February’s Nintendo Direct shows Nintendo further embracing multiplayer online play


No Man’s Sky coming to the Switch wasn’t the only big announcement at February 9th’s Nintendo Direct. Nintendo will be further beefing up Mario Kart 8 with a paid DLC bundle that adds courses from all previous, non-arcade Mario Kart titles, including the aggressively monetized mobile game. Eight new courses will be released in six waves, for 48 new courses total by the end of 2023, meaning fans probably shouldn’t expect a new MK entry for a few years (though as no new mechanics or characters were announced, we’re hopefully wrong here). The DLC can be ordered now, but the content releases March 18th, 2022.

But old games with new DLC weren’t the only surprising announcements we received.

Speaking of kart racers, Disney and Pixar are teaming up for a new eight-player, online, crossplatform, free-to-play racer called Disney Speedstorm. The official website makes no mention of which other consoles may be receiving the game, but PC is on the list, so even non-Switch owners will be able to give this game a shot.

While it doesn’t look like it has blueshells, it does look fairly similar to early Mario Kart entries, just with Disney and Pixar characters and some kind of customization feature. Each racer has a kind of “ultimate” move at the least, such as Mulan’s explosion or Mickey’s speed boost, plus different stats, such as top speed, handling, and defense. Gameloft is aiming for a summer 2022 release, but it also promises to update the game “regularly” post-release with new racers and tracks, at the least.

Nintendo is releasing a new addition to the soccer-themed Mario Strikers series, Mario Strikers: Battle League. As per most Mario-themed sports games, it’s largely a simplified version of the real-world sport, with special abilities and explosions coming from plumbers, apes, turtles, and more.

The last entry did have online play but was limited to 1v1. The new game allows for eight people to play in total (not just for local multiplayer, but online as well) and includes persistent player-created groups called “clubs” of up to 20 players. There’s even some character/stat customization. Current release date is June 10th, 2022.

Splatoon 3 was shown off a bit more but focused more on the multiplayer PvE mode, Salmon Run Next Wave. Building off of Splatoon 2’s horde-mode Salmon Run, Next Wave seems to bring back the basics, like collecting eggs while surviving hordes of monsters as your squid-teen’s part-time job. The above clip shows off some new MOBs and weapons, but the star of the show is the new “Egg Toss” mechanic.

Previously, the player who picked up an egg had to deliver it to your team’s goal, but Next Wave allows players to toss the egg to other locations, players, or even into the goal itself. It’s still limited to a team of four players (PvP modes are 4v4), but having played a healthy amount of Salmon run in Splat2 and picking up eggs after fallen comrades more times than I can recall, I can say egg toss looks like a game changer. We’ll have to wait and see once Nintendo pegs down the summer 2022 release date.

Finally, we have Nintendo Switch Sports, “a new iteration of the Wii Sports series.” Once again, you’ll be using motion controls to simulate various sports activities, though this time, we’ll have a healthy dose of online play. At launch, players will have access to bowling, tennis, volleyball, chambara (Japanese-style sword play), soccer (which can optionally use the leg strap included with the physical copy of the game or Ring Fit Adventure), and badminton, with golf coming for free this fall. To note, it seems like soccer at launch will be limited to a shootout mode, but soccer matches will come in a free summer update. We’ve asked Nintendo PR to clarify this point though (as well as where are the Miis) and will update this once we’ve received new information.

Online play will award clothing and gear for your avatar, but the number of players per match obviously will vary. While local multiplayer is limited to eight players, the trailer shows 16 players simultaneously bowling without taking turns, clearly speeding up the game and allowing players to bowl at their own pace.

The game launches April 29th, 2022, but there will be several trial periods this February. The games will be online play with randoms (no friend options) and consist of tennis, bowling, and chambara. Sign-ups start 5 p.m. PST on February 15th, with various 45-minute periods of play being available between February 18th and 20th. Check the official website for details, as PST folks sadly have two testing periods at 3 a.m. in the morning.

While all of these titles (outside of the new Disney kart racer) have had some kind of online play previously, many were fairly limited, and content updates were rarely discussed. Perhaps because of the sports themes and the impact of COVID, Nintendo’s been doing better at including real-time multiplayer features in new games, and we’re hoping this trend continues for the foreseeable future.

2/15 Update: Use this link to sign up for the trial. Don’t forget to redeem the code here.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
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