Now let us have a quick moment of silence for all the third party Switch Bluetooth audio manufacturers, and those who purchased them.
In what’s probably a sudden, shocking surprise to anyone who is fairly familiar with Nintendo and their typical ways, a Switch update was announced last night. It’s headlining feature? Bluetooth audio support. Get the confetti and air horns, because it’s happening, and the update is already available to download.
Frankly, as a long time fan of Nintendo, I really wasn’t expecting it to ever happen. If there is one thing Nintendo usually isn’t, it is virtually never with the modern era. Though to be fair, “modern era” is a bit of a stretch as Bluetooth audio has been around for a hot minute. Even the PS Vita had support for Bluetooth audio.
There’s Always a Catch with Nintendo
Unfortunately, there is a bit of a catch for Bluetooth audio, which is outlined on their site:
The section labeled notes isn’t too crazy, and would be pretty much what we expect. Only one audio device at a time, no microphone, and added latency depending on the device. Those shouldn’t surprise too many people other than maybe the no mic.
Now the section labeled “Important” is quite a bit more interesting, and paints a picture of potentially why Nintendo waited this long to add the functionality. It seems that streaming Bluetooth soaks up enough of the wireless bandwidth for the device that while one is connected only two controllers can be connected at the same time. And you can’t use Bluetooth audio at all once you want to play using local communication.
Are These Drawbacks Major?
Honestly, in my opinion, not really. For most people using Bluetooth audio, it will be in handheld or tabletop, and playing singleplayer experiences. Which means they will easily stay within those limits other than possibly playing local wireless multiplayer. But frankly, if I’m doing that I’ll probably not want to be wearing headphones anyway as I’ll almost always be interacting with the other player in those moments.
There is one other instance I could see being potentially used, where someone would want to try to play tabletop mutliplayer, with a Bluetooth speaker to make it easier for players to hear the game. I do feel at this point however that a use case of multiplayer tabletop is one of the least common ways to use the device.
So bottom line, it’s definitely a step in the right direction for Nintendo, though their firmware is still fairly lacking in multiple ways. But who knows, maybe Nintendo has seen the light. Or maybe we are all just doing some wishful thinking