If the translations from Famitsu’s recent feature on Splatoon are accurate, we\’ve been here before. We once again find ourselves wondering if Nintendo will deign to include a fairly standard feature for online gaming, a brow-furrowing state of affairs. The possibility of no voice chat in big N’s first marquee online shooter? Really?
However, even if the translation isn\’t accurate, even if another interview appeared tomorrow that reversed course and revealed that Nintendo’s new shooter would have in-game voice chat (and boy, do I hope that happens), this would still be a problem. Why? Because in the year 2015, there shouldn\’t even be a question about if a co-operative online game has voice chat. Pick any modern shooter with an online-centric presence, and you won\’t find trails of internet comments wondering if the game will allow you to speak to people on your own team. Hell, you didn\’t even wonder about this on the old Wii – after Call of Duty: Black Ops delivered voice chat, it was a given from that point forward.
[It’s worth noting, by the way, that Black Ops was released in 2010, on a console orders of magnitude less powerful than the Wii U, which required the developers to perform gymnastic programming feats in order to port the game onto a piece of hardware it was never intended to run on. But lo and behold, Treyarch pulled that off – probably because they viewed voice chat in any modern shooter as a given, and it had already been done on the Wii by High Voltage Software in 2009’s The Conduit. This pretty well eliminates any \”but it might be really technically difficult with the hardware\” protestations for the Wii U at present.]
Half a decade later, though, and we still can\’t be sure with Nintendo. One of the greatest software developers in the world seemingly can\’t be arsed to provide a feature that has been a fixture in online gaming for several years. What gives?
Maybe it’s us. We gamers can be an unreasonable, unruly, churlish bunch. You tell me about your favorite videogame, and I\’ll show you an internet comments section tearing it apart. There is no pleasing everyone, and Nintendo seems to take their role as an industry iconoclast to heart. It’s part of their company philosophy, as inextricably linked to their collective DNA as plumbers dropping mushrooms. The company wouldn\’t be where it is today if it listened to every armchair analyst; they would instead be making mobile games, or turning Zelda into a FarmVille clone. Their deafness to trends can be a blessing.
Sometimes, though, it’s a true curse. This could be one of those times (although one certainly hopes for a clarification alleviating our worries). Perhaps in Japan, where Nintendo is king of the hill, and where local co-operative play is far more common, it’s no big deal to release an online-centric game without voice chat. But outside of Japan, releasing feature-deficient games is not iconoclastic. It’s just poor form, out of touch with modernity. Releasing a game in which you play online as part of a four-person team, but have no ability to socially interact with that team, would kind of be like releasing a brand-new home console tomorrow that only outputs in standard definition. That’s more than being behind the times, it’s being ignorant of them.
Nintendo, of course, is not ignorant. Stubborn, maybe, but not ignorant of the very industry they helped rescue, grow, revitalize, and nurture. So if it’s not ignorance, then what is it? Their \”kid-friendly\” image? Personally, I think Nintendo lost any \”family image\” excuse for this generation of consoles when they decided to publish Bayonetta. One can\’t publish an M-rated game in which you torture attack an angel onto a fetish horse and say you\’re worried about what mom and dad will think of you.
[Video via youtube user Oleksandr Dunayevskyy.]
Why yes, those are spikes on that horse she is, umm…straddling. And I know, I know. \”But that’s an M-rated game.\” True, but it’s still a Nintendo game now, one they have published, and one in which they are responsible for the dissemination of its content. However, unlike game content, Nintendo is most certainly not responsible for the things other people say online. If you brought someone into your village in Animal Crossing: City Folk (an E-rated game that, ahem, had voice chat) and they began to melt down like Mel Gibson after a few drinks, you wouldn\’t blame Satoru Iwata for it. That’s why \”but the children\” doesn\’t really work as a ripost here. \”We\’ll publish the sexed out witch, but don\’t worry, we\’ll make sure your 12 year old doesn\’t hear swear words whilst playing online\” is a logically-compromised bit of sophistry.
The only thing left to consider is a mixture of Occam’s razor and Hanlon’s – Nintendo simply doesn\’t care about voice chat. They know it is used by other developers. They understand its importance to gamers outside of Japan who live in areas where their friends live hundreds of miles away. Yet it’s not something important enough for them to worry about.
In the age of launching broken games that require day-one patches, I am slightly sympathetic to that view. One cannot argue with the quality Nintendo offers when so much of the competition seems to view launch day as a rather large-scale beta test. One can argue, though, that even having this discussion in the first place is more than a little absurd, like wondering if the expensive new car you\’re buying will have airbags.
Nintendo is selling a console featuring a controller with a built-in microphone. It’s time they stopped ignoring it.