Nintendo will host a "Global Testfire" of the upcoming Splatoon 2 third-person shooter from March 24-26. Besides offering a glimpse at what the company has planned for one of its newest IPs, the event will also give Switch owners a chance to see what the console's online experience is like.
Splatoon wasn't your average third-person shooter. Instead of trying to pump as much lead as possible into human targets, you assumed the role of squid-kid hybrids that shoot, throw, and splash vibrantly colored ink all over the place. The game launched with just one game mode, Turf War, which tasked two teams of four players with covering as much space as possible with ink. It was kind of like a Nickelodeon cartoon turned into a Nintendo game.
Nintendo supported the game with additional weapons, maps, and game modes after its initial release. The company also hosted events called Splatfests where players fought to support cats or dogs, Pokémon Red or Pokémon Blue, and other contrasting ideas. This approach worked--Nintendo said that Splatoon sold more than 4.76 million units by December 31, 2016. That means one of every three Wii U owners purchased the quirky team shooter.
Splatoon 2 is a sequel set two years after the first game. That means it has a new single-player campaign, new multiplayer weapons, and support for the Nintendo Switch instead of the Wii U. Just like with the first game, Nintendo plans to host a Global Testfire for Splatoon 2 to stress-test its servers and make sure everything runs well at launch. This time, though, it will also serve another purpose: letting Switch owners play something online.
Nintendo released the Switch without a true online experience. That's probably for a good reason--the company has yet to reveal how much its online service will cost, it's still forcing Switch owners to swap friend codes if they want to play with their buddies, and there's no word on whether the service will rely on central servers or peer-to-peer connections. Other features, such as the nostalgia-driven Virtual Console, are also missing from the Switch.
The company doesn't have all that long to figure this stuff out. Splatoon 2's Global Testfire is a limited demo that will give you only a taste of what the game has to offer, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is expected to debut on April 28, and that game features several online modes. Given that Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are the Switch's hottest exclusives this side of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it's important for the online play to work.
You'll be able to experience the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire yourself at these times:
You can read about our other experiences with the Nintendo Switch in our hands-on with the console, and if you like what you experience this weekend, Splatoon 2 is expected to be released some time in Summer 2017. (We suspect the game's performance during this Global Testfire will have some effect on when it debuts, although it certainly won't be the only important factor, of course.)
That's not to say that Nintendo's online service will be the only way to play Splatoon 2. Nintendo's making a bit of an esports push with the game by enabling eight-person matches over local wireless connections or LAN, with the option of connecting two more Switch consoles to enable a spectator view. Therefore, if paying for online multiplayer isn't your thing, or this Global Testfire doesn't go well, you'll at least be able to enjoy some inky multiplayer gameplay.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.