The Friend Code, a Nintendo creation that both sets it apart from other console makers and has annoyed many gamers. Adding friends and fellow gamers to your friends list on non-Nintendo platforms has always been pretty simple. If you played with someone you liked, sending them a friend request was pretty direct. Adding people you knew in real life was a simple as searching for their gamertag online and sending a request.
Nintendo just had to be different, and now we know why. The Friend Code was born. It saw a some use when blended with the Address Book app on the Wii in 2006. But with the DS line of portable consoles, Nintendo made the Friend Code standard practice. The 16-digit code is entirely random, and really hard to remember, leading to many gamers feeling kind of annoyed with having to share the codes via various means to play with their friends and family.
The reason for this decision has finally been discovered through an internal presentation included in the recently leaked Wii source code. The release comes in the weeks following massive security issues at Nintendo that led to more than 160,000 Nintendo accounts apparently being compromised. The code release contained basically all of the code behind various games and the Wii.
As you may be aware, in the last few weeks in 4chan multiple Nintendo-related old things have been leaking, starting with old Pokémon debug ROMs and source code, then most recent 3DS debug ROMs, then keys for all consoles up until the DSi and now the biggest of them all: the full source code, design files, documentation and pretty much everything used to create the Revolution, aka Wii.
This release led to the reveal of why Nintendo opted to use the Friend Code, and it boils down to one simple reason. According to former Game Informer’s Imran Khan, the Friend Code was implemented to avoid issues with duplicate names and users not being able to get the gamertag they wanted.
Sure, Nintendo could have opted for the Discord style solution where they could have allowed for unique usernames or gamertags, and circumvented the problem of duplicates by assigning a unique ID to the end of each name. This does have one additional problem with malicious or offensive names, which the Friend Code also kind of deals with by the nature of it being completely random. Nintendo actually chose what some would consider the better solution.
Nintendo instead chose to have the system for Friend Codes be hidden to a degree, requiring the ID to add new friends, but allowing the public name displayed on the profile be whatever you wanted. This also avoided users have to waste time “by trying different variations of their actual name,” and that would be conflicting with the “comfortable” ethos Nintendo has always strived for.