The Switch's Phone-Enabled Voice Chat Is As Ridiculous As Expected

The Nintendo Switch online app is live for Android and Apple devices. It offers some Splatoon 2 utilities that let players keep track of their stats or buy special in-game items, which is pretty neat. It just isn't a very elegant solution for online voice chat between friends.

Pictured: Hori's official Splatoon Headset and Nyko's Clip Power Grip, which sadly is stuck in landscape mode. More on those optional bits later.

In order to communicate with friends over voice in Splatoon 2 (and only friends, as is Nintendo's way), each friend will need to have the Nintendo Online app downloaded and running on their phone or tablet. Players will need a communication headset of some sort plugged into their phone. If they want to hear game sounds and chat, they will either need a one-sided headset, or a splitter like the one that comes with Hori's adorable licensed headset.

You can buy awesome glasses from the app, so there is that.

One of the players in your group must then go into Splatoon 2's multiplayer section and create a private room via the Online Lounge section, sending out invitations to each friend they want to chat with. Invitations can also be sent through the app directly. Once an invitation is accepted, friend icons show up on a screen in the mobile app.

When I tested the app with Patricia Hernandez, I found the chatting itself to be fine. I would have loved to see more control over voice volume within the app than a single mute button -- all volume functions are handled by the phone or headset the player is using -- but it worked well enough. Until we started playing.

The Online Lounge mode only allows for private games between people present in the lounge. Voice chat will also work in League Battles, Splatfest battles and Salmon Run co-op. Ranked games and basic multiplayer battles are excluded. Another limitation is that once teams are selected, the voice channels switch to team communication only. As soon as we started a one-on-one match, we could no longer hear each other until the match was complete.

It also bears mentioning that switching to another app or taking a phone call on the phone being used for Splatoon 2 chat will disconnect players from the room until they return to the Switch Online app. From Nintendo's FAQ:

If I use my smart device's other features (texts, social media, etc.) will I be disconnected?

The voice chat will disconnect while you're talking on the phone or using another application, but your voice chat will restart in the same room once you open the Nintendo Switch Online application again as long as the game session is still ongoing.

It's better than nothing, but not much better? It would be just as easy for players to call each other on Skype or Teamspeak or whatever they did when they played the original, completely voice-less Splatoon. If we're going to require external hardware, might as well have full-featured software to go along with it.

An optimal solution for online voice chat on the Nintendo Switch would be the ability to just hook a headset to the console. Instead, Nintendo decided to require players to use an external app on an external device. Speaking to Kotaku earlier this year, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said that requiring a mobile device for voice chat would allow Nintendo to "deliver a better, more robust execution".

I'm not seeing it yet, but it's still early. Maybe jumping through all of these hoops will be worthwhile, eventually. Just not today.


    The chat dies if the screen times out, too!

    Really, I'm astounded that the audio from the switch can't be piped to the phone, then mixed with chat audio.

    I'd be fine with that arrangement as it means i wouldn't have wires draped across the living room, or audio feedback from my tv through the mic.

    Just a phone on hand to control the social aspects, and all of my sound through one headset.

    The switch supports this on a hardware level, and even at the basic software level. I don't understand why they've fucked it up so spectacularly.

    And it's clearly not going to be fixed any time soon since they've let hori produce that abomination.

      America president Reggie Fils-Aime said that requiring a mobile device for voice chat would allow Nintendo to "deliver a better, more robust execution".

      Reggie, baby, you're full of shit.

        Lol, what is he going to say? He can't tell the truth.

    Not sure why that double posted.

    Last edited 20/07/17 9:12 am

    This is the "improved online functionality" our (coming) subscriptions are supposed to be paying for eh?

    I love my switch and i love mintendo but this is beyond a joke. I can't believe that the switch is not capable of voice chat on its own. The vita, which is several years old is able to do cross game party chat and even cross console (ps3 ps3)

    I just don't undertand tge logic behind nintendo sometimes. Its like they go out of their way sometimes to make things difficult

      A lot of it may stem from the fact that in Japan, no-one would have the balls to speak up and criticise a stupid idea directly (except maybe Kojima). Therefore, we get monstrosities such as this voice chat system where Nintendo seemingly rammed the iceberg with all hands on deck.

    It's one of those "what were they thinking" moments exclusive to Nintendo. The Switch is doing so well, has some great games and more on the way, things are looking up... then suddenly they come up with this as a solution to online chat? It's beyond ridiculous when solutions to online chat already exist, what the hell is Nintendo so afraid of in this day and age?

      Maybe Nintendo doesn't actually want people to use the voice chat, and it is deliberately made as user-unfriendly as possible.

        This is what I claimed ages ago; it seems like a sort of soft barrier, designed to keep kids away from the toxicity that can be online gaming. While at the same time offering systems for people that really want player communication.

          It's not like you can join randoms though. Even if this worked through the switch, you are only talking with people you know. Heck, you can't even trash talk the other team ever.

            I suppose, then maybe cost cutting means there is legit no space on the Switch for non-critical auxillery systems?

              Nah that's bollocks. The underpinning hardware easily supports it, and the wii and ds had on-board voice chat.

              This is a choice, and they made it badly.

          I don't understand this logic, punish a lot to appease a few. The system has (or should) parental controls to restrict kids from using things like voice chat. Its not nintendo's job to police kids online.

          I mean how many kids under 13 are playing on a switch anyway? My guess would be most owners are over 18

            My 3 boys are all under 13: they're not interested in the video chat feature of the app. but the Splatoon 2 functions so they can order clothes and check their stats.

            I can't set it up for them without the voice chat so they can't use it.

    Ha hahaha hahaha HAaaha hahaaa!

    (seriously, I can't stop laughing at this glorious train wreck)

      Bit like your post history, huh?

      (But seriously agree about this fuckery that is Voice Chat)

    This garbage is an inexcusable, unmitigated shitload of fuck.

      I would take a shitload of fuck over a fuckload of shit any day. :D

    Like clockwork. Every Switch article. Zambayoshi.

    Someone please tell me this is just a poorly timed April Fool's joke.

    If that is really what is required for chat on the Switch, I think it safe to say many would rather be mute in the game.

    This is a bigger mess than a 90's style Roland setup.

      It's about on par with the Virtual Boy design.

        I dunno. There were some very odd minded games played at Nintendo as the Virtual Boy was being developed.

        First, Nintendo apparently invested in the fabrication of the processors before the designs were finalised thus preventing the use of newer, more powerful and more efficient chips.

        Second, (because of the first point) there is a piece of metal in the device to keep the EMF away from the user's head.

        Third, even if there were no hardware issues a lot of the key (and popular franchises) we withheld from the device so the would be greater focus on the (then) upcoming Nintendo 64. No joke, Zelda, Mario and even Donkey Kong were though of as games but the higher ups said "nay".

        So the Virtual Boy actually had some explanation on why it went wrong in so many places.

        This setup for chat on the Switch does not.

          All you say is true, yet the design of the Virtual Boy is just awful. I mean, putting it on a stand that could easily be toppled?

            I've never found it to be particularly prone to toppling. For me the greater crime with the stand (other than being fairly easy to break from the legs spreading too wide) is that it's just too small and offers no height adjustment at all. Rig up something with/like an adjustable lamp and it's great.

    Looks like I will continue to use discord or ps4 chat.

    I knew this was going to be special when they first announced it being some BS with your phone.

    And don't get me started on the morons who defend this idea...

    Last edited 20/07/17 1:32 pm

    The only real benefit of this method of adding voice chat is that it means the Switch OS doesn't need to reserve memory and processor time to run the service. This would either reduce the resources available to all games, or it would have to be something that games would need to opt in to (and hence chat would be disabled for games that didn't opt in).

    That said, the system they've put together doesn't sound like it offers much convenience over third party solutions.

      The hardware in the switch must be pretty shit if it cant handle voice comms. The switch is more powerful hardware wise than the 360 (Which could handle voice comms fine) yet voice comms will strain the hardware? That logic does not hold up at all.

        I have no doubt that the Switch could handle voice communication by itself if they wanted it to. The question is about what guarantees will they give to game developers?

        Taking the Xbox 360 and PS3 as examples, both supported voice communication but one made it an OS feature (the 360's party chat), while the other had it implemented as a feature of some games. Both options have their benefits, but the 360's solution meant that they needed to make sure there was enough memory and CPU time for the feature to work, no matter what game you decided to play. In practice, this means that the console couldn't guarantee as much memory to games as it could if the feature didn't exist.

        Coming at it from the other side, Sony found it impossible to graft cross game party chat onto the PS3, since they couldn't fit it into the resources reserved for the OS. Games could implement their own voice chat, but that came out of their own memory/CPU budget.

        Getting back to the Switch, pushing voice chat onto a second device may have been the only way to implement the feature if they'd promised too many resources to games.

    I already use discord voice chat on my phone for gaming, so this isn't that much different.

      Yeah, but, obviously Nintendo should just give up on making consoles and go into direct competition with Discord, and Teamspeak, and Skype, and tin cans with string strung between them.

    After months of stories of the Switch's unabashed success, this little development is like a spray of fresh water onto the parched tongues of all Nintendo haters. Look at 'em scurring out of their dark corners! This should keep them going on for a few months.

      This has always been a bad idea, from the start, from the moment they announced how it would work. And it's not 'haters', it's people with common sense who have pointed out how bad the idea was.

      PS - I say this as a Switch owner.

        Oh yeah, I wasn't trying to say that this is not a terrible implementation. Merely saying that it enabled all the actual haters to get a bit of hot air in those deflated balloons.

    Chat needs to run besides the game, eats memory and cpu.
    Maybe they didn't reserve enough HW for additional features like this from the beginning?

    btw, Nintendo is really not himself this gen imo.
    e.g. Cannot charge while using the stand (Tabletop Mode), cannot charge while resting your hands on the table.
    easy fix: output image upside down

    Last edited 01/08/17 5:13 pm

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now