We Put Nintendo’s New Homing Pigeon Chat Solution For Splatoon 2 To The Test

Anyone who has ever had to slowly type out and send their Friend Code to someone else will understand that Nintendo has never been the best at online gaming – and sometimes they seem to be years behind the curve when it comes to taking advantage of the latest technology.

Well, credit where credit is due – it looks like Nintendo might be about to turn all that around. To coincide with the release of Splatoon 2, Nintendo are finally delivering on their promise to create a smooth, fully-featured voice chat solution for multiplayer Switch gaming, and in typical Nintendo fashion they are taking the chance to show the rest of us how it could be done if we would only dare to dream.

Shortly after purchasing my copy of Splatoon 2 for the Nintendo Switch and returning home, my doorbell rang. I opened it to find a metal cage stuffed with live, squawking pigeons sitting alone on my front porch. The street was deserted in both directions and there was no sign of anybody around – a seamless and intuitive experience, exactly what you’d expect from a Nintendo product.

Installing the birds was as simple as gripping the cage firmly with both hands and lifting the screeching, distressed animals into my house, shutting the door behind me. Nintendo never release anything until they’ve refined it, refined it some more and refined it again to make it as simple as possible, and the swarm of thrashing, mad pigeons I now held in my hands was no exception.

The crate of pigeons fits easily into any living room setup, with a timeless wire finish. Unlike Sony or Microsoft’s voice communications solutions, which require all kinds of messy cabling, installing the Nintendo homing pigeon communications crate was a simple one-step process — place it on the table and you’re done.

But we’re not going to give Nintendo a free pass just because of their flashy, trilling, cooing presentation. We knew that the only way to be sure was to take it for a spin right away, so we launched into a game of Splatoon 2 to test it out. That’s when Nintendo’s seemingly perfect solution began to come off the rails.

Barely a few seconds passed before it became apparent that the incompetence of my team-mates was never going to improve unless I offered them a few pointers – a great time to try out the homing pigeon. Unlike other companies who want you to shoot from the hip, hold down the talk button and maybe say something you’ll later regret, Nintendo’s communications solution is thoughtful and heartfelt, and I wanted to make sure I took full advantage of this feature.

Tearing out a small piece of paper from my notebook, I put the controller to the side, collected my thoughts, and composed a helpful communique to my Splatoon 2 team-mates.

After composing the message, it was a simple matter of reaching into the crate, grasping a pigeon “gently but firmly”, and inserting the rolled up message into the tiny satchel strapped to the pigeon’s leg.

There’s clearly still a few bugs to be ironed out of the system at this early stage – several pigeons escaped during my clumsy attempts to open the crate and have now claimed my bathroom as their own – but overall I was able to secure the message with a small amount of effort, and only superficial cuts and pecking.

If the Nintendo manual is to be believed, all I had to do now was take the pigeon to the window and release it, and my Splatoon 2 team-mates would shortly be gifted with my wisdom. After a few false starts and some shouting on my part, the pigeon did eventually take off, disappearing into the evening sky with the smooth, natural animation so typical of a well-thought-out Nintendo product.

I returned to the couch, unpaused the game and continued playing, waiting expectantly for my reply. Unfortunately during that time I had been disconnected due to inactivity, we lost horribly, and everyone else left the game, but I’m confident that these teething issues won’t take too long to solve.

Nintendo’s solution is promising, but it’s clear there are a few problems remaining before their vision can be properly realised. It’s been several days now and I’m down to my last three pigeons, while Nintendo PR are refusing to answer questions about how much a replacement pigeon packet costs and are in fact denying that they ever sent me any pigeons at all. There’s also a distressing lack of a mute button, although I have discovered by playing around that you can throw a towel or tablecloth over the cage to lower the volume when the birds aren’t in use.

My opinion? Wait a bit longer before adopting this technology – it’s just too clunky right now to really improve your Splatoon game, and Nintendo’s feathered friends honestly don’t add too much to the experience other than the occasional pleasant trilling sound or endless miasma of bird shit.

Pros:

+ Finally, a way to communicate online in a Nintendo game
+ Organic, probably

Cons:

– Huge packet loss on messages, very unreliable
– No way to be sure who message will reach
– Lost access to bathroom, possibly forever
– Pigeons

Final Score: 7/10

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