New Nintendo Switch Online app for iOS and Android explained

With the launch of the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app, the company’s strategy for online play and interaction is starting to take shape, albeit awkwardly. Here’s what you need to know.

There are plenty of question marks still hanging over the online experience that Nintendo’s latest console, the Switch, will offer up when it’s in full effect. Right now the console offers basic online multiplayer support for titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and ARMS but the imminent launch of Splatoon 2 heralds the introduction of a new ingredient into the Switch’s online recipe, the Nintendo Switch Online app.

If this all sounds a little confusing, that’s because it is.

The app, which is already available to download from both the App Store (iOS) and Play Store (Android) is set to serve as the main gateway to the key online components associated with Splatoon 2 (and future titles). The original games’ SplatNet online portal was a bare-bones website with minimal functionality whilst SplatNet 2, which is accessible through the Switch Online app, supports far more features including voice chat – a key component that the original game lacked.

Nintendo Switch Online app setup

Jump into the app, sign in with your Nintendo ID and you’ll have access to notification settings, an invitations list and a section marked ‘game-specific services’, under which you’ll find Splatoon 2. Tapping on it at the time of writing details the key functionality of SplatNet 2, with players being able to ‘order gear from SplatNet’, share real-time score information with friends, dive deeper into the game’s maps and so on, although none of these features are yet accessible.

Splatoon 2 SplatNet 2

You can, however, already set up a private room (on your Switch) from within Splatoon 2’s online lounge into which you can invite friends; pulling from both your existing Switch friends list and by issuing invites over platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp using your smartphone.

Once a room has been created you can then push a notification to the Switch Online app on your smartphone. From here you’ll find invitation options to share over the various platforms connected to your device, and once you’re up and running, and your friends have joined the room also facilitates the game’s voice chat feature.

Nintendo Switch Online app room invitations Splatoon 2 SplatNet 2

If this all sounds a little confusing, that’s because it is. Nintendo could have given the Switch native voice-chat capabilities and integrated these same systems into each relevant title. Instead, gamers will have to rely on some unusual splitters and adapters to send both voice over the Switch Online app to their friends and game audio into their headphones all at the same time. Those thinking of using wireless headphones are out of luck too as the Switch has never support Bluetooth audio and likely never will.

Hori Splatoon 2 headset layout
Hori’s Splatoon 2 headset document shows the tangle of wires and adapters required to enjoy both voice chat and game audio at the same time.

We’ll see a more complete set of capabilities from the Nintendo Switch Online app when Splatoon 2 formally launches on July 21st, 2017 and Switch online play will become a paid service sometime in 2018 with an year’s subscription priced at €19.99 (online play will remain free until then whilst the service is in beta).