“A new angle on voice chat. An angle that was the right call”
Luke Kemp argues that Nintendo’s novel take on chat for Switch is actually a good thing
I’m not sure why people say voice chat on Nintendo Switch is complicated. It’s simple: download the app to your phone, buy the bespoke headset if you want to use a mic, carefully arrange all the cables, sacrifice an animal of cloven hoof, and you’re good to go. Okay, I may have exaggerated (a non-cloven-hoofed animal is fine), but Switch has the most restrictive and least user-friendly voice chat of any system. Nintendo’s approach to chat should come as no surprise, given its history. Like it or not, the firm has always positioned itself as the most family-friendly company out there. Things have changed a lot since Mortal Kombat was stripped of its blood and saw its fatalities censored on SNES – yes, that really happened – but today, Nintendo’s clearly more concerned with real-world issues.
The Wii U had voice chat, but only a very small number of games were supported, and hardly anybody used it. Communication and sharing among players was mostly limited to the Miiverse, which is weird, wonderful – and heavily moderated. Nintendo has dumped the Miiverse with Switch in favour of sharing screenshots on social media, and a new angle on voice chat. An angle that was the right call. There, I said it.
A load of app
Going through a phone isn’t convenient, and the app still needs some polish. But the benefits! As a gamer, I enjoy having a console where I never have to hunt through menus mid-game to mute annoying people. As a parent, it’s great to have a console where I can be 100% sure my kids will never have to endure foul-mouthed abuse while playing online (unless I’m particularly displeased with their performance, of course). There’s also no danger of receiving abusive messages from random players, which Nintendo also makes impossible.
The Switch is a gaming mistress; The Other Console. Of the many people I know who own one, not a single person doesn’t also own a PS4, Xbox One, or gaming PC. Any upcoming multiformat games where we feel voice chat is important, we’ll buy another version. If you or I really want to chat with friends in a compatible Nintendo exclusive, it can be done... eventually.
Yes, Nintendo has made Switch chat awkward; but this was entirely predictable, and there’s nothing (too) wrong with the way it is in context. If you really hate it, you could always sidestep it entirely with Skype or WhatsApp. Enough chatting; go enjoy your games!
“I never have to hunt through menus mid-game to mute annoying people”