Nintendo Switch Online Messaging System

The Nintendo Switch has been a massive commercial success since its initial launch, and I as a long time Nintendo fan have been in love with mine since day one. However, its one common criticism amongst fans is a noticeable omission of a messaging system. So, I decided to design a concept for a messaging system suitable for all players and incorporate it with Nintendo's companion phone app.

Getting Started

When I first decided to take on this project, I had a lot of ideas that I didn't want to lose track of that I knew would eventually be forgotten if I didn't note them down, so I took an hour or so of preparation to consider all aspects this messaging system would have to consider such as users' preferences, privacy and personal comfort concerns, the potential for this feature to be more of a nuisance than necessary... and wrote them all down in a journal as a reference point to come back to whenever I became stuck.

Research

My initial step in conducting research was to gain insight on how exactly Nintendo fans commonly communicate with other gamers when playing online. In order to do so, I created a Google Form which polled gamers on how likely they are to communicate with others via voice chat, text chat, and a quickchat/emoticon system, as well as gauge the levels at which they found communicating with others while playing online either helpful or distracting. I then published this Form to the Nintendo Switch subreddit in order to ensure the answers were more likely submitted by those with interest in the system.

My initial step in conducting research was to gain insight on how exactly Nintendo fans commonly communicate with other gamers when playing online. In order to do so, I created a Google Form which polled gamers on how likely they are to communicate with others via voice chat, text chat, and a quickchat/emoticon system, as well as gauge the levels at which they found communicating with others while playing online either helpful or distracting. I then published this Form to the Nintendo Switch subreddit in order to ensure the answers were more likely submitted by those with interest in the system.

Personas

To give my design more direction I decided to create two personas to consider when designing optimal user experiences. The results of the research were fairly divided between gamers who would love to interact with everybody they play against online, and those who are not very interested with interacting with other players other than those they are either friends with or need to work together with as a team.

Brendan

Male, 23
Favorite NSO Games: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate & Splatoon 2

Brendan is a more "hardcore" and competitive gamer that enjoys being fully immersed in the online gaming experience, and is willing and excited to communicate with competitors and teammates alike whether it be via voice chat, text chat, or opting for shorthand responses. He believes that communication during gameplay should favor speed as a means of not interrupting gameplay and doesn't find it distracting to communicate during gameplay, but rather helpful instead.

Fran

Female, 25
Favorite NSO Games: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe & Pokemon Let's Go!

Fran is the more individualistic gamer counterpart to Brendan, and would rather only participate in communicating with others if necessary to benefit gameplay, such as collaborating with teammates. She is not a fan of highly interactive, or "media rich," forms of communication such as voice chat but would rather have communication limited to predetermined shorthand responses. She finds that communicating during gameplay can be helpful in the context of working with a team, but feels if unnecessary to gameplay that it can be distracting.

While it would be exciting to explore the various forms of communication possible in the context of gameplay, it's important to consider the comfort levels of all players and ensure that communication they may not be interested in participating in be the only option available, which is currently the case with the Nintendo Switch being limited to voice chat via the smartphone companion app.

Task Flow

During gameplay, players will have the option to communicate with teammates and competitors via voice chat through the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone companion app, text chat through the companion app, and shorthand expressions available via the companion app or directly on the Switch system. Many users responded stating that they feel speed should take priority over the thoroughness of the message one is trying to communicate during gameplay, so I decided not to include text chat via the Switch due to its slow typing speed which can seriously interrupt fast paced gameplay.

If players wish to communicate with one another via text chat, but not utilize the smartphone app, I've also designed an inbox system through which they can communicate natively through the Nintendo Switch outside of gameplay. Nintendo Switch Online players can send a friend request to any other player they've worked with or competed against, and once the other player accepts this request a "message" action will now be available in the friends section of the home screen. The inbox is also accessible via the smartphone app.

I felt three user flows were necessary to design in order to properly show the full experience I am designing for users: using the inbox system, using the shorthand expressions during gameplay, and communicating via text or voice chat during gameplay using the Nintendo Switch Online companion app.

Using the Nintendo Switch Inbox

Using Party QuickChat During Gameplay

Using Text and Voice Chat During Gameplay

Design

Before diving into the design of the product, I wanted to consider the interests of both personas Fran and Brendan, and decided it would be a smarter choice for the default to accommodate the less comfortable individual as far as communication settings, and that users would be happier opting into participating in more in depth communication styles rather than having to opt out.

Though Brendan is thoroughly intrigued by all forms of communication, Fran finds herself significantly more uncomfortable with voice or text chat compared to shorthand responses, so I've set that as the default and will instruct the user to opt into participating in text or voice chat via the companion app if they wish.

Additionally, text chat will be available via an inbox system on the Switch which will allow for users to communicate without need for the companion app while not having gameplay interfered with by the slow typing speed of the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo Switch Messaging UI

Screens from Left to Right, Top to Bottom:
Party QuickChat in the Home Menu during online gameplay, Party QuickChat message appearing during gameplay, Player receiving an inbox message notification during gameplay, Player responding to an inbox message.

Nintendo Switch Online Mobile App UI

Screens from Left to Right:
Nintendo Switch Online mobile app home screen featuring new Inbox and Party Chat buttons, NSO mobile inbox messaging system, NSO party chat messaging system with button for voice chat in top right.