Nintendo’s online service goes live next week, and I have mixed feelings. It’s not groundbreaking to declare Nintendo has struggled with “online”. On their part, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve been playing Nintendo games online since Metroid Prime Hunters. That was TWELVE years ago. The game worked but the experience was painful. Friend codes has always been the hard mode of online infrastructure. Nintendo has had moments of online success (Animal Crossing: Wild World worked surprisingly well) but it’s been mostly sputtering. You would have thought they would have figured it out by now. I’m not convinced they have.
As soon as I had a Switch in my hands I had dreams of a fully functional Virtual Console. What we are getting is a pitiful facsimile. So forgive me if I’m not super pumped about “play[ing] classic NES games anytime, anywhere”. It’s an undisputed fact that the SNES is the greatest console of all time and the fact that I won’t be playing Super Mario World, A Link to the Past, Actraiser or Super Metroid on my Switch come September 18th is nothing short of a travesty.
The voice chat/party system (that Microsoft more or less perfected) on offer from Nintendo is kind of sad. A phone app? That’s the best we’re going to do, Nintendo? Nintendo’s reluctance for an all-encompassing online service has been partly due to a promise to keep kids safe. I’ve seen my kids interact with the online troglodytes and I respect Nintendo’s intentions. I assume the decision to create a phone app was made to self-select their audience, thinking most kids wouldn’t have a cell phone. In 2018 that is becoming less and less likely. I will give them credit for having a headset jack on the Switch that works with a microphone, but they have some work to do to develop any kind of online community. Maybe they aren’t even trying to.
Look, I’ll be signing up for this day one. Goes without saying. And I will have my eyes glued to the screen during nintendo direct today, just begging for more details on what will hopefully become a robust online service but more importantly, a virtual console with a giant library.