Here Are All the Things Wrong with Splatoon 2’s Terrible Online Multiplayer

Splatoon 2 simultaneously continues a run of major online multiplayer games released onto the Nintendo Switch, along with a run of games evidencing Nintendo’s inability to deliver a competent online service. It’s yet another game launched on the Switch with an online component that forces you to fight with it in order to play it, and is further evidence that Nintendo is in no way ready to launch a paid online service.

Prior to the launch of the Switch, people raised concerns over the console using a mobile app for its voice chat and online lobby systems. Nintendo gave the impression that they thought utilizing smartphones was a novel approach — we’re already glued to these devices, so why not place them at the forefront of the Switch’s online service? But the reality is far more cumbersome than the concept, with the Nintendo Switch Online app being utterly useless at achieving its primary goal, which is to make the console’s multiplayer more accessible.

The Nintendo Switch Online app

In order to play Splatoon 2 online with a friend in the manner Nintendo intended you have to send them an invite to voice chat over the Switch Online app, which renders your phone useless while you are gaming as navigating away from the app cuts off your voice call. So whereas with the likes of Skype you can chat with someone while simultaneously browsing your phone, the Switch Online app requires you to always have the Switch Online app open. To top it off, you can only use the Switch Online app voice chat with friends in a private lobby, so if you want to talk to them in a normal online match you’ll have to do so using Skype/Discord anyway. This ludicrous system has led people to criticizing it using Inkopolis Square’s mailbox:

But that’s not the only issue with the Switch Online app. Nintendo also makes you use it to order certain gear, which grants you useful extra abilities. However, Nintendo has neglected to outline exactly what these abilities do in the app itself, only displaying a little icon above them and no description as to how they’ll improve your abilities. It’s a small oversight, but one that is already piled atop a bunch of other small oversights.


Playing Splatoon 2 with friends


Good luck trying to play Splatoon 2 on a team with your friends.

If you want to play Splatoon 2 with your friends, you must wait for them to join a game session and then quickly try to join in progress while crossing your fingers that there’s a space in the lobby for you. If not, you’ll have to wait until they finish their match, as there’s no option for them to back out of the online lobby unless they close the application and start it up again, which runs the risk of incurring a short ban from the game’s multiplayer. If you’re trying to play alongside a few friends, then you’re each going to have to wait until the friend currently playing is finished, and hope that there’s enough spaces left in the lobby for you all to get in. Then there’s the issue of the game not actually placing you on the same team as your friend, with them being randomized after each match — while this isn’t an issue for those looking to play Splatoon 2 casually, for those who want to group up with their friends and approach the game more competitively, that there isn’t even an option to remain teamed with friends is disappointing.

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Currently, the only efficient way to play alongside your friends is to join an Online Lobby, wherein you can invite friends and players you’ve met to a private game. However, you still need a bunch of people at a time to play with you, and against all logic you can’t carry the people from this lobby into an unranked multiplayer session. Your only options are to constantly try to join your friends’ game sessions and hope for the best, or to gather up a group of people and stick to playing private matches. How is this still Nintendo’s reality in 2017?


Ruining replayability

With there being so many hurdles in the way of playing Splatoon 2 with friends, this will no doubt have a negative impact on the game’s replayability for many of its players. Though I’ve had a lot of fun playing against random opponents online, without being able to team up with my friends my interest in Splatoon 2 will wane, and I imagine that the same can be said for many other players, too.

What’s so frustrating about Splatoon 2‘s issues is that they’re the result of the most basic online features being omitted. Though Nintendo’s approach to online play has been ridiculed for years now, it is genuinely astonishing that indie games created by two people in a basement have more efficient online components than Splatoon 2, and that Nintendo continues with its stubborn and outdated approach despite it actively harming the quality of its own games. Splatoon 2 is a great game tucked away in a woeful online multiplayer component, and I hope Nintendo rethinks its strategy before this becomes a paid service.