Nintendo will be moving on from its “NEX” multiplayer service system, which has been in use since the 3DS and Wii U, to a new server system called “NPLN.”
According to dataminer and programmer OatmealDome, the NEX system is a variant of Quazal Technologies Inc.’s Rendez-Vous online middleware, which was being developed as far back as 2003. Quazal was purchased by Ubisoft in 2010, who then either licensed or sold the Rendez-Vous system to Nintendo.
After making some changes to the Rendez-Vous system and internally renaming it NEX, Nintendo proceeded to use it for a majority of the company’s first-party multiplayer games and features. This includes the Friends service on both 3DS and Wii U, Splatoon, Mario Kart 8.
NEX was also used throughout the early years of the Switch’s development, with Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, and the Nintendo Entertainment System portion of the Switch’s Online service all using it in some form.
Both OatmealDome and another developer clarified this switch has likely been in the works throughout 2020 for newer games as a way to improve online on the system. Another possible reason is Nintendo wants to avoid problems that could occur in the future when using older infrastructure in general.
NPLN was reportedly developed entirely in-house by Nintendo, and the recent demo for Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise was the first to use it in a public space as a test for both the game and the system. It reportedly uses gRPC framework hosted on Google Cloud servers, with marked improvements in terms of speed while running in multiple regions.
According to both sources, however, this move looks like it will just be on the server-side and, while general online performance for newer games might improve greatly, older games might not see the same results.
OatmealDome notes that Nintendo likely wants “to make this transition as seamless as possible” so it won’t impact the current user experience. Once that is complete, the company can go back in and try to improve the performance of existing games that are on the Switch through patches to utilize any advancements NPLN brings.
While the idea of improved online for the Switch is something that fans are excited about, all of this comes from internal data taken from various files and none of it has been officially confirmed by Nintendo.
This also doesn’t take into account the use of peer-to-peer networking used in games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which might not be impacted by this change at all.
We likely won’t know the full extent of Nintendo’s plans for the NPLN system until it is being utilized by more developers in upcoming releases. From there, the results of such a massive switch should be pretty apparent based on overall performance and compatibility.