This week, Nintendo announced a new model of its Switch console. The updated panel features an OLED display, a new dock with a hard-wired Ethernet port, and a glossy white finish. However, the Joy-cons and the CPU have yet to improve, contrary to the initial reports of the supposed “Pro” Switch, leaving fans wondering who and what this new system is for.
One dubious addition to the console is a hardwired Ethernet port on the new base. The Nintendo Switch and its widely available Ethernet adapter add-on were released 4 years ago on March 3, 2017. Games have prompted players to purchase this peripheral such as Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Super Smash Bros. has also been available for quite some time. It’s likely that serious competitive players have already started using that adapter at this point in the Switch’s lifecycle.
The hard-wired LAN option is a great addition for new players, but it doesn’t address the technological hurdles like poor networking codes that have plagued the Switch’s online experience since 2017. In fact, not is there any hard-wired Ethernet that will fix the console’s online problem.
Netcode is the framework of the online video game network. There are countless different types of netcode with Nintendo currently known to use two.
The first is “pia”, a network based on “peer to peer” construction. As explained by Oatmealdome, this means that each Nintendo Switch console interacts directly with each other to provide network connectivity. This kind of netcode is used in Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Armand Nintendo Entertainment System Online titles.
The second is archaic, latency-based netcode – a very well known way of building networks among fighting game players. This netcode delays player input to match network conditions. This makes it difficult to respond consistently and generally to input commands due to the ever-changing online environment. This code is most notably used in Super Smash Bros..
Since the release of the Switch, many professional and casual players have immediately encouraged everyone to use Ethernet cables and adapters to get the best possible online experience. Thanks to Nintendo’s decades of network choices, getting a consistent online experience is incredibly difficult. In fact, the poor quality of the netcode for a game like Super Smash Bros. makes it play much differently than how it plays offline locally.
Insiders recognize that there are better options for the online structure. The most common nowadays that fighting game players constantly ask for is called “restore” netcode. The Glossary of fighting game terms give an in-depth explanation of how that system works.
“An approach to implementing netcode in a fighting game that plays your own inputs instantly, and then rewinds and re-simulates (or ‘rolls back’) the game if network delays cause produce inconsistencies,” the website explains. “Rollback is the best known netcode solution for fighting games; since all your local inputs appear without delay, the game is like foreign play. Streaming and smart design choices can often mask any network issues as well, giving you a near-perfect online experience even over long distances.”
A great example of this networking can be seen in the new Arc System Works fighting game, Guilty Gear Strive. Its use of recovery netcode allows online matches to be played like never before. The smooth connection between players, even those separated by the ocean, allows for serious matches to be held, making real tournaments possible from the comfort of their own homes.
Fans of the Smash series, Supreme, in particular, had to watch as other fighters have implemented this online structure over the years. List of games including a fan client, updated Super Smash Bros. Super Smash Bros. with true reverse and matchmaking, making its setting more alive and accessible than ever.
With Nintendo apparently considering new multiplayer server system titled, “NPLN” and adding a hardwired Ethernet port to the OLED Switch, we’re all wondering if some real updates to smooth out its networking are coming. However, community members Super Smash Bros. pessimistic that they will see meaningful changes. Smash commentator and community leader Terrence “TKBreezy” Kershaw noted that the community’s pleas have consistently deafened ears.
“At this point, it’s hard to figure out what Nintendo is thinking,” Kershaw told Digital Trends. “They’ve been hearing the same complaints for years about the internet and stuff and they’ve done nothing.”
While Kershaw plans to pick up an OLED Switch model, he doesn’t believe the new wired port will have a real impact on the issues that have plagued the Smash fan base for years. “I was going to buy one, but I don’t think this will fix Nintendo’s netcode problem. In my opinion, it’s a server side issue that they’re going to have to overhaul,” Kershaw said.
While Nintendo seems to be making better network conditions more accessible through the addition of a new Ethernet port, it seems too late for the Nintendo Switch. It won’t really improve anyone’s online experience. Nintendo is treating a symptom instead of addressing the root cause.
All we can hope for is that the company finally looks at real netcode upgrades to make their Switch online subscription worthwhile. As for a potential NPLN plan, we’ll have to wait and see if it’s a real solution to its decades-old problem.