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Will the Switch Smartphone App Allow Tethering for Online Multiplayer?

The Switch launches in less than a week.  With mere days before Nintendo’s hybrid console is out in the wild, we are still asking ourselves many questions.

Upon looking at the Nintendo Switch specifications over at Nintendo of America’s home page, I noticed something kind of interesting.  If you look closely, Nintendo states that networking on the Switch “can be connected to the internet via a wireless (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) and Bluetooth 4.1.”

It’s also worth noting the Switch can be connected using a wired LAN adapter, just like the Wii U could.

The stuff about the Bluetooth connectivity is interesting, though.  Nintendo has not given us a full breakdown of the Switch’s online services yet.  What we do know is that there will be a free trial period for online matchmaking while Nintendo prepares to launch their full paid service at some point in the fall.

There has also been talks about Nintendo’s smart device app being implemented for voice connectivity.  Whether or not voice will be limited to the smart phone app remains to be seen.

This bit about the Bluetooth does trigger a few questions though.  Is Nintendo going to allow players to connect their Switch consoles to their smartphones for mobile, online connectivity via Bluetooth through their mobile app?  If so, will this allow Nintendo to potentially bypass restrictions some wireless subscribers have on their accounts?

Back in January, Nintendo of America President, Reggie Fils-Aime spoke to Nintendo Everything about Nintendo’s online efforts with the Switch. He stated:

“The bigger vision is that we are going to provide an overall online service, subscription-based, that not only will capture the multiplayer opportunity, but also the voice chat capability that we’re going to provide through a global app. We think that that’s just as important as access to Virtual Console content.

“The reason for that is, it continues to reinforce our commitment to online, and do so in a way that will enable the consumer to enjoy their Nintendo Switch and to still be able to play those connected experiences—like Splatoon, like Kart, like fill in the blank—while they’re on the go. Instead of having some sort of bulky gamer headset, you’ll be able to do it right off your smartphone, put in your earbuds that you use for your standard mobile device. We think that’s a pretty sweet solution. That’s part of the overall opportunity that we see in a subscription service.”

If the app does pan out to allow the ability for players to connect to their smartphones for online connectivity, this could be a very elegant solution for those who would otherwise have difficulty setting up a mobile hotspot on their devices.  It appears that a lot of decisions Nintendo has made with the Switch have been carefully calculated for the ease of use.  This could allow gamers to easily stay connected, even when they’re away from home.

We have reached out to Nintendo for comment and will update this post once we hear back.

We Still Have Questions About the Switch

Nintendo answered many questions regarding the Nintendo Switch late Thursday evening, including key questions like release date and price.  There are, however, questions that still need answering.  I would actually argue that we have more questions now than we did heading into the presentation.  Questions we took for granted and assumed would be answered.

Switch Virtual Console

This is probably the biggest lingering question.  We (think we) know Virtual Console will be present on the Switch, but no mention of its existence was made at all.  We have heard rumors of Gamecube support, but still no mention.  Will our previous purchases be brought over from 3DS or Wii U?  Will the full catalog of already available games on other platforms be made available at launch for Switch?

Online Services

Nintendo revealed very little information about what to expect in regards to online services on the Switch.  What we know so far is online multiplayer will be free for a period after launch, but will turn into a paid service later in the year.  This shouldn’t be a huge surprise as Microsoft and Sony both charge for their online services.  What we don’t know, however, is the cost of the service.  Nintendo has revealed the service would allow subscribers to play one free NES or SNES game every month, but the details behind that are even a little muddy.

Voice chat and messaging services were alluded to, but the story behind how these would function seems unclear at best.  In all documents we’ve seen, Nintendo refers to a smart device app for voice chat in compatible titles.  The question then becomes, “Will we be required to voice chat using our smartphones,” and “Are we only able to communicate when we are playing the same game?”

What about My Nintendo rewards?  Nintendo rolled out the service earlier this year with the release of Miitomo and we assumed some implementation would be available for the Switch, but so far we have heard nothing on the matter.  Will My Nintendo continue to function independent of Nintendo’s hardware?  Will they instead opt to adopt a dedicated achievement service for the system?

Where are the games?

Nintendo has stated that 35 games will be available for the Switch by the end of 2017.  So far, less than 30 games have been confirmed for that window, so what else are we getting?  Is the launch of the Nintendo Switch really only going to include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild1-2 SwitchSuper Bomberman RSkylanders Imaginators and Just Dance 2017?

With 80 titles currently in development for the Switch, who else is working on games?  The list of partners Nintendo released back in October is seemingly a mile long.  What are those publishers and studios working on?

When can we expect to hear more?

Nintendo has done a decent job, thus far, of explaining what the Nintendo Switch is capable of.  The trailer we received in October illustrated just how this device was simultaneously a home console and portable device.  The presentation was able to illustrate the use of the Joy-Con controllers for different play styles.  I have a feeling we haven’t seen or heard the last from Nintendo before the Switch’s March 3rd release date.  With a Fire Emblem Nintendo Direct planned for January 18th, we may begin to see a slow trickle of information leading up to launch.

And personally, that’s what I believe will happen.  Nintendo has kept us wanting and pining for more ever since the existence of a new device was mentioned.  Perhaps their marketing strategy is such that they’ll leave us wanting more, thus keeping hype high, all the way until release.

We will definitely hear more on games, services, hardware and more.  The only question is will it be before or after release? Only time till tell.