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Nintendo leak explains the use of friend codes over usernames

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Sharing a 12-digit friend code is annoying, but it fits Nintendo’s design philosophy

Nintendo logo on swirly background Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon

A leaked, internal Nintendo PowerPoint presentation discovered online Saturday explained why the company continues to use “friend codes” instead of using unique usernames.

A post on ResetEra suggested the leak was originally posted to 4chan, reportedly linked to “a server hack” at a contracted company. A ton of information was included in the most recent leak, like Wii design files and source code. Among those files was the PowerPoint presentation that included information on the friend code system.

The friend code is a feature that people have been complaining about for decades now. While Microsoft and Sony use usernames for their online features, Nintendo continues to use a randomly assigned, 12-digit numeric code.

The leaked PowerPoint slide notes that using screen names would be a problem as “there is a high probability of duplicate screen names,” thus conflicting with the idea that nothing regarding the game should be hard to set up, including picking a name.

It also explains that it would be possible to “guess someone’s screen name by trying different variations of their actual name,” conflicting with “the ‘comfortable’ principle.” The “comfortable” principle is Nintendo’s design philosophy regarding online play. The company wants it so that the user “always has the option of playing only with friends.” According to the PowerPoint presentation, having people guess usernames could prevent this. Somebody with the user name “John” could get tons of friend requests from random people just because of the simplicity of the username.

It should be noted that the leaked presentation was for the Wii, not the Nintendo Switch. It appears that the basic design philosophy hasn’t changed since then, seeing how we’re all still doomed to use friend codes for the foreseeable future.

We’ve reached out to Nintendo for more information regarding the leak’s legitimacy.


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