Here's Why Nintendo Chose Friend Codes Over Usernames 15 Years Ago
Do you hate Nintendo's friend codes? Turns out they're the more elegant solution to usernames.
Since the launch of the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo has been using friend codes for adding online friends to your consoles. They're a string of 12-characters that are difficult to remember by heart and a pain to enter, but have endured for over 15-years. The reason? They're just easier than usernames.
That's according to a leaked internal presentation from prior to the Wii's launch, which has been uncovered as part of a larger Nintendo leak encompassing old source code, internal memos, and more. The slide about friend codes in particular is interesting, because it shows that there was a time where Nintendo was at least considering traditional users names for the Wii, and might have stuck with it from then on.
As part of that Nintendo leak, an internal powerpoint was found that spells out the reasons they went for friend codes. Apparently they thought signing up for screen names would be too confusing for the audience, and they would be frustrated if they didn't get the ones they want. pic.twitter.com/LWzM0BRhIb— Imran Khan (@imranzomg) May 4, 2020
The slide (shared by Kinda Funny's Imran Khan) shows that it clashed with Nintendo's "comfortable" and "simple" principles at the time. The potential of duplicate usernames meant that it wouldn't be simple enough for users to find a unique one without multiple attempts. Similarly, Nintendo saw the potential of users guessing other usernames and finding friends that way rubbed against the "comfortable" nature of online play they were aiming for.
And so, friend codes were introduced as the solution. Entirely unique to the account in question and impossible to guess at random, this solved the issues Nintendo had with usernames, and is likely why they've stuck with it for so long. Nintendo did move away from friend codes with the Wii U, using Nintendo Network IDs instead. Those accounts could be used to unify accounts on Nintendo 3DS and Switch too, but have been deactivated since thanks to security compromises.
Of course, since then many platforms have found ways around the two problems Nintendo pinpointed 15-years ago, so there's hope still that one day you won't have to squint at a close friend's new code on future Nintendo hardware.
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