The Nintendo Switch was a very popular video game console in 2020, hitting the second-highest annual dollar sales in US console history. It looks like that momentum isn't slowing down. Some analysts expect the Switch to outsell the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles in 2021 as well. I absolutely love my Nintendo Switch, and I definitely see why it's been doing so well in the last few years. Part of that is due to its vast number of multiplayer games. However, I think the Switch could be doing even better if it weren't for one of its faults.
One of the most glaring issues with the hybrid console is the lack of voice chat. Since most of Nintendo's AAA games don't allow you to communicate with others online vocally, they aren't as easy to play with friends. Games are huge social activities for kids and adults. Lacking the ability to easily talk with a headset not only hampers a game's enjoyment but seriously cuts into someone's precious social time. You can connect a headset to your Switch, but unless the developers behind the game you're playing specifically went to the trouble to create its own voice chat features, then you won't be able to communicate on Switch.
This has been a qualm of mine for a while, but it once again surfaced when I purchased the recently released Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury and attempted to play online with friends. I couldn't communicate with my teammates to explain how to tackle a specific Star or how to get to a secret location. This led to many unnecessary deaths and made it feel like I was playing with strangers rather than friends. Worse still, the game wasn't even supported on the Nintendo Switch Online app, the intended voice chat system for online Switch games.
The Nintendo Switch Online app has always been clunky. The idea behind it is that certain Nintendo games have extra features on the app. This includes the ability to use voice chat through your phone rather than through a Switch and headset. It's just awkward.
Hell, in recent promotions, Nintendo pretends like the Nintendo Switch Online app doesn't exist. In the video above, it doesn't even mention the app and resorts to showing Brie Larson communicating with her sister via a computer while playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Obviously, the Nintendo Switch Online app isn't good enough, and even Nintendo is sweeping it under the rug. We need a better system in place that doesn't require people to use an exterior device coupled with a third-party service to communicate, especially when many of us are stuck inside and are playing games with friends online.
Why doesn't the Switch have voice chat?
Now, I understand that Nintendo is more of a family console while the Xbox and PlayStation systems are more targeted towards teenagers and adults. As such, it makes sense that the Switch shies away from features that could put children in bullying or compromising situations. But to not have voice chat at all makes this feel like an excuse the completely disregards a huge percentage of adult Switch owners. After all, that's what the parental controls are for. Voice chat should be an option on the Nintendo Switch that parents can disable. I mean, Nintendo could even make it, so the Switch disables voice chat by default unless parents approve of the feature's use.
I'm sure even more people would use the Switch regularly if it had voice chat. Since it doesn't, gamers need to rely on other consoles to have social time with friends. Granted, some games like Fortnite and Overwatch have their own voice chat feature that works on Nintendo Switch. This makes them more appealing options for Switch owners who actually want to have a social session with friends while playing their favorite games. If Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, or one of Nintendo's many other multiplayer titles allowed us to connect a headset and communicate with each other, we'd get even more out of these games.
Please Nintendo, we beg you
Nintendo distinguishes itself by being a more kid-friendly console with plenty of games that the whole family can enjoy. However, it's beyond frustrating that so many AAA online multiplayer games don't even support voice chat. In a time where many of us are hanging out virtually with friends more than ever, being able to truly communicate while playing games instead of trying to get our characters to mime out what we want to do is annoying and unnecessary. It makes me want to resort to playing games on other systems when I want to hang out virtually with friends.
Please, Nintendo. Fix this.
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.