What the Nintendo Switch Online Service Needs to be Competitive

This is an editorial piece. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.

While Nintendo’s premium and paid “Nintendo Switch Online” service was delayed a year after the console’s worldwide debut in March of last year, we still don’t really know much about the new paid online component, and what to expect.

After playing with the Switch for nearly a year, I’ve come up with a list of features their new online suite desperately needs for them to be competitive in the current hardware generation with the PlayStation Network and Steam dominating the online multiplayer space.

Here’s what the Nintendo Switch online service needs:

  • A more flexible user account system that doesn’t rely on dumb, draconian, Friend Codes. It would be preferable to simply let users register a username, something put into practice over twenty years ago, and let other users identify them as such and add them by their username. Currently you can only add people via Friend Codes or by meeting them in online games, or via existing Friends on the 3DS or the Wii U. This is unacceptable and so insanely backwards it actually hinders the growth of their online multiplayer, and their network. If they’re so afraid of kids running into users named “ExplodingLabiaMonster666” or something, offer Parental Controls that lock an account to Friend Codes only.
  • An achievement or trophy like system. Love them or hate them, having more System-level features that Nintendo can tick off for games coming to their platform like achievements is only better for the marketability of the console itself, as well as its games. The more games released for the platform without some kind of system-level achievement system, the harder it becomes for Nintendo to make it a mandatory feature. They can simply take pages out of Sony or Microsoft’s book and require all retail-level games have achievements of some kind and a top-level cumulative achievement, while smaller, download only games can get by with a handful.
  • Some kind of video streaming option that isn’t stupidly restricted for some reason (you can currently only record 30 seconds and upload it to social media) and is mandatory for all games to support, at a System-level (the current feature is also optional for developers). This should naturally tie into all of your video streaming options like YouTube, Twitch, Hitbox, and so on. This is a very hard sell because of how totalitarian Nintendo is with the streaming of their own games (they basically bend you over and gape you until you pay up royalties), so who knows how they would even implement such a feature, and how unfettered it would be. The current short video recording solution is optional for developers to support – this is stupid and we all know if there’s a System feature developers aren’t forced to support .. they probably won’t support it.
  • Built in voice chat at the system level. The voice chat nonsense pushed with the mobile app is just that, nonsense, and I guarantee no one will use it over other options like Discord. What’s more, you can only use voice chat in the mobile app while the app is open – the entire time. So now you have to worry about both your Switch’s battery and your phone as well. The only way to be competitive is to offer voice chat as a built-in option for the system, and it should be ubiquitous with the system’s Friend list and related functionality.
  • A party chat and or party system to encourage playing more games with friends. The current system will only let you add friends and stalk whatever games they’ve played or are playing on their page in your Friend List. That’s it. The current way of inviting friends requires sending an invite in game, accepting the invite via the Switch mobile app on your phone, and then and only then are you able to play together. This is so insanely draconian and makes absolutely no sense for a seamless and fun online experience.
  • The Nintendo Switch mobile app needs to be relegated to simply a mobile companion app – something to manage your friends list, your achievements, progress of games, news blurbs and updates for said games, and more. This needs to be a clear distinction and the Switch’s online suite really needs to be presented as a premium service worthy of being charged an admission fee, with the functionality and features to back it up. Many fans are already pissed off over the mandatory fee, some are even swearing it off like others did when the PlayStation Network became a paid experience.

All in all, it was honestly depressing to see how bare-bones the Nintendo Switch’s online features and OS-level features were upon buying the console. It reminded me of how barren the PlayStation 3 operating system and feature set was upon launch – a nod to companies not knowing what to put in their hardware operating system.

My biggest concern is that Nintendo is going to continue pushing their dumb mobile app with their paid online service and expect their legions of fans to lap it up, while other services will offer vastly more comprehensive and robust online experiences. Knowing the way in which Nintendo operates, they’re probably going to go their own route like they always have done in the past.

Why should you pay for an online suite on a modern gaming console when it probably won’t have the same features as its competitors? My other concern is that Nintendo fans will simply lap it up, fork over their money, and Nintendo will get by with offering a lackluster online experience. Their official blurbs make it clear the Switch’s online will continue working with the mobile app.

I want the Switch to have a great online component, but who knows if we’ll see it. It took Sony an entire hardware generation to finally get a competent online suit, so I’m concerned it might take Nintendo several (their previous outings with online functionality have been limited at best, subpar at worst).

What do you want out of the Nintendo Switch’s online feature set? Are you ok with having to use a mobile companion app to get basic online multiplayer functionality? Sound off in the comments below!

Brandon Orselli

About

Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.

  • bimmyz

    basically they need to be better than ps plus, otherwise its a waste of time.

  • ActivistZero

    Just make it free and you’ve already 1 point ahead

  • JonahTHD

    I’m almost expecting some Nintendrones to start autistically screech at the mere thought of requesting for an achievement system. At least, that tends to be what they do when I bring up the thought that they should make such a feature a thing.

  • PaRaLLaXTHeTiCS

    I’d be fine with it remaining bare bones at the current price.

  • Espio419

    These slit-eyed jews need to keep it free.

  • Some furf

    Catch up to industry standards, are you crazy? Next you’ll be expecting to be able to play Super Metroid on any console you own if you’ve bought it once already.

  • Eldhin Shichiou

    Meh, video streaming is pretty unnecesary. Just a waste of resources in my opinion.

    What it really needs is to be free, or far cheaper than PS+ and Live

  • TheOnceAndFutureKing

    Jews?

    Hirohito is rolling in his grave.

  • Punished Crate

    The problem with an acheivements/trophy system is that you’ll get devs making the game and focusing on stuff for acheivements.

    Look at Sonic Mania. Most of the achievements in that game are stuff you’d probably do anyways. Now look at something like Assassin’s Creed (the whole series) or Mirror’s Edge. There’s acheivements in those games that require you to do just stupid stuff you wouldn’t otherwise do.

    I think having achievements should be something Nintendo adds, but make it optional for devs to throw them into their games. Never understood the dick-measuring contest of “hey my trophy list is bigger than yours.” Really. It’s pointless and it makes it more aggravating for Completionists.

  • Michael Richardson

    It’s going to be $20/year, just FYI.

  • Michael Richardson

    Nah. The lack of shit in the Switch’s OS is likely the reason the system is so wonderfully snappy. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

    All I care about is cloud storage. That alone would be worth the price of the paid online.

  • stullz

    Cloud saves, backup saves!

  • Uncle Ocelot

    It’s not an important feature at all, but a proper activity log feature would be cool, I liked seeing how much of a game I played on 3DS and Wii U.

  • STARSBarry

    “WHAT THE NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE SERVICE NEEDS TO BE COMPETITIVE”

    Free oh wait……

  • Bitterbear

    It needs a Battle Royale mode for Splatoon.

  • orbo

    I mean, say what you want about nintendo fans that “will simply lap it up”, but online services for splatoon 2 and other games (pokemon at the end of the year hint hint) is going to require the paid service for online play soooooooo yeah…
    Personally I couldn’t give half a fart about chievos.

  • Donwel

    That’s the thing though, if they are going to start charging for it they’re going to have to come up with a better voice chat solution than the mobile app.
    Also I’ve said this elsewhere, a messaging feature should have been part of the OS from day one. Either that or keep/kept Miiverse going.

  • Feniks

    Competitive to who? Its the last handheld around. And I think the Switch has a different audience anyway, casuals and the usual Nintendo cultists.

    Nintendo will do fine going their own way. They always have.

  • Kitsune

    Why would that be a Nintendrone exclusive stance? I’ve disliked achievements ever since PS3, because it restricted what you can do with your save files compared to PS1/2. That, and I never saw any point to achievements to begin with because your save file itself is said achievement. It is just silly what achievements are like anyway, you either get them for just playing game normally like clearing Chapters or doing something out of the ordinary there’s literally no reason to do besides just for the trophy, both being rather pointless.

  • No_Good_Names_Ever

    “Built in voice chat at the system level”
    If I can’t physically disconnect it from the console and power supply; no.

  • Sean Sharpe

    I’ve never understood the draw of in-game voice chat or achievements.

    In the case of the former, if I’m playing with randoms, I’ll mute them anyway since I don’t really care what they have to say since I’m just playing casually and if I’m playing seriously I’m doing it with folks I know and am on Discord… So I don’t need in-game chat.

    In the case of the later, I genuinely don’t understand the draw, even after people explained them to be and I’ve got my own platinum. It’s something I’ll likely never get either.

  • Sean Sharpe

    Why?

    Messaging, I can agree with, but voice chat isn’t important to any of Nintendo’s big online games outside of maybe Splatoon, if you’re playing League matches with a set group, and if you’re doing that you’re probably using Discord anyway.

  • Sean Sharpe

    I love Nintendo… But I also game on PC and PS4 and last generation almost exclusively played a 360 until I got a better computer and a 3DS. I never understood why people cared about achievements.

  • Loli ♥ Antagonist

    As someone who is not a Nintendo fan boy and hasn’t bought their consoles since the Game Cube: Nintendo does not care. They do not need to be competitive with the other consoles. They are not trying to be the same thing as a PS4 or Xbox. People will sign up for their online service regardless of what they do.

  • Nagato

    Those should just be free, like they are on every respectable online service nowadays.

  • Nagato

    No kidding, especially with the amount of games they have that depend on online so much. Titles I’d otherwise enjoy like Arms and Splatoon are just gonna be skipped over with their main content behind some online paywall.

  • Malcolm_Ecks

    To be honest, Nintendo needs a better online service. Its not to compete wit PS4 or X1. Its to provide a damn modern way of playing games online with their consoles. That’s something they’ve been lacking regardless of what you think of the PS+ and XBL.

    I should not have to use my phone and a mobile app to be able to chat with the people I’m playing video games with. Or bullshit friend codes.

  • Malcolm_Ecks

    Free for now.

  • Malcolm_Ecks

    3rd party games like a Monster Hunter or any kind of co-op game like that. Stardew Valley with voice chat just makes sense. I want to make sure someone isn’t planting too much of one thing, or making sure someone is going to the mines while others are doing things.

  • stullz

    Very true… And yet we still have no way to secure our save data on switch.

  • STARSBarry

    that was kinda the joke.

  • DAT NIGGA LUFFY

    I’m not buying a switch until that shit has CFW

  • Donwel

    You pretty much said exactly what I was going to. If Nintendo want to keep those 3rd party studios making games for Switch then they need to show that they can compete in the online arena and the mobile app just ain’t going to cut it in the long run. Especially if they’re expecting people to pay for it in future.
    And while I’m complaining, friend codes can fuck right off as well.
    Aside from that though it is decent system.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    You’re forgetting the pc crowd who would otherwise never touch a filthy console with their life. They ain’t exactly going to downgrade to play inferior multiplayer games so they don’t care either.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    Loli Antagonist hit the nail on the head: people will put up with the shit online service simply because it’s a Nintendo console. The switch is the first console I’ve owned since a 360 on release: pc gamers like me aren’t going to care about inferior console online play and the casuals will think it’s amazing. The cultists will continue on like before.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    I don’t think the markets necessarily intersect. I’d rather vomit blood than buy a ps4 and if I’m going to play online, I’m playing on a PC. Console experiences have always been inferior and Nintendo loses nothing in this as you pointed out since people who care about that stuff will just go to other consoles which will be sporting the better multiplatform title experience…. but I highly doubt people who picked up a switch give a damn about multiplatform games.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    I come from valve land so I’d rather autistically screech how achievements in general have ruined the market and given rise to a flood of terrible, trash games.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    That last bit is a good point; never thought about that. It would indeed make it worth it.