Once again, Nintendo proves they have no idea what makes a solid online gaming platform.
Last week during their Nintendo Switch presentation, Nintendo announced that they would be breaking from their long-running tradition by delivering a paid online service for their upcoming console. On the surface, this seems like a good idea. After all, a good part of why the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live thrive is because the services are huge earners for Microsoft and Sony, and as such provide them with the means to deliver fantastic online environments for players. With Nintendo’s Wii and Wii U services decidedly lacking when compared to the competition, this seems like a logical way for Nintendo to bridge the gap with a more worthwhile online experiences for Switch players.
Sadly, right out the gate it seems that Nintendo are doomed to repeat themselves. During last week’s announcement, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima outline some of the features of the new service saying, “With Nintendo Switch, you will of course be able to enjoy online multiplayer gaming,” Kimishima continued, “And when you use a smart device application that will connect to Nintendo Switch, you will be able to invite friends to play online, set play appointments and chat with friends while enjoying online matches in compatible games, all from your smart device.”
On the surface, this seems to underscore that the worrywarts at Nintendo are once again hobbling their service by making it convoluted as possible for players to link up with strangers in any meaningful capacity by relegating communications to your own phone or tablet. This also draws into question if the unit itself supports any kind of its own voice chat functionality; a function which has been the cornerstone of paid online services since Xbox Live first launched in 2001.
Over the years I’ve made may friends during my online conquests. Hell, my son has a stable of a dozen or so buddies that he links up with to build grand creations in Little Big Planet 3 or Minecraft all of the time. Seemingly creating another wall to prevent players from forging these relationships by shoehorning in another device into the equation is clumsy, and quite frankly foolish. It’s hard to see how this can benefit Nintendo in any meaningful way, and hardly offer player with much of an incentive to pay cold hard cash for their online service.
Speaking of incentives, Nintendo has announced that subscribers to their online service will indeed be getting a free monthly game. However, this freebie comes with a huge caveat. Rather than gift players with a newer title like you’d see from Microsoft’s Games with Gold or Sony’s PlayStation Plus service, players will instead have the chance to go back in time by redeeming either a free monthly Super Nintendo or NES game. Yep, you heard that right. The free games on offer will likely be 20-30 years old. How’s that for a bargain. Also, you’re not actually getting these games to keep. Rather, they’re month-long rentals that expire at the end of the month. Pretty generous, right? If you’r having trouble finding the value in what exactly you’re getting with your subscription here, don’t worry. I’m right there with you.
This stinginess is pretty much par for the course for Nintendo. After all, we’re talking about the same company who has made Wii, Wii U, and 3DS owners re-purchase their entire Virtual Console libraries each time they upgrade to a new hardware platform. It’s as if Nintendo we’re looking out at the horizon from their Wii-white tower, staring down at the gaming landscape and scheming of what they could do to burn away the last of their consumer’s good will once and for all. I’m not going to mince words here. It’s selfish, self-defeating, and incomprehensibly stupid. Just what is Nintendo’s end game here? All they had to do was craft a service that’s easy to use, allows you to seamlessly chat with your friends and other players, and throw players a few bones with no strings attached. What went wrong?
Time and time again, Nintendo unveils a new game system and online service only to shoot themselves in the foot right out the gate. And from this early glimpse we’ve gotten at what the Nintendo Switch supposedly offers, it’s hard not to feel that the service is already destined to fail. Unless Nintendo is keeping their cards to their chest up until the Switch’s March 3rd worldwide release, it’s hard to understand what value at all the service provides.
It’s hard to believe that now, when online gaming has been a console staple for nearly two decades, Nintendo still hasn’t the slightest idea what they’re doing. Here’s hoping they learn fast, because if the Nintendo Switch fails to deliver a competent online experience, the system could very well be dead in the water before the latest console war even begins.
So, what are your thoughts on what Nintendo has revealed of the Switch’s online service so far? Do you think the Switch will be able to compete with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below and let us know.