Lately, I’ve been seeing articles and comment threads praising the Nintendo Switch for potentially resurrecting local multiplayer. There’s no denying that the marketing is there to highlight this idea: the joy-con controllers can be played by 2 people and it’s not a rooftop party until Karen comes over.
The Nintendo Switch is all about gaming everywhere with everyone (in whatever set-up you prefer, from table top style to a traditional home console set up).
The “resurrection of local multiplayer” is a narrative that’s being constructed for several valid reasons but it’s one that, ultimately, doesn’t hold up.
Nintendo’s penchant towards local gameplay is nothing new
Local co-op/multiplayer has been Nintendo’s bread and butter for a long time. How quickly we forget those revolutionary 4 controller slots on the N64:
This tendency towards local play was, perhaps, at its peak during the Wii era. The Wii was marketed as a party box and everyone wanted one—especially those outside the “hardcore” gaming community. And by that I mean even the people who don’t follow gaming news were making Miis and bowling in their living room.
But when I think back on my most recent local experiences, I don’t need to think back far. The Wii U offered those experiences. Granted, its abysmal sales could be part of the reason for people’s belief that local play was ever dead. But even that thought process falls flat for me. While Nintendo is a bit more known for its local gameplay than Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, that’s more a symptom of Nintendo’s atrocious online support than a compliment to their affinity for couch co-op.
Even if you skipped the Wii and/or Wii U, there were plenty of multiplayer experiences to be had. In fact, most of my recent memories (gaming locally) have come from my Xbox One.
Local gameplay can’t come back because it never left
The Xbox One had me sharing indie spaces plenty of indie spaces. I played Never Alone–a puzzle platformer based on a traditional Iñupiaq tale, “Kunuuksaayuka,”where you play as a Iñupiaq girl, alongside an arctic fox–with one of my closest friends, Katherine. And together we stopped a storm.
And I played Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime with my brother as we tried to make our way through space, rescuing bunnies along the way.
And of course there were plenty of these experiences in the triple A space as well, from Rayman Legends to Mortal Kombt X.
I admit local play has taken a backseat to online only experiences (looking at your Forza Horizon 3 and no, I’m not over it). However, many games with multiplayer do offer both local and online. I don’t see the Switch making industry wide impacts when it comes to increasing the local experiences we have available; at best, they’ll keep it in the back of their minds as they develop games for the console (which, once again is nothing new).
So when I saw this on the Nintendo Switch subreddit (r/NintendoSwitch) I couldn’t help but roll my eyes:
“I hope the Nintendo Switch will bring back these experiences”
The idea that you could bring the above image “back” is misguided gaming nostalgia. What people fail to realize is the past wasn’t just great because of its hardware and games; for the majority of gamers, that past also meant our childhood and youth. A more carefree time when video games could be our whole lives.
The truth is if you miss late nights of split-screen with your friends a Switch can’t solve that problem for you
Odds are, if you can’t remember the last time you did that it’s because you don’t make the time for it or you don’t have gamer friends to do that with. You’re older now with responsibilities you didn’t have during your N64 days.
This isn’t to say gaming is something you grow out of. The other night I went over to my friends’ apartment for some versus and co-op gaming. But nights like that aren’t as frequent as when we dormed down to the hall from each other in college. That’s okay.
I’m lucky enough to live with people who will gladly pick up a controller and even that can be a challenge. Especially when you aren’t working a traditional Monday-Friday, 9-5 job. All of which is to say me and my brother *still haven’t finished Yoshi’s Wooly World. *trying to collect all the flowers is slowing our progress quite a bit.
Switch or no Switch there are plenty of local multiplayer experiences to look forward to: Yooka-Laylee, Sea of Thieves, and Cuphead to name a few.
It’s easier said than done but if you miss local co-op and multiplayer you need to build/reconnect with that community. But perhaps this adorable little toaster console was just the push you needed to get back into gaming…
and if that’s the case, welcome back.