A leaked internal Nintendo presentation has shed light on the company’s reasoning for choosing its infernal 12-digit friend codes – something decided upon nearly 15 years ago and which we still type in today to add friends for Animal Crossing.
The decision to use friend codes rather than real names or nicknames was made back in the mid-noughties, as the company planned the Wii’s internet connectivity, and has come to light now via a cache of old Nintendo data being passed around the internet.
In a slide from the leaked presentation titled “The Friend Code” (picked out of the leak by Kinda Funny’s Imran Khan), Nintendo set out its reasoning for picking 12 random digits as the best way to add friends, rather than typing their names.
“At first there were opinions that instead of 12-digit numbers, a freely chosen screen name would be better,” Nintendo notes. The very idea of it!
But using screen names would result in “problems”, Nintendo decided, which conflicted with its desire for connecting with friends to be “simple” and “comfortable”.
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
Letting users pick a screenname would result in a “high probability” of duplicates, Nintendo reasoned, or let people guess other people’s logins. And so the 12-digit friend code was born.
It’s important to remember these decisions were made a few years ago, when Nintendo’s online capabilities were in their infancy, and it faced concerns integrating internet connectivity within its family-friendly games.
Nintendo now lets you add friends via other social media methods (if you have a pal on Twitter or Facebook, for example). But 15 years later, the 12-digit friend code lives on in Nintendo Switch, as it also did on 3DS and Wii U.
How did all this find its way online? We’re still looking into the leak’s origins, though it is the latest in a recent string of leaks detailing old Nintendo data. Last month the internet got a look at Pokémon Yellow source code which hinted at a long-cancelled Pokémon Pink.