An internal Nintendo presentation has reportedly been leaked and appears to explain Nintendo’s decision to use friend codes in its online services instead of traditional usernames.
The slideshow was first posted to ResetEra as part of an apparent larger Nintendo leak that contained original source code for the Nintendo 64, Gamecube and Wii.
Interestingly, the Nintendo documents begin by acknowledging that people like the idea of usernames. “At first there were opinions that instead of 12-digit numbers, a freely chosen screen name would be better.”
However, the company goes on to say that usernames could result in a “high probability” of duplicates. According to Nintendo, this would clash with its philosophy of making online gaming “comfortable” and easy to jump into and play.
To that end, Nintendo argued that randomly-generated friend codes ensure that people don’t have to guess usernames or receive a surplus of friend requests from random people due to a simplistic or common type of username.
It’s important to note that this document was specifically proposing online play for the Wii, which released in late 2006. Naturally, online play during this time was much less refined than it is nowadays.
On the other hand, the 12-digit friend code system is one that Nintendo has continued to use ever since, including with its current Switch console. It’s unclear why Nintendo hasn’t made any changes to its online friends system in the nearly 15 years since the launch of the Wii.
During this time, many fans have criticized friend codes for being cumbersome and outdated, especially as Sony’s PlayStation Network, Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Valve’s Steam platforms all allow for custom usernames. With the Switch, on the other hand, users who understandably don’t know their friend codes off the top of their heads will have to circle back to their Switch and send it to the person who wants to add them. Further, having a randomly-generated code is also less personal and fun than a username that you picked to reflect you.
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