I can’t believe Nintendo’s back to using the Friend Code system with the Nintendo Switch. I thought we were past this. In fact, Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime told reporters back in January of 2017 that the Nintendo Switch would not use friend codes.
Jump to this morning, and reviewers have stated that the Nintendo Switch’s day-one patch adds the inclusion of the archaic friend code system. Really? Another generation of this?
Nintendo created Friend Codes in order to protect the anonymity of young players. That’s always been the assumption. The idea is that Nintendo’s younger player base can stick behind random strings of numbers and protect their identities more easily than is possible with unique and creative usernames.
The trade-off for this system is terrible. If you want to become someone’s friend on the Nintendo Switch and you encounter that person in real life, you have to hand them this extremely long code. Odds are, you don’t remember that code. So you have to look it up.
Screenshot by GamesBeat.
Right, so when your friend texts you and says, “Hey, I just got a Nintendo Switch. What’s your player name?,” you need to fire up your console and navigate to the add friend menu in order to find your own friend code. Unless you write it down somewhere. Which you’re still looking for it in order to give it out to your friends. Instead of just having a name that you know because it’s one that you created like, I don’t know, JoeyPlaysGames, you have to use this randomly assigned string of characters that feel fresh out of 2006.
When Nintendo partnered with DeNA in order to bring their games to the world of mobile gaming and improve their network services, we all assumed that the online space for Nintendo would get better. Maybe some of the stuff is going to get better, but the Switch is only now about to release to the public and reviewers have only today gotten access to the online features. The point is, we don’t know what the future of the Nintendo Switch’s online services look like. What we do know after today is that it’s going to use the Friend Code system. This archaic and ancient system has been frustrating since its inception and first use, and it’s the one thing most Nintendo fans can agree is bad. It’s not a good system. It’s tired.
Do I think you should give up on Nintendo based on this? No, not really. It’s just an annoyance, it’s an inconvenience in an age when things shouldn’t be inconvenient. It reeks of someone forgetting to test something out in the open environment. And it feels like Nintendo isn’t paying attention to what its consumers are saying. But is it a reason to give up on the Switch? I don’t think so.
It could change. It’s entirely possible that Nintendo could roll out an update that does away with the Friend Code system altogether. But having it here at launch means that it’s what’s working for Nintendo. If we go off of what Reggie Fils-Aime said back in January, there was a time when this the Friend Code system wasn’t planned for the Nintendo Switch. Yet here it is. That tells me that Nintendo had to change things up in order to get the system out the door in the March time frame.
Is it possible that we won’t be using friend codes come this time next year? Yes. But it’s been my experience that when it comes to online systems like this one, it’s way more complicated to update it to a new method of use then it is to, say, add folders to a system UI. My point is that we’re going to be using the Friend Code system for a while.