Sorry guys, I need to check my notification tray. I will be right back.
The Nintendo Switch Online application is out. As the official way to interact during Splatoon 2 sessions, Nintendo had a lot riding on it. Would it be anything of note? After testing it for a while, I think that SplatNet 2 adds certain benefits but the same can't be said for its online voice chat functionality.
With SplatNet 2, a wealth of information is available. You can: see your current rank, review your gear, and compare your lifetime Inkage to real-life locations.
Even better is the SplatNet Gear Shop. It allows you to order clothing directly from the app. You can order only one item at a time, but once you pick it up from Murch, you're free to buy another. Interestingly, the same gear can have different abilities depending on if it was bought in the game or the application. Even if you own a certain item, you can overwrite it if the app gives a better loadout.
Another thing I quite like is the in-app forecast of when certain stages and modes will pop-up. It allows me to plan sessions in advance, which I certainly appreciate. Since Ranked and League Battle stages are different, it also helps me decide if I want to play with a friend or not.
The My Stats page provides an in-depth look at your playing habits. You can see your best mission times in the single-player, how often you win on certain stages, and what kinds of weapons you favor.
The most useful element of SplatNet 2 is the ability to see the last 50 matches you played, and review the details of your performance. You can look at the weapons, gear, and statistics. It is honestly a great resource to find ways to improve your play. All of these statistics can be shared on social media via a fun, shareable, image.
The positive experiences, however, don't transfer to the Nintendo Switch Online Lounge. Invitations are neat: you get an instant notification on your smartphone when invited to join a room. Once you join a room, you can move to the Online Lounge in the Lobby, to view the specific game session. It is quick, snappy, and usually works.
It is also easy to set up a room; just like joining one, you get a notification on your phone that the room is ready. However, it starts failing when you invite others. While inviting Nintendo Switch Friends and Users You've Played With is straightforward, inviting people via social media can be less rewarding. Invitations on public Twitter or Facebook accounts are basically blank invitations into the world. Anyone can join the room by simply clicking a link on their phone. This can quickly fill the room's 8 slots, especially if you have a large social media following. A more effective way to invite specific friends via social media might be to send yourself the link over email and then DM it to every person you want to invite.
The biggest question about the app is how does the voice chat work. The audio quality is fine, although it depends on your own connection as well as the quality of your microphone. Another thing that is cool that you do split up in teams during Private Battles. I do wish that there was just an option that let us all stay in the same room; sometimes you just want to fool around, do something dumb, and taunt the person you splatted.
The voice chat suffers because the app fails at providing basic features expected of a smartphone app in 2017. For starters, you can't keep this application running in the background. In a world where Discord and Skype exist, Nintendo has made it so you can only use their application if it is in the foreground. If you decide to do anything else on your phone, you are cut out and have to reconnect, a process that take a few seconds. Even checking the notification tray, which the app itself uses, disconnects you from the app. That is crazy. You can still see your incoming messages, but if you want to respond, you are out of luck.
Although you can’t switch to other apps, you can still check things within the app itself.
I'm also bummed that the screen stays on the entire time, even though you’re just talking. Naturally, you can lower your smartphone's brightness setting, but the screen is still wasting the battery.
I’m worried about this as feature of a paid service. The game-specific features are really cool, and can provide meaningful benefits to their respective games. The lobby, however, makes me question the entire proposition. The ideas are sound, but execution is not in line with today's standards. Asking someone to rely a bare-bones application, exclusively on their smartphone, is crazy. There are so many better services out there that allow me to chat with my friends. Whatever Nintendo's plans are, selling this will be an uphill battle.