Last week, gamers thought they got their first look at Nintendo's next console, codenamed NX. An odd-looking device — an oval-shaped controller with an unconventional, non-rectangular screen on its face — was circulated as a prototype controller for Nintendo's new system.
It originated as a post on Reddit from a new member of the site. A user named "Idriss2Dev" posted a slightly blurry photo of the device, which sat next to a Post-It note that read "You will say wow!" — a quote from the late Satoru Iwata, when he teased the reveal of the Wii in 2005. The pictured device looked remarkably similar to a patent filed by Nintendo in 2015.
The poster offered a few supposed details on the device, saying it featured "haptic buttons" and shoulder buttons that function like scrolling mousewheels.
Idriss2Dev's photo was picked up by a few news websites and quickly hit message board NeoGAF. Posters there immediately decried it an obvious fake, but others believed it to be legitimate. They analyzed it pixel-by-pixel, looking for evidence — and, for some, hope — that someone was pulling their leg. The device looked uncomfortable, they said, and, even worse, did away with the physical buttons of console video game controllers.
"Please be fake," one poster wrote.
A few days later, more photos emerged, this time from a different Reddit user. The new photos were clearer, and closely matched the previous leak. Doubters quickly turned into believers. More news outlets published the second batch of photos, seemingly swayed that the Nintendo NX had been revealed.
Many were still dubious, but had resigned themselves to the fact that, yes, this was a Nintendo creation.
A NeoGAF thread on the NX leak amassed more than 10,000 posts and 1 million views. Message board posters there started dissecting the second set of images, studying it for clues. The keyboard on a nearby MacBook appeared to be Swedish, they noticed, and paired with the reflection of a tree in a computer monitor led some to believe the photo originated from The Division developer Massive Entertainment. Internet message board forensics resulted in wild speculation.
The keyboard turned out to be Finnish. The man who took the photo wasn't a game developer at all. He works at a manufacturing shop that specializes in laser cutting and engraving. The second, more elaborate fake was the work of a 3D printer and a simple computer model. The original fake came from someone with a history of making video game console mock ups. Both just wanted to have some fun and lightly torture video game fans for a while.
The original fake was created by David Im. In a YouTube video posted last night, he revealed that his creation was a hoax. He built a simple 3D model and inserted it into a photo using Adobe Photoshop.
After revealing his hoax, Im posted the 3D mockups of his Nintendo NX controller to his DeviantArt account.
In an email to Polygon, Im, who is a native French speaker, said he was inspired by Nintendo's patent drawings when creating his 3D mockups. He blacked out part of his image and put virtual "tape" on part of his digital mockup in an attempt to convince others that the leak was authentic.
Im said he was surprised by how much "buzz" his hoax received.
"I must confess that it amazed me," he said via email.
But Im didn't know who the second hoaxer was. He tried to contact the other prankster — who posted under the name "perkele37" — about his work but received no reply. Im said he was also planning to create a 3D print of his mockup, but someone else beat him to it.
That person was Frank Sandqvist, co-founder of CNC Design in Finland. His NX creation was built in Autodesk's 3D modeling tool Fusion 360 and 3D-printed in black resin and acrylic. Sandqvist revealed his role in the hoax this morning, also in a YouTube video that showed how he created the physical version of fake NX controller.
In his "making of" video, Sandqvist says he modeled his 3D-printed model after Im's, even putting tape over what was supposed to be a hidden sensor to match the original fake. Amusingly, some aspects of Sandqvist's version that were deemed as obvious red flags by the gaming community — like the "confidential property" sticker — were lifted from photos of actual Nintendo development kits.
"I thought it would be funny to see how easy it would be to recreate that Photoshopped leak in real life," Sandqvist explained. "Turns out it's pretty easy."
Like Im, Sandqvist said he felt a little bad for tricking people.
"I'm sorry if I got some people's hopes up," he said, "but it seems most people were against this kind of design so maybe it's just a relief that it's fake...
"Turns out this design is very uncomfortable after all."
Im and Sandqvist's fakes were for some a fun thought exercise, or at least the fodder for some good Photoshop jokes. Here's one creative interpretation of how the fake Nintendo NX controller might have worked, from Vine user Tim Aza.
Nintendo plans to officially unveil NX sometime this year.