I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately about how the Switch is severely lacking in many departments. The upside to the that coin and to give fair credit where it’s due, is in the games department. There’s clearly no shortage of awesome games at all price points, and for that, I am stoked. I’ve basically transitioned to only playing Switch games for the entire year of 2019, and I’m honestly surprised how little time it took!
Just look at my specs for the past year:
There are tons of games on the Switch and I believe there’s absolutely something for everyone, and of course this not the problem I’m here to address today.
The Switch is still behind with the times and I think after nearly 3 years on the market, it’s open to some valid criticisms. As the only player in the console game with top-tier charm in their software, Nintendo has been slacking a little when it comes to a couple things pertaining to their hardware and operating system. Let’s take a look at some of them.
When news of the Nintendo Switch Online app being required for voice chat was announced, players were less than enthused. With the Playstation and Xbox supporting headsets straight out of a jack on the controller, voice chat turned into a natural, easily accessible part of online gameplay. Personally I don’t play a lot of online multiplayer games, but I used to when I was younger on my Playstation 2.
In fact, I remember very fondly playing SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs online, with a headset, in Christmas of ’02. 2002! So why is it that 18 years later, we still don’t have a voice chat feature native to the console? I’ve been called a “pee-pee head” by exactly zero children while playing the Switch online. Where’s the justice?!
Nintendo loves to act like the last bastion of child protection when it comes to their consoles, but let’s be honest – it’s had plenty of Mature-rated games on there the past few years, far more than any recent console of theirs, and I think it’s time to let parents parent and give older players the option to use these types of features. After all, they talk about the parental control features in the Nintendo Switch App, so why not, you know, expect parental figures to use those parental controls?
I played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a few months ago and was happily surprised to see my phone light up upon connecting to a game, alerting me to the fact that I could now chat with everyone in-game. It was actually pretty cool and I have to admit, it worked exactly as it needed to. Very seamless!
But I’m forced to ask – if it’s such a great solution, why in 2020 do so few games support it? In short, it works with Mario Kart, Splatoon, ARMS, Mario Tennis, and the NES/SNES Online apps. I was going to link out to a list of compatible titles but it was easier to type them out then to create a link.
I’ve gotten really big back into Monster Hunter Generations lately on the Switch and one thing that game severely needs for any sort of teamwork is voice chat. Merely using gestures and awkwardly typing with the D-pad is useless when you’re getting thrown across the screen like a ragdoll by Wyverns. What I ended up doing is joining a Discord server that allows me to voicechat, but then that requires me sitting by my computer with a headset on in order to strategize verbally. In short, it’s wholly impractical and I’ve used this method exactly once.
Too much work to play a game means you don’t play that game as often as you may like to.
Sending messages over consoles may be a bit of a lost art, but I think a simplified, even “Nintendo-fied” version of this could work. What if you could send messages in the same way that characters would communicate in Tomodachi Life? For those who never played Tomodachi Life, characters would randomly show up in your apartment and give you gifts, and you would hang around for a brief little cutscene, chat a bit, and the like.
Everyone has a Mii – thankfully Nintendo hasn’t done something stupid yet and tried to kill them off too. But three years into the console and they aren’t even being used at all, save for your icon, and most of my friends at least use character profile shots from other games rather than their own Mii.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. As I mentioned earlier, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate has been my jam lately, and I’d love to play with actual friends rather than strictly randoms online. So, what if I could go into my profile, select a friend, and send them a game recommendation? It would light up that spot on the Pro Controller that has also been completely unused for three years indicating that they have a message, and opening up their profile and reading it could show a little animation of my Mii carrying in the game thumbnail and parading it around a bit, and I could input a short message to go along with it. “Hey Frank, come murder monsters with me!”
It’s simple, cheesy, silly, and my god that kind of thing is right up Nintendo’s realm of possibilities.
Speaking of which:
More Mii Integration
Miis may be the most recognizable symbols when it comes to user profiles on a video game system. Thanks to the success of the Wii, practically every human being in social circles had their own Mii at some point, for those holidays where grandma and grandpa got into a heated Wii Tennis match, or all the cousins meeting up would play several dozen rounds of Wii Bowling.
So, why haven’t Nintendo yet capitalized on this when it comes to the Switch?
I wrote an article years ago, a few weeks after the Switch launch, about how a Mii integration would help make the Switch software feel more cozy and homey. While I’m not terribly surprised none of that happened, there’s absolutely still time here. Switch is still in its infancy (ok, maybe more like a teenager at this point), and this kind of thing could absolutely still work.
The Friends list is starting to look like a bunch of pictures with game titles beneath them and not actual people with whom I’m acquainted. Where’s the interactions?
A Social Network That Isn’t Straight Cancer to Society
As far as I’m concerned, the social options on the 3DS are still blowing the Switch completely out of the water. It’s 2020 and people are sick of mainstream social networks – something like Miiverse on the Switch could absolutely thrive. Hell, it would give us something to do with our screenshots at least, because if you don’t have Twitter or Facebook, what are you even doing with all your screenshots?
What Nintendo could do is create a little mini-social network of its own. Hear me out for a second.
What if there was a way to post content to your own profile? You could keep a running log of the games you’re playing, how much you’re enjoying them, a 5-star rating system, etc, all built right into the Profile screen. Currently, when you click a friend’s name on the Profile screen, you get an option to remove them as a friend or to toggle “Best Friends” – another feature which in actuality, is not a feature at all.
I suppose I’m loosely describing Miiverse, but rather than having it as its own separate app on the system, it would be built into the Profile app itself – that way posting to it would actually be simple, and wouldn’t require shutting down your current game. You could take a screenshot or a video, then go into your Album, and “Switchverse” or whatever they call it would be another service to export to, alongside Twitter and Facebook.
See, this type of feature shouldn’t be looked at as fluff, either – posting reviews and screenshots of games for others to see is inherently a form of advertising to your friends. In fact, Nintendo could look at a mini-social network in Profiles as a downright investment, as friend influence is one of the strongest forms of marketing out there. Go ahead, think about your last game purchase. Did you buy it because Nintendo marketed it to you? Or because a YouTuber recommended it? Perhaps a close friend recommended it? If I asked you whether Nintendo, a stranger, or a close friend’s recommendation were more valuable, odds are you’d go with the close friend. Nintendo needs to realize this.
I think this is a home-run idea, but it’s still in Nintendo’s court to execute it. The 3DS was chock-full of social features (at least compared to the Switch) and while some of them wouldn’t work well today, the simplicity of sharing games with friends is right in Nintendo’s wheelhouse.
That about does it for now! Nintendo can really improve the atmosphere and usability of the Switch and these are just a handful of ideas. Of course, there are themes which I didn’t even bring up here, which would be incredible as they are still a source of pure bliss for me on my 3DS. But I can write an entire article on that…!
What quality of life features would you like to see on Switch? Let’s talk about it in the comments! As usual, thanks for reading my rambly rambles.