Nintendo’s solution for giving voice chat to Splatoon 2‘s online community is unveiled, and it’s completely ridiculous.
The Switch doesn’t feature any built-in support for the kinds of voice chat and grouped parties common to other gaming platforms. Instead, Nintendo is leaning on a piece of tech that most gamers have access to: smartphones.
As Kotaku reported earlier this year — a full month before Switch was released, in fact — Splatoon 2 voice chat will be powered by an app available through smart devices. Now we have a glimpse of what that highly questionable approach looks like in practice.
Here it is, in a peek at peripheral-maker Hori’s headset shared on Splatoon‘s Japanese Twitter feed.
So many wires! If you’re having a tough time deducing what goes where and why any of this exists, here’s a helpful diagram…
The little black box that you’re looking at is basically an audio splitter. Splatoon 2 sounds emanate from the Switch and chat sounds emanate from your preferred app-bearing device. The little black box takes all of those sounds and mixes them together.
Kotaku‘s Brian Ashcraft — who lives in Japan and regularly covers gaming news from that region — notes that the splitter’s cords are less than 20 inches in length. That raises an important question: what if you want to play Splatoon 2 on your TV, with your Switch docked?
Certainly, this Hori solution won’t work in those situations. You could probably get away with buying a cord extender, but that threatens to make an already cumbersome setup even more bothersome.
To be clear: Hori is a third-party manufacturer. This headset and splitter are officially licensed, but there’s likely still a Nintendo-made alternative in the works (and probably other third-party options as well). Will any of those work better than this one?
Prooooobably not. The wire-heavy setup is inconvenient, but the bigger issue is the source of the voice chat. Nintendo’s making a big assumption here about who is playing Switch games and what other tech those customers have access to.
Sure, plenty of people own smartphones and tablets these days. But that doesn’t mean this is a one-size-fits-all solution. Much like Nintendo’s baffling decisions to prevent Switch users from backing up their own save data or discontinue the popular NES Classic while there was still stratospheric demand, this move smacks of a company that seems to always move a step behind its own audience.
There’s also the fact that, at some point, Switch users will be expected to pay money for Nintendo’s online services, outsourced or not.
The Switch is popular on a level that Nintendo hasn’t known since the Wii launched in 2006. And with games like Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey on the horizon, its fortunes only stand to improve. But Nintendo needs to do a better job of bringing both its business practices and its beloved franchises into the 21st century or it’s going to get left behind all over again.