You Can Now Use the Nintendo Switch Voice Chat App While in Other Apps or When iPhone is Locked

Ahead of the Nintendo Direct coming this afternoon, Nintendo recently updated its Switch Online voice chat iOS app with a few useful tweaks to the way the software handles chatting online with friends. Prior to the update, you had to keep the app open at all times to hear and be heard by your friends while playing games like Splatoon 2.

Now, Nintendo explains in the app's update notes that you can both browse to other iPhone apps and lock the device, and voice chat will continue to function in the background through the Nintendo Switch Online app.


The expanded functionality of voice chat should greatly enhance the usefulness of Nintendo's app and online services, which will turn into a monthly paid subscription sometime in 2018. Pricing and tiers include $3.99/month, $7.99/3 months, and $19.99/year.

The app first launched on July 18, a few days ahead of Splatoon 2's debut, allowing gamers to visit SplatNet 2 on their iOS device to look at previous match statistics, check out current stages in rotation, and invite friends to Private Battles on the Switch console. Nintendo's upcoming 45-minute Direct will begin this afternoon at 3 p.m PT and plans to focus on games coming to Switch and 3DS consoles.


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‘Nintendo Switch Online’ iOS App Now Available

As Nintendo prepares to launch Splatoon 2 on July 21, it has made the Nintendo Switch Online app available in the iOS App Store. Nintendo Switch Online, first introduced earlier this month, is designed to enhance the online experience when using compatible games on the Nintendo Switch console.

At the current time, Splatoon 2 is the only game that's compatible with Nintendo Switch Online, and it will allow players to voice chat with friends, invite people to online matches, create teams, and access SplatNet 2.


SplatNet 2, designed specifically for Splatoon 2, offers up online play statistics like match results, stages, and rankings. It also lets users invite friends with Splatoon 2 to Private Battles, League Battles, and Splatfest battles across social media.

While Nintendo Switch Online is limited to Splatoon 2 right now, future games will have built in support, with Nintendo Switch Online serving as the hub for most interactive features like voice chat. When using voice chat, Nintendo says it works in different ways based on the game that's being played. Users can either chat with everyone in the room or split voice chat into teams.

The app's functionality and the Splatoon 2 online play will be available for free until the full Nintendo Switch Online service launches in 2018. Following the launch of Nintendo Switch Online, most games with online gameplay will require an ongoing subscription. Nintendo Switch Online will cost $19.99 per year or $3.99 per month with a monthly subscription.

A persistent internet connection is required to use the app, as is a Nintendo Switch console, and a Nintendo Account. Users must be at least 13 years old to download and use the app, and it won't work until Splatoon 2 is released on July 21. For now, expect to see a login error when attempting to sign in with a Nintendo account.

Nintendo Switch Online can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

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Nintendo to Debut ‘Nintendo Switch Online’ iOS App Alongside Splatoon 2 on July 21

During a Nintendo Direct event this morning, Nintendo announced plans to release a new "Nintendo Switch Online" app on July 21, the release date for Splatoon 2. According to Nintendo, the Nintendo Switch Online app, available for iOS and Android, is designed to "enhance your online experience for compatible games on the Nintendo Switch console."

At launch, the only game compatible with the Nintendo Switch Online app will be Splatoon 2. The app will let users voice chat with friends, invite people to online matches, create teams, and access SplatNet 2. SplatNet2 offers up online play statistics and info on upcoming game features.

The debut of the app means Splatoon 2 and other games are unlikely to have built-in voice chat capabilities, instead requiring the separate app, but Nintendo has been promoting an upcoming headset accessory from Hori that will combine audio from the iPhone and the Nintendo Switch for a more seamless play experience.

Nintendo Switch Online for iOS will let you invite friends with Splatoon 2 to Private Battles, League Battles, and Splatfest Battles across social media and "other services," and it will support push notifications for instant alerts when an invite is received.

Though the app will launch with limited functionality, it will expand to encompass other games as Nintendo builds out its Nintendo Switch Online service.

The app's functionality and the Splatoon 2 online play will be available for free until the full Nintendo Switch Online service launches in 2018. Following the launch of Nintendo Switch Online, most games with online gameplay will require an ongoing subscription. Nintendo Switch Online will cost $19.99 per year or $3.99 per month with a monthly subscription.

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Apple’s Domination of Component Supply Chain Said to Be Constraining Nintendo Switch Production

A new article by The Wall Street Journal today has taken a look into the increased pressure put on suppliers of NAND flash memory units, as well as other smartphone components, and how Apple might be indirectly affecting the supply of the Nintendo Switch. According to people in the industry, smartphone makers -- namely Apple -- and their increasing ramp-up on component manufacturing for high-end devices have led to dwindling supplies of Nintendo Switch.

Specifically, Nintendo is lacking components related to NAND flash-memory chips, liquid-crystal displays, and the motors used in the Switch's HD Rumble feature. NAND memory chip supplies are said to be placed mainly upon the shoulders of Toshiba's struggling NAND chip unit, which is still up for sale despite legal troubles that have plagued the company over the past few weeks. In April, Apple was rumored to be looking into spending several billion for a "substantial stake" in Toshiba's NAND chip unit.


Apple's manufacturing ramp-up on the upcoming "iPhone 8" is said to be behind some of the supply chain constraints faced by Nintendo, as well as ongoing demand for the iPhone 7. Currently, Apple manufactures iPhone 7 with an LCD display and various internal sizes of NAND memory. The Nintendo Switch has a multi-touch LCD display and 32GB of internal memory.
People in the industry say the rapid expansion of web-based services for corporations has driven demand for computer servers that use flash memory. Continued demand for Apple’s iPhone 7 and a 10th anniversary model of the iPhone expected later this year are also keeping parts makers at full capacity, helping power Japan’s economy to its longest growth streak since 2006.

“Demand for our NAND flash memory has been overwhelmingly greater than supply, and the situation is likely to stay for the rest of this year,” said a spokeswoman at Toshiba Corp.
For Nintendo, the company has said it hopes to make as many as 20 million Switch units by the end of its financial year, in March 2018. Thanks to supply constraints, the actual sales target of the year is 10 million units, although "strong demand suggests it can sell many more - if it can make them." In its first month on the market, Nintendo sold 2.74 million Switch units.

Analysts watching the supply chain said that Nintendo's rivals "offer better terms" than the video game company, and that smartphone makers like Apple specifically "issue larger orders than Nintendo." This leads to manufacturers giving preference to companies other than Nintendo, and subsequent shortages for its products. Increased spending to secure more parts at a faster rate for the Switch isn't a possibility for Nintendo, as president Tatsumi Kimishima doesn't want the console's $299 retail price to increase.


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Nintendo Planning to Launch Smartphone Version of ‘The Legend of Zelda’

Following the release of mobile games Miitomo, Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, and the upcoming Animal Crossing iPhone app, Nintendo's next big franchise coming to smartphones will be The Legend of Zelda, according to sources speaking with The Wall Street Journal. The sources said that Animal Crossing will hit mobile devices sometime "in the latter half of 2017," and a smartphone version of The Legend of Zelda would launch afterwards.

That would make The Legend of Zelda the fifth game Nintendo develops for iOS and Android devices in partnership with developer DeNA. Originally, all five games were supposed to launch before March 2017, but only Miitomo, Super Mario Run, and Fire Emblem Heroes made that deadline. Around the release of Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo said that it plans to launch two to three smartphone games every year from now on.


It isn't yet clear if The Legend of Zelda will see a 2017 or 2018 launch, or how much Nintendo will charge players for the game. Recently, a Nintendo senior official described Fire Emblem Heroes' freemium model an "outlier," saying that the company prefers the pay-once price tag of Super Mario Run, suggesting The Legend of Zelda might follow in the latter game's footsteps.
Nintendo Co. plans to bring its videogame franchise “The Legend of Zelda” to smartphones, people familiar with the matter said, the latest step by the Kyoto company to expand its mobile-games lineup.

The people familiar with the matter said the “Animal Crossing” smartphone app is likely to be released in the latter half of 2017, and “The Legend of Zelda” would follow that, although they cautioned that the timing and order of the releases could be changed. Nintendo is developing the games with Tokyo-based DeNA Co.
The decision by Nintendo to focus on The Legend of Zelda next follows the recent launch of the Nintendo Switch and success of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If the company is to continue the pattern it has set by Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes, the iPhone version of The Legend of Zelda is likely to see a simplified, mobile-friendly iteration of the gameplay and mechanics from the franchise, and could potentially communicate with the console version like Animal Crossing is expected to do.

The Wall Street Journal also commented on a new game coming from Nintendo-owned The Pokémon Company, which is described only as a "new card-game app." The sources declined to further comment on The Pokémon Company's plans, but a new iPhone game centered around the popular real-life trading cards that the franchise is known for appears to be a likely explanation for the upcoming game. It's almost been a year since Pokémon Go launched in the New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, and became a hit soon after around the world.

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Nintendo Prefers Super Mario Run Pay-Once Model, Calls Freemium Structure of Fire Emblem Heroes an ‘Outlier’

As Nintendo keeps launching new properties onto smartphones, the company has taken different strategies in regards to each app's payment model, including free-to-play (Miitomo, Fire Emblem Heroes) and pay-once-and-play (Super Mario Run). According to a senior official at the company, Nintendo actually "prefers" the Super Mario Run model over Fire Emblem Heroes, despite the more lucrative future that Fire Emblem Heroes' in-app purchases have in store for Nintendo (via Nikkei).

According to Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima, Super Mario Run's revenue "did not meet" the company's expectations. Ahead of the game's release, it was reported that Nintendo was eyeing a pay-once model so that parents could download Super Mario Run for their kids without the added anxiety of in-app purchases appearing later in their iTunes purchase history.


It appears that the gaming company still intends for most of its future apps to follow in Super Mario Run's footsteps and not those of Fire Emblem Heroes, with a senior company official referring to Heroes as "an outlier" in the grand scheme of Nintendo's mobile strategy.
Yet [Super Mario Run] was less of a moneymaker for Nintendo than might have been expected, due to the pay-once-and-play model. Revenue from the game "did not meet our expectations," Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima said.

Even so, Nintendo has no intention of switching focus to freemium games. "'Heroes' is an outlier," a senior company official said. "We honestly prefer the 'Super Mario Run' model."
The company is believed to care more about expanding the reach of its intellectual properties to a wider audience and "aims to do more with its smartphone games than make money." Another goal for Nintendo is to mine the potential synergy future apps could have with the new Switch console, where players pick up the app to get hooked, and are convinced to further explore -- and spend more money -- on a larger version of the game.

According to Nikkei, the long-term success of Super Mario Run will be measured in how well it turns new Nintendo fans into console players and buyers: "The game's true value will be measured by how much it expands the ranks of Nintendo fans and helps sales of the Switch."

Last year, Isao Moriyasu -- Chief Executive of DeNA, Nintendo's mobile app developer partner -- said that the next two Nintendo apps would be "free-to-start apps," referring to Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing, which was recently delayed. Super Mario Run is technically free-to-start as well, allowing players to mess around with a few story levels and modes before asking for the monetary investment to unlock the full game. This week, that free section was expanded slightly in the game's version 2.0 update.

Players can purchase game-boosting "Orbs" in Fire Emblem Heroes

In terms of payment models, the distinction between Fire Emblem Heroes and Super Mario Run is clear, and it appears that Nintendo intends to keep focused on higher-priced gaming apps instead of the more popular freemium model. Looking towards the future, we still only know that Animal Crossing is set to appear next on mobile devices, likely sometime later this year. Unfortunately, today's news muddies the waters regarding that game's payment strategy, since it's now unclear whether it will lean towards Fire Emblem Heroes' freemium model, as Moriyasu said, or be part of Nintendo's preference for a pay-once option.

Super Mario Run launched in December and saw massive launch day download numbers, but the app has since dwindled down the Top Grossing charts for the Games section of the iOS App Store, amid users raising uncertainties over its $9.99 price tag and always-online requirements. At the time of writing, Super Mario Run is the 117th game on the Top Grossing Games list, while Fire Emblem Heroes sits at the 48th spot.


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Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario Run’ for iOS Updated With New Characters, Easy Mode and More Free Content

Nintendo today released version 2.0 of Super Mario Run, its popular Mario-themed platform game for iOS devices. Today's update adds a host of new features, including new playable characters, an easy mode, additional free content, and more.

Starting today, players can get different colored Yoshis in Super Mario Run. Using a Yoshi of a particular color to play Toad Rally will result in more Toads of that color when a rally is won.


For customers who have not purchased the full Super Mario Run game, Nintendo is adding more free content, in the form of Bowser's Challenges. Completing one of Bowser's challenges will unlock the previous locked 1-4 course. Clearing 1-4 will then unlock new courses to play in Toad Rally, new Toad colors, and new Shop buildings.

For tough challenges and for players who aren't as skilled, an Easy Mode has been added to the game that can be selected when using World Tour mode. This will make the basic Mario levels easier to complete.

Nintendo has also made adjustments to the tutorial to make it easier to understand special actions, pink coins, and more, and there have also been tweaks to the number of Rally Tickets received from the ? Block and it's now easier to get some of the buildings in the shop.

For Toad Rally, the appearance rates of various Toads have been adjusted, making it easier to get Toads to purchase buildings.

In the future, Nintendo also plans to add additional buildings that will be unlocked by an event.

Super Mario Run can be downloaded from the App Store for free, but it will cost $9.99 to unlock the full game. [Direct Link]


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Nintendo Switch Vulnerable to Hacking Through Outdated Version of Apple’s WebKit Browser Engine

iOS hacker qwertyoruiop has discovered that an old iOS 9.3 WebKit vulnerability lies hidden within Nintendo's latest home console/portable hybrid, the Nintendo Switch, and subsequently hacked the console in the process (via SlashGear). The exploit lies in the Switch's limited web browser functionality, which allows users to sync up with Twitter and Facebook as well as connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots, and is all run by Apple's open source browser engine WebKit.

The Switch's version of WebKit is older than the one currently running on up-to-date iOS and macOS devices, however, allowing Nintendo's device to become vulnerable to a collection of critical exploits that plagued iOS 9.3 last summer. One, named "Pegasus," was a highly sophisticated exploit that installed itself within an iOS device through a link sent via a text message. Apple eventually addressed and fixed these issues with iOS 9.3.5.



For unknown reasons, Nintendo opted to include a version of WebKit that doesn't have these fixes, allowing qwertyoruiop to use an existing iOS WebKit jailbreak, remove any iOS-specific code, and tweak it so it runs on the Switch. The existence of a known exploit running on Switch points towards a rushed release, which was already believed to be the case since the company's fiscal year ends March 31, 2017 and the Switch launched March 3.

Developer LiveOverflow yesterday published a proof of concept video on the Switch WebKit exploit, further detailing how the bug originating on Apple's devices can be used to hack a Nintendo Switch.


The userland exploit "doesn’t mean much for the end user," according to Wololo, because it hasn't revealed any detailed information on the Switch yet, nor does it hand over full kernel access to hackers. As the news slowly makes the rounds online, it's most likely that Nintendo will add in a patch to the old WebKit exploit in a future update to the Switch.


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Nintendo Switch Acts as External Battery Pack for USB-C MacBook Pro, Parental Control App Available

The Nintendo Switch launches worldwide tomorrow, March 3, and as journalists and reviewers have had their hands on the console for the past week, news of its hardware and software features have been shared online.

This week, Quartz technology reporter Mike Murphy discovered that when plugging the Nintendo Switch into a MacBook Pro through a dual USB-C cable, the Switch inexplicably acts as an external battery pack for the Apple laptop, providing charge to the MacBook instead of being charged itself. In the image, it appears that a third party USB-C cable is being used to connect the two devices (in the box, Switch only comes with a USB-C to AC adapter cable).



Murphy also discovered a slight workaround: if users power down the Switch before connecting it to the MacBook, then the MacBook will charge the Switch. The Switch will also charge off of Apple's USB-C wall adapter cable bundled in recent MacBook boxes, and sold separately online.

Nintendo confirmed on its website that the Switch has a non-removable 4310mAh, 3.7V Lithium-ion battery, and early FCC filings -- as well as recent pictures -- of the included AC adapter confirmed that the console draws power up to 15.0V/2.6A, equating to 39W. The non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro has a 54.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery and can draw up to 61W from a power adapter.

Since much of Nintendo Switch's battery-related questions are still up in the air in the time before launch, it remains unclear why the console would not automatically leech charge off the larger MacBook Pro. As game designer Bennett Foddy pointed out on Twitter, the connection between the Switch and MacBook Pro isn't inherently buggy or wrong, but it's easy to think that the MacBook Pro (battery life ~10 hours) would naturally provide power to the Switch (battery life 2.5-6.5 hours), like it does to iPhones and iPads.

In related Nintendo Switch and Apple news, Nintendo today launched its Nintendo Switch Parental Control app for iOS devices on the App Store [Direct Link]. The app will let parents remotely control the content of the games their kids play, as well as for how long, and even be able to restrict certain ESRB ratings and online features.


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Nintendo’s ‘Fire Emblems Heroes’ Game Earned an Estimated $2.9 Million During First Day

Nintendo's newly released game Fire Emblem Heroes earned an estimated $2.9 million in worldwide gross revenue during its first 24 hours of availability, according to data shared by app analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Since being released yesterday morning for iOS and Android devices, Fire Emblem Heroes has been downloaded more than two million times from the iOS App Store and the Google Play store. Download numbers may have been affected by a late release in the United States - the game didn't become available on iOS devices until the afternoon.

At $2.9 million in gross revenue, Fire Emblem Heroes is not quite the hit that Pokémon GO and Super Mario Run were. Pokémon Go earned an estimated $10.2 million during its first 24 hours of availability, while Super Mario Run brought in $8.4 million.


It was also not downloaded quite as many times, likely due to the fact that the Fire Emblem series isn't as well known as the Mario or Pokémon franchises nor was it as heavily promoted. Pokémon GO was downloaded an estimated 4.2 million times on day one, while Super Mario Run, was downloaded an estimated 6 million times.


Unsurprisingly, Fire Emblem Heroes has proven to be most popular in Japan, with the United States coming in second.

Bringing classic titles to iOS devices has thus far proven to be a successful venture for Nintendo. Super Mario Run set an App Store record with 40 million downloads in just four days. Since its December release, Super Mario Run has brought in more than $53 million in revenue with more than 78 million downloads.

Nintendo plans to continue releasing a steady stream of iOS games, with popular series Animal Crossing said to be one of the next games on the horizon. Nintendo originally said Animal Crossing would be released by March, but recently delayed the title until the following financial year, which runs from April 2017 to March 2018.

Fire Emblem Heroes can be downloaded from the App Store for free. It doesn't cost anything up front, but Nintendo makes money on the game through in-app purchases for speeding up gameplay. [Direct Link]


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