Nintendo Switch online app is an astonishingly bad misstep

We sort of had a feeling that Nintendo's online system for the Switch was going to disappoint in one way or another, and now that the online app has finally launched, things certainly don't look all that great. Though we won't be able to actually use the app until Splatoon 2 launches on Friday, some of the things in Nintendo's FAQ aren't doing much to instill confidence in the Switch's online system.

The first point of contention is one that we had some warning of ahead of time. The FAQ points out that there's no way to hear in-game audio from your Switch through your smart device. This is an issue, of course, because your smart phone is where you'll do your voice chatting while you're playing multiplayer games. As it stands, the only work around for this is a rather bulky headset developed by HORI, which plugs into both your Switch and your smart device at the same time.

The next mind-boggling limitation of the Switch online app is the fact that the app must remain open at all times while you're chatting to your friends. If you switch to another app or (presumably) shut off your phone's screen, you'll exit the voice chat you're currently in and you won't re-enter until you open the app again.

This is troubling because a lot of people will likely use this on their phones, and if that's the case, other apps like messaging or your web browser are off limits if you don't want to leave your voice chat. Why Nintendo didn't allow this app to function in the background is legitimately confusing, and it makes us wonder if voice communication isn't really a priority for Nintendo.

There are a few other concerning items in the FAQ, such as the requirement that you and your friends enter Splatoon 2's online lounge before you can begin voice chatting. This means no group that persists across games, which has become something of a staple feature Switch's competitors, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.

Now, in Nintendo's defense, the online system for the Switch isn't going to officially launch until sometime next year. This service is free for players until the day that it launches, so it isn't like we're paying money to use this platform. The hope, then, is that Nintendo adds a few quality of life features in the time between now and launch. Being able to use the app in the background would be great, as would a persistent group chat that you can create with your friends regardless of the games all of you are playing.

For the moment, though, the app is initially rolling out in a poor state. We'll see how the general Switch-playing public likes it once Splatoon 2 launches on Friday, but don't be surprised to see a reaction that's at least somewhat negative.