Nintendo and Google, two names that generally I wouldn’t put together. They are both very different companies with different philosophies and goals. Though, recently I’ve been thinking of how well they could work together. For example, with Mario Kart 8, you have the option to link a Google account and share/upload your replays directly to YouTube. No fuss, no complications, just tap tap tap and it’s there for the world to see. So I’ve been thinking, what other Google services would work with Nintendo and it’s Wii U console?
Google Voice was one of the first things to pop into my head, and I’ll tell you why in just a minute. In case you didn’t know, Google Voice is a Google service that allows you to pick out a real telephone number and link other numbers (Your Cell, your home phone, etc.) to it. Giving you the option to share one number but, have it ring multiple phones at the same time. I think a lot of people use it as a number they can let people have without giving their actual number. Google Voice is a great option for people who don’t always have access to their own personal cell phone. You can check your text messages, voice mails, as well as send and receive calls/texts from pretty much any computer connected to the internet. It also works with every cell phone and home phone that I know of. You don’t need to have an app for it, as it basically just forwards the call or text to any number you linked to Google Voice. I’d also like to add that this service, is currently free.
So, I began thinking, this would be a really cool thing for Nintendo. People have been wanting cross game chat / party chat on the Wii U for a while now. As of writing this, there has been no sign of anything of the sort. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like Nintendo won’t do the same thing as the “other guys” are doing, unless it has it’s own Nintendo twist to it. I think they probably feel like they have to do something unique than just following what the competition is doing. In the case of communicating with friends on Wii U though, I think copying what other companies have done, is a good thing, unless… They teamed up with Google. How cool would it be to have Google Voice built into the Wii U Operating System as an ‘always on’ type of function? Can you imagine how great that would be?!
In theory, it could work something like this. Users would be able to go into their NNID account settings and link a Google account to their NNID. This would allow them to choose a Google Voice number if they don’t already have one, or link their current Google Voice number if they already have chosen one. After that is set up, whether they are online with their Wii U or not, they can receive calls, text messages, and voice mails from other Wii U users who have linked their Google Voice accounts as well.
Above: A quick mock-up of my friends list with Google Voice
Picture this, you and your friend both have Wii U systems and have linked your own Google Voice accounts to your NNID. You decide that you want to play some Mario Kart online and want to invite your friend. You check your friends list only to see that your friend is offline. But, there is a Google Voice icon next to his name. You tap on it, and are given the option to either send a text message or call your friend. You decide to call them and the system dials the Google Voice number your friend linked to his NNID from your Google Voice number. He answers on his cell and let’s you know he was just watching some tv but will jump online at the next commercial. So you start playing Mario Kart while you wait for your friend. In the middle of the race, your gamepad begins to ring, and a small notification pops up on the tv screen letting you know that your friend is calling you. You tap the answer button that was overlayed on top of whatever the gamepad was displaying (much like the virtual tv remote) and you guys join up for a great game of Mario Kart, complete with all the trash talking, cursing, or whatever other things you would say with your friends.
To take this idea even further, you could allow calls to come in even when the system is in standby mode. Whether someone calls your from their cell phone, home phone, or Wii U, you would always be able to communicate with friends. Text messages could pop up and display right on the gamepad. Even if you decide not to link any of your personal numbers with Google Voice, it would still be a very powerful way to communicate with your friends through your Wii U. Missed calls could be transcribed and displayed on the gamepad ready to read and listen to when you get home. If you’re out doing something, you would still be able to call/text your friend and ask them “Hey! You wanna play later, when I get home?”.
Personally, I think this would be a great opportunity for Nintendo. It would bring a unique way of communicating with your friends on Wii U, and bring Nintendo closer to the kind of online features are expected from a game console in 2014. If Nintendo were to partner with Google and integrate Google Voice into the Wii U OS. Make it always on, always available. It could be SO much more than a party chat application or a way to communicate with your Wii U friends. It would open up a way to essentially communicate with everybody! I think this is totally within the realm of possibility. Nintendo, Google, if you’re reading this, please do it. Before someone else does.