Well, it finally happened. After years and years of "Will they/won't they," Tsundere-level talk of competition and rivalry, and finally a gradual warming-up of Nintendo's icy heart, Microsoft and Nintendo's relationship seems to be in full bloom. Just in time for Valentine's Day, it has been revealed that Microsoft has plans to expand it's Xbox Live platform to the little hybrid console that could.
Ever since Microsoft entered the console market in the early 2000's, MS and Nintendo have been part of a three-way console rivalry. There was even a turbulent period known as the "Console Wars," where one's loyalty to a system was almost like servicng in that company's army and wishing for the brutal, bloody annihilation of the enemie's of one's chosen corporate overlord.
All that is long past now (as long as we discount r/gaming and each system's respetive subreddit) and over the last couple years, Microsoft and Nintendo have gradually started collaborating more and more. First, there was Rocket League. The announcement that, upon release, owners of the Switch version of Rocket League would be able to play not only with PC players, but also with Xbox players was heralded as one of the best, most consumer-friendly moves industry titans had made in their entire history. After that, the gates were open. Minecraft, Fortnite, and just about any PC/Xbox/Switch multiplatform release since has featured cross-paly.
It's no secret that Nintendo has been trying (and failing miserably) to implement online play into their systems since the original Nintendo DS. Convoluted friend codes, lack of now-standard features in their latest system such as messaging, in-game invites, and even embedded voice chat all seem to have eluded Nintendo's understanding or capability.
Then comes the news this morning. Xbox Live will be rolling out on Switch at some undetermined/undisclosed point in the future, but what does this mean?
There's been lots of talk since the news broke about what could come from this new partnership. Is this a sign of a coming merger/buyout between Nintendo and Microsoft's Xbox division? Will the next mario be on an Xbox platform? Will Master Chief be one of the DLC characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? Xbox games being downloadable/streamable on teh Switch?
All of these are super unlikely. The more likely scenario is that Microsoft is partnering with Nintendo to finally make an appealing online system for the insanely popular Switch. It makes sense. Nintendo has a great catalogue of IPs, but will probably never get online right themselves. Microsoft has, arguably, the best online infrastructure of the three consoles. Nintendo has made it clear that they do not consider Microsoft and Sony direct competitors, as they're doing something different. And this is true. At least in my experience, the Switch still very much gets used primarily as a handheld system, which is a market in whcih Nintendo has always excelled.
There's nothing to indicate that Nintendo and MS have anything but a good, working relationship that is clearly leading to good collaboration. The idea of future and past switch games having a tried-and-true achievement system, as well as in-system social features is super appealing.
I'm really looking forward to more information in the coming months on how this will play out, but for those of you excited/worried/concerned that this means some big power shift in the console market, I think everything is gonna be okay. I don't see any major shifts happening.
That being said, it does raise the question: If Nintendo gets a good online system out of this deal, what does MS get (besides what I assume will be an Uncle Scrooge level of cash)? NES - Nintendo Switch Online app on Microsoft devices? Nintendo wouldn't lose much by doing that. I think that's gonna be the interesting part.
Or, I could be wrong about all of this. What do I know? I'm just some asshole on the internet who's bored at work.