Impressions of Nintendo Switch Online
After completing the trial period, I bought a subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online service. So far it feels like the whole service is implemented inconsistently. This is what I've noticed.
Voice chat is confusing.
I was playing Splatoon 2 online today, and I received an invite to someone's Salmon Run room. The invite came through the Switch UI itself in the form of a notification, and the same notification arrived on my phone. Great! So, let's join my friend and play.
I exited out of my current game, but despite the OS sending me a game invite notification ("You are invited to ---'s room."), there was nowhere to go to accept the invite within the OS. There's no "game invites" section on your player profile screen. Why?
So let's join my friend from Splatoon 2 itself. I was playing Turf War, so I scrolled down to "Online Lounge" and entered the lounge. I could see my friend's game room on the list, but I wasn't able to join, receiving the message "Check game mode on the app."
Switchin' to the app
Are they kidding? Why do I need to pull out my phone and check an app just to find out what game mode they're playing? Why does the game mode matter? I should be able to just join from the lounge.
I picked up the app, and went to Splatoon 2's section. There's nothing in that section that explains what I'm supposed to do to join a room. As it turns, I need to use the voice chat section to join a room. Okay, no problem. But why isn't that option highlighted since I was invited to join a room?
So I'm in the voice chat section and I've found my friend's room. He's playing Salmon Run, so now I see why I wasn't able to join him in the Regular / Ranked battle lounge. I try to join via the app, but the app won't have it. I need to join from in-game.
Back to the game
I exit out of the regular lounge in Splatoon and navigate to the Salmon Run lounge. There's my friend's room again, but it tells me that the room isn't joinable right now. No reason why it isn't available. I just can't join. I try anyway and the game tries to connect anyway after telling me to use the app, and then a communication error occurs.
Game rooms should be handled at an OS level. PSN, Xbox Live and Steam all allow you to invite your friends to games and they can accept the invites regardless of what they're doing.
There should only be a single lounge in Splatoon. The game shows me all available rooms anyway, so why am I restricted from joining a room simply because I'm not in the right menu? The language they use is confusing to say the least; "check game mode"? Requiring the user to open their phone to find out information they could show on screen is a terrible user experience.
Every game behaves differently.
Why do I need to use a lounge to use voice chat anyway? Launching Mario Kart 8 makes the app behave entirely different. I got a notification as soon as I started the game saying that "Voice chat is available in Mario Kart 8". Choosing to play online worldwide simply drops me into a room, and anyone else in the room who has the app open can communicate with me, coming and going as they please.
Why isn't this the behavior in Splatoon?? Why can't you invite friends in Mario Kart? Look at the inconsistencies here:
|Game||Supports inviting friends?||Supports voice chat?|
|Splatoon 2||Yes (Switch Online system)||Lounge only (app)|
|Mario Kart 8 Deluxe||No||Yes (app)|
|Puyo Puyo Tetris||No||No|
|Fortnite||Yes (in-game)||Yes (Switch headphone jack)|
|Mario Tennis Aces||No||Yes (app)|
|Rocket League||Yes (in-game)||No|
|Nintendo Entertainment System Online||No||Yes (app)|
Unless you're playing Splatoon or you contact your friend via Discord or some other 3rd party method, you probably aren't going to play with them unless they happen to be playing at the exact same time you are. And as far as voice chat goes, your options are so limited on Switch that you might as well go to Discord anyway.
It doesn't feel like a cohesive system
Nintendo Switch Online just doesn't feel like the unified experience you get on competing services. If I were to fix it, here's what I'd change:
- Add an invite action on the OS level friend list
- In addition to showing which games friends are playing on the friend list, show when they are in a multiplayer room, and if that room is joinable
- Add a system-wide messaging system and send alerts to your phone and the Switch when you receive an invite or message
- Bring voice chat via the app to all games that don't currently support it at the very least
- Allow Splatoon 2 voice chat everywhere, not just in a lounge