a sense of value for the consumer. Paid online is a first for Nintendo so it’s no wonder many gamers are apprehensive about paying to play. You’re not sure about what you’re getting exactly. Nintendo hasn’t proven that they can provide a comprehensive or sustainable online network and current plans don’t look too great.
The silver lining in all of this is that now that this service will directly hit their pockets, perhaps they will be more inclined to rework this with gamers’ input if most choose to opt out. In an ideal situation, this online gaming app will be on both smart phone and the Nintendo Switch device itself. Make sure you express your concerns about this to Nintendo directly via email or social media. It’s your money after all. They can only do with it what you allow.
Hopefully Nintendo will give us more details on this new online service including an official price at a later date.
How do you feel about Nintendo’s online service just from the small information they had provided? Let us know below!