We’ve known for a while that Splatoon, Nintendo’s take on a third-person shooter, wouldn’t have voice chat. But we know why they’ve left it out now, and I think it’s the wrong move.
Splatoon is the featured game in the latest issue of Edge magazine in the UK. I haven’t read the whole piece just yet, but the this quote from co-director Yusuke Amano really stood out to me:
Not that you’ll be able to hear any cussing yourself: Splatoon has no voice chat now, and it never will. You can blame the infamous toxicity of online players for that. “This is coming from personal experience,” Amano says. “When I played online games, I didn’t like the negativity I got and people telling me, ‘You’re crap. Go away.’ So we wanted to focus on the positive aspects of online gaming.”
Amano admits this approach means missing out on a feature that makes online play stand out for many players. “I don’t want you to misunderstand—I’m not denying having chat in an online game does contribute to fun. But, as we’ve said, we want to grab new people.
Look, I get it. The Internet can be a scuzzy place, and we’ve all experienced someone gross while playing online. That’s not a reason to ditch the feature entirely, though. Online multiplayer is about cooperating within a team, and communicating through voice chat is incredibly effective.
Splatoon is not Journey, a game where the cooperation of players isn’t required. Victory in Splatoon will demand people work together, and the game won’t feature a key tool for that.
I wouldn’t blame Nintendo if voice chat was turned off by default or age-restricted, but rather than exploring avenues to meet players halfway, Nintendo’s running from voice chat entirely.
Splatoon might end up being a great game, but stuff like this could severely limit its potential.