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Why do people keep making fake Nintendo consoles?

A fake Nintendo Switch is riling up diehards, and we’ve seen this all before

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No one outside of Nintendo has their hands on a Nintendo Switch console quite yet, despite recent attempts by a popular YouTuber to convince people otherwise. Etika, star of the Nintendo-focused Etika World Network channel, came under scrutiny after uploading two separate videos featuring what he said is his very own Nintendo Switch.

The first video, a livestream where Etika whips out a device resembling Nintendo’s hybrid handheld, has been taken offline since its weekend airing. But an archive made the rounds on social media, creating mass confusion and, eventually, frustration.

Nintendo fans were furious not out of jealousy, but because they’ve seen this before. That’s not a real Switch, members of the console’s subreddit and elsewhere exclaimed. Nintendo fans in the know became quickly divided, however, as not all were so sure that Etika’s handheld was fake.

These non-believers are not out of line for pushing back at Etika for suggesting his Switch was real; it’s implausible to think Nintendo would let a Switch out into the wild when we have yet to hear a release date. Nintendo won’t even detail the launch lineup until January, when it plans to hold a press conference in Tokyo.

Etika trudged on, however, publishing the second Nintendo Switch video today. This one is a more highly produced look at “Life With Nintendo Switch.” Any chance of turning skeptics into believers with this effort was dashed by a follow-up video, uploaded by Swedish designer Frank Sandqvist.

A seven-minute video posted this week to his YouTube channel shows Sandqvist detailing how he used 3D printing, sanding, laser-cutting and other methods to create a lifelike, but very fake, Nintendo Switch at Etika’s request.

Etika later confirmed on Twitter that he and Sandqvist worked together “for a goof,” and the description on his “Life With Nintendo Switch” video now includes the designer’s name in the credits. It also makes it clear that the alleged Nintendo Switch was 3D-printed.

Sandqvist’s name in particular is familiar to anyone who closely followed rumors of Nintendo’s next system over the past year. He was the mastermind behind an uproar similar to the one sparked by Etika, surfacing photos of an alleged Nintendo NX prototype online. Although some doubted their credibility, they matched patents that had been circulating — and more than anything else, Nintendo fans were hungry for anything that proved the NX wasn’t just vaporware.

It turned out that the NX prototype was an elaborate, 3D-printed fake. Sandqvist detailed how he created it in another long instructional video, shocking those who fell for it and appeasing doubters.

This is all to say: Why does this keep happening? There are plenty of reasons, the most obvious of which is probably “infamy.” Etika has hundreds of thousands of subscribers, but his name has reached a whole new set of people because of his prank. If he owned an actual Switch, that would get a lot of warranted attention — but even if he just has a very convincing fake on his hands, that’s going to drum up conversation too.

But Nintendo in particular always has fans clamoring for news and pictures and proof as fast possible. Its newest console has seen the brunt of this, in part because of its elongated rumor cycle. There was a full 19 months between the company’s first mention that its next home console was in development and the reveal of its name and look. That gave unhappy Wii U owners a lot of time to fantasize about what the new console could be.

That Nintendo has been less than leak-proof this year didn’t help. Anonymous sources drip-fed Switch details to the media, tipping off press about the console’s novel features. Nintendo refused to respond to any of this. The company was tight-lipped from the NX’s announcement to the Switch’s unveiling, offering only slight details — like a March 2017 release window, despite the console missing E3 2016 this past June.

We cared — and continue to care — so much about the Switch, what it does, what it can play, when we can play it and everything else because Nintendo’s relationship with its fans runs deep. Look at the phenomenon of the NES Classic Edition, a tiny revamp of the original Nintendo home console that fetches wild prices on eBay in the face of limited stock.

Nintendo is a nostalgic force, which marketing of the Switch revels in thus far. But the company also isn’t afraid to switch — er, change — things up from console to console. We want to know what it’s like to own a Switch because it’s not just another Wii U. Almost every recent Nintendo console has deviated in a big way from the one previous, with new features, a new form factor and new ways to play. It’s exciting to get any console early, but with a Nintendo console, doing so is an event.

Of course, Etika didn’t get the Switch early, and we doubt anyone else will anytime soon. Nintendo will show off the handheld further in January, and March really isn’t that far away, anyway.

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