Nintendo rarely does things the easy way. More often than not, this results in staggeringly original innovation, and combines existing technologies into something as revolutionary as the d-pad, analogue stick, Wiimote, Miiverse, TVii… But shunning the well-worn path and living only in the future does have its drawbacks, as seen with the Gamecube’s choice of optical drive, and the lacking online integration of the Wii.
The WiiU set out to address the shortcomings of its revolutionary predecessor, continuing the trend of delivering new gameplay opportunities, but using Nintendo’s newfound pile of money to fill in the gaps in the established console experience. Keen to do right by their customers, Nintendo allowed for near-universal storage expansion, and provided a multitude of choices for in-game voice chat.
Unfortunately the company’s “quirks” persist, with some design decisions limiting our options somewhat. So here’s the quick and dirty on how to get chatting in online games on the WiiU:
Until Nintendo gets around to expanding the OS audio support, EVERYTHING must be plugged into the gamepad! Because the controller contains audio processing hardware, and to cut costs for end-users, Nintendo thought to include a standard four-pole 3.5mm headset jack. It’s quite probably the same hardware doohickie they’ve sold hundreds of millions of in the various models of DS, and it works just fine.
The “Pro” Controller does without the hardware necessary for voice chat, shaving the price and boosting battery life. To use either it or a Wiimote online, you’ll still have to be tethered to the gamepad.
Neither Bluetooth nor USB headsets work with the WiiU… yet. While nothing has been said of Bluetooth, Nintendo has confirmed that an incoming update will enable USB devices such as keyboards. It is not unprecedented for such compatibility to be introduced to a console, and Nintendo’s OS this time around is significantly more modifiable.
If you thought that the mic built into the gamepad was an obvious choice, think again! While it works perfectly for the inbuilt video calling software, it will seldomly be used within “traditional” games for VOIP purposes. Why, you ask? Because Nintendo are moneygrubbing bastards who want you to purchase every peripheral they can pump out! Well, that or the fact that the buttons and sticks of the gamepad interfere with the microphone when they’re being smacked about. Either way, Treyarch thankfully spared us from enduring constant clicking in addition to the usual vitriol spewing forth from the mouths of babes in Black Ops 2.
So what DOES work?! Fortunately, as long as you’re ok with having a small cord between your ears and your controller (hey, some people complained about the nunchaku cord!), the options are plentiful, cheap, and probably stuffed in a drawer somewhere around your living room. Let’s have a rummage!
(i)Phone Headsets: Found in over twelve billion homes around the world, and mostly in white, the humble 3.5mm phone headset is directly compatible with the WiiU. If it has three non-metallic bands on the plug, you can use it to chat. Just don’t eat while playing; ear buds constantly fall out of my head as I chew. Oh, and turn your TV volume off, no one needs to hear what you’re hearing them hear!
PC Gaming Headsets: If you have a beloved headset already available, why stump for a WiiU specific one? As long as what you have possesses the classic dual 3.5mm stereo jacks (USB specific devices need not apply, see above as to why), a simple adapter will convert it to a single plug. This way you’ll be spared from having to break in a new headset, and you can call on the powers of years of ear sweat earned in glorious battle!
Either catch a passing mule-cart to your local Radioshack and pick up THIS for five and a half Guineas, or make haste for eBay with only four and try the Chinese market using the search phrase “PC headset to iphone adapter”. I prefer the commies’ take on the device, it’s less obtrusive, but the shipping times can vary wildly.
In terms of value, you will actually get a higher quality result if you go with a PC headset and an adapter over a licensed offering, it will be cheaper, and you can use it with your PC!
Audiophile Headphones: The one downside to gaming headsets is their bias towards heavy-handed bass. For the more discerning connoisseur of explosioney audioscapes, nothing beats a good set of real “cans”. Generally speaking, dollar for dollar, audio headphones are significantly better than gaming headsets. A couple of years ago I picked up a forty dollar pair of Sony MDRXD100’s (rolls off the tongue, that does), and they are truly fantastic when compared to even high-end gaming gear. Of course, they need a mic to go with that adapter…
Standalone mics: There are a few options here. One way to go is with a simple “clip on” or lapel mic. I picked one up for three bucks from eBay, and while it doesn’t quite capture the nuances of my excellent lounge singing, it’s more than adequate for threatening small children over the internet. If you wind the headphone and mic cables together it can save you from potentially turning a quick trip to the toilet into an episode of the Dick Van Dyke show.
Spend a little more money and you can stick a fancy-pants modmic to your headphones, and turn them into a proper headset. Then when you want to dress up like a hipster and hit the town, you can just pop the mic off and be on your merry way.
An honourable mention goes to the PDP Afterglow Wireless headset. Before the WiiU was launched, this was lauded as the one and only wireless solution for the console. Hilariously though, that is not the case at all! A USB-powered transmitter clumsily takes an audio source from your TV and throws it wirelessly to the headset. This is great for watching TV in peace, but for voice chat to function you still have to connect the headset to the gamepad. As a dedicated WiiU device it would be somewhat of a pointless purchase, unless you’re an aficionado of coloured lights.
Finally, to all Wii CoD veterans out there, some sad news. The mighty PDP Headbanger, which saw use in nearly four different games, is not compatible with WiiU software. I know, I know, how could Nintendo let such a well constructed piece of kit fall by the wayside?! It’s terrible, but the harsh reality of an ever-changing world dictates that, like last year’s iPhone, everything eventually becomes obsolete. I would give mine a viking funeral were it not working flawlessly in the original Black Ops in Wii mode, a game which still has a community five times larger than the WiiU version and to me is still the most balanced, varied, and skilful game of the series.
Now, chat amongst yourselves.
[Hipster taken from Tumblr (of course!)]