We've known for a while that Splatoon, Nintendo's take on a third-person shooter, wouldn't have voice chat. But we know why they have left it out now, and I think it's the wrong move.
Splatoon is the featured game in the latest issue of Edge magazine in the UK. I haven't read the whole piece just yet, but the this quote from co-director Yusuke Amano really stood out to me:
Not that you'll be able to hear any cussing yourself: Splatoon has no voice chat now, and it never will. You can blame the infamous toxicity of online players for that. "This is coming from personal experience," Amano says. "When I played online games, I didn't like the negativity I got and people telling me, 'You're crap. Go away.' So we wanted to focus on the positive aspects of online gaming."
Amano admits this approach means missing out on a feature that makes online play stand out for many players. "I don't want you to misunderstand — I'm not denying having chat in an online game does contribute to fun. But, as we've said, we want to grab new people.
Look, I get it. The Internet can be a scuzzy place, and we've all experienced someone gross while playing online. That's not a reason to ditch the feature entirely, though. Online multiplayer is about cooperating within a team, and communicating through voice chat is incredibly effective.
Splatoon is not Journey, a game where the cooperation of players isn't required. Victory in Splatoon will demand people work together, and the game won't feature a key tool for that.
I wouldn't blame Nintendo if voice chat was turned off by default or age-restricted, but rather than exploring avenues to meet players halfway, Nintendo's running from voice chat entirely.
Splatoon might end up being a great game, but stuff like this could severely limit its potential.