EA’s FIFA 2018 has touched down on Nintendo Switch and… it’s really decent. While not matching the flash and posturing of its more detailed brothers, there’s enough in the package to make the transition worth the effort. That is unless you’re planning to play with friends online, in which case good luck fight Nintendo Switch’s online awkwardness.y
The problem seems to emerge from technical shortcomings. Where on other consoles, the systems make use of Gamer IDs built into the system, on Switch this isn’t possible (at least, not in third party games right now). FIFA 2018 is tied to an EA Account – so your name is shown to opponents. But the entire thing is disconnected from the system’s online mechanics – effectively ignoring them entirely. It means the game is unable to make a system up that allows you the interaction with others. No messaging system. No headset chat. No way to communicate through the console itself except to back out to the system menu to look at your “recently played” list.
The biggest problem this creates is that nowhere on the Nintendo Switch version can you invite friends into an online friendly lobby. It means there’s no direct way to challenge an opponent of your choice, instead relying on the game to pair you against randomers. It’s quite the shocking omission in 2017 and really hammers home Achilles heel of Nintendo Switch right now, achieving that simple feat is a herculean task.
I understand Nintendo wants to take its time and deliver an online network it feels is appropriate. The reality is though that when basic features like this are missing from huge releases, it only makes the Nintendo Switch a harder sell. It’s a problem that only grows in games like FIFA, which live and die by their multiplayer chops. It ends up attracting unwanted discussion around this version of the game.
FIFA isn’t the only game to suffer in this awkward situation. Splatoon 2, arguably the biggest multiplayer game on Switch, suffers from this bout of annoyance too. The demand to use an external app is clumsy at best – ill-judged at worst. The amount of work required to make something that, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, requires a single button press is shocking. I
It’s telling that EA opted to sidestep the issue completely, excluding the app all the cumbersome issues that come with it. It robs the Switch version of legitimacy and really leaves the online mode feeling desperately hallow. FIFA 2018 is the first major third-party game to go all-in on the online Switch space – and it feels incredibly shallow because of these limitations. As the screenshot above showcases, there’s no easy way to overcome this problem. Playing with friends is half the fun in these games -why isn’t it already there?
It also paints a worrying picture for the future of such games on the console. As more and more third party games arrive (and get more prominence) Nintendo Switch feels ill-equipped to deal with the simple demands that modern gamers expect. The likes of Rocket League and Doom are promising exciting multiplayer action on the go – but it can’t be this hallow. The ability to play with Xbox One users is a hugely exciting one – but if the road to getting there is a chore – it only makes Switch less desirable.
The worst part is that what is in the game is perfectly fine. You can play online in Ultimate Team and in the games Online Season Modes no problem. When playing in these modes, the game runs smooth as butter (for the most part). Clearly, the intent is there to deliver an experience on part with other platforms, EA should be commended for offering what they do. It just makes Nintendo’s side of the deal feel all the more awkward in comparison.
The truth is that it’s been over six months since launch. Nintendo hasn’t spoken much about the online system it plans to introduce since unveiling it way back in January. Now more than ever, it feels like Nintendo has to sort this out and find a way to make it work – because right now it isn’t anywhere near the level required for any kind of monetary investment.
At the end of the day, Nintendo needs to get its online house in order. It’s barely a service right now and with so many huge titles arriving in the coming months – it’s a problem we’ll be talking about more and more.