An Analysis on Nintendo’s Party System and Voice Chat

Introduction

I saw a lot of people actively talking about how bad Nintendo’s implementation of party system and voice chat are and “how to fix them”. However, everybody who has used any party or voice chat nowadays already knows why the implementation is bad and what would have to be changed for it to be good. Therefore, it makes a lot more sense to actually discuss on what prompted Nintendo to implement the system in the way they have. What were their thoughts, motivations and reasonings?

Getting a good idea of those is in my opinion the best way to give proper feedback and then possibly get a better system implemented.  You can see the video version of the article to the right of here. I believe I have identified two reasons on why Nintendo implemented the party system and voice chat to be the way they currently are. One has to do with user experience and the other is a certain limitation in hardware. Let’s get deeper into the user experience first as it should be relatively easy to explain.

User Experience

Everyone has a smartphone nowadays or at least close to everyone. The requirement for a smartphone is one of the criticisms levied against Nintendo for this service. While this criticism is valid, the availability of smartphones is something that was definitely on Nintendo’s mind when concepting the software.

analysis nintendo voice chat (1)

What I’m actually trying to get at here is that people are really used to using their smartphones at this time. The touchscreen that dynamically changes what is presented depending on what is needed makes them really intuitive to use and have replaced button controls completely. Try typing in some text with your controller on the Nintendo Switch when it is docked. It takes quite some time and undocking the Switch to type or to navigate is a thing that I find myself frequently doing.

Offloading the lobby management to the smartphone, which can in this case act like an enhanced TV remote, is actually a nice idea. However, it would have been much better if this was simply kept as an option, with another option being that the lobby is handled directly on the Nintendo Switch.

analysis nintendo voice chat (2)

Herein lays another issue as well; the game lobbies are handled on a game per game basis rather than on the operating system. That means, quitting a game to play another with friends requires you to reform the lobby. This even goes so far as to even requiring you to reform the lobby if you want to play another game mode, for example if you want to switch from the normal multiplayer action in Splatoon to the Survival Mode Salmon Run.

This is once again strange, but could have something to do with the different amount of players in each respective lobby, eight for standard multiplayer and four for Salmon Run. This could potentially just be an incomplete solution and Nintendo still having ways to go to find proper ones. A kind of sublobby could be implemented here to properly fix this and as Nintendo is currently making you use your smartphones, it could actually be made pretty easy to manage those through a touchscreen.

Technical Limitations

So in terms of User Experience, Nintendo actually has some pretty neat ideas, which have yet to be fleshed out fully. This covers the Lobby aspect of this video, but why is Nintendo making Voice Chat go through the smartphones and why are contraptions being developed to be able to enjoy both voice chat and game sounds at the same time? This aspect could actually have to do with the technical limitations of the Bluetooth used in the Nintendo Switch.

hori contraption

As we all know, the Nintendo Switch connects with up two four pairs of JoyCon Controllers. Each JoyCon connects itself seperately to the Console, which means there are eight devices connected to the Switch via bluetooth at this time. However, this already is a lot of stress for the connection to handle and putting a bluetooth headset on top of that, as many requested, could push it over its limits.

Let’s explain how Bluetooth connects to multiple devices first. What happens is, is that the Master Device (Switch) connects to each one of the slave devices (JoyCon) for a very short amount of time. We are talking about nano to microseconds here. It then cycles to all other devices, giving them all that little bit of time to send and receive information.

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How come your controllers keep being connected and avoid dropping the connection all the time then? Due to each cycle being so small, it looks like it remains connection with us at all times in our own much bigger timescale. However, let’s put in a bluetooth headset into the mix. Transmission of high quality sound requires a lot more bandwidth than a controller with some button inputs and if you are using a microphone, a connection would have to go both ways.  This would mean that connection quality with the JoyCon could rapidly decrease.

The general standard for maximum devices connected via bluetooth is seven, so the eights JoyCon that the Nintendo Switch connects to are already a stretch for the technology. Adding in another High-Bandwidth Device like a Headset could greatly hamper the connectivity of the controllers. If you thought the issue with the left JoyCon at the launch of the Nintendo Switch was bad, you are in for a wild ride.

This issue is probably, what prompted Nintendo to let the Voice Chat go through their user’s phones. However, the use case of the BlueTooth Headset is probably when a single user wants to play online. In this case Nintendo could just opt to disable the connection of more than four devices. It could be tricky and challenging to implement, but as we’re going to pay for this service, it is a just demand.

All in all, we believe the comfort of using your phone and the issues with the bluetooth connection are the reason Nintendo opted for the way they implemented their system. What do you think about it? Do you have a feeling that we’ve missed the point? Let us know in the comments below, we would really love to hear as many opinions as possible as those can promote some very healthy discussions.

Kaisernik

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4 Comments on "An Analysis on Nintendo’s Party System and Voice Chat"

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Hmm, I wonder if it is a RAM limitation, but in a different way to how others see it. What if they already partitioned the ram in a way that doesn’t give nintendo room for OS level VC. They would have to check with every game currently in development and released to make sure that it doesn’t use up the amount of ram the switch requires for the games in order to re-partition the ram allotment to games in order to give the OS the ram it needs for a viable OS level VC system. I mean I don’t think… Read more »
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