Nintendo Axes Swapnote's Internet Functionality

The service was "actively misused" to share "offensive material." Someone's always got to spoil it for everyone else, haven't they?

News by Pete Davison, .

Did you have a teacher at school who would punish the whole class for one student's misdemeanors? That's Nintendo right now.

In a statement posted yesterday -- a statement that reads surprisingly like a letter home from school -- the company revealed that it was shutting down the SpotPass functionality of the 3DS app Swapnote, with immediate effect.

Swapnote, known as Letter Box in other regions, is an evolution of the DS' Pictochat system that allows users to create handwritten 3D notes and share them with friends alongside photos and sound recordings made using the 3DS' camera and microphone. The SpotPass functionality allowed friends who had added each other using the 3DS' Friend Code system to exchange messages over the Internet, and as you might expect, the service was misused somewhat.

"Nintendo has learned that some consumers, including minors, have been exchanging their friend codes on Internet bulletin boards and then using Swapnote to exchange offensive material. Nintendo has been investigating ways of preventing this and determined it is best to stop the SpotPass feature of Swapnote because it allows direct exchange of photos and was actively misused."

Swapnote. Not pictured: "offensive material." Unless you hate cake.

Nintendo didn't give details of said "misuse" or "offensive material," but I think we can probably all guess the sort of things that were being exchanged -- in 3D, no less.

"Nintendo always wants to provide a positive experience for all consumers and limit the risk of any inappropriate activity or misuse of a service," the statement continues. "We feel it is important on this occasion to take this action."

Essentially, then, a few miscreants sending "offensive" images have now crippled the functionality of an app that, while not especially useful in this age of WhatsApp, Kik and iMessage-equipped smartphones, was occasionally a bit of fun. That said, child safety concerns are legitimate, and something that Nintendo needs to be seen as addressing, preferably quickly and decisively.

Interestingly, this news comes as it was revealed earlier today (thanks, NintendoLife) that Wii Karaoke U features uncensored song lyrics with explicit content -- though in that case the lyrics are drawn from a third-party service, not from either Nintendo itself or the community.

This incident is, however, the latest in a long line of Nintendo assuming a "lowest common denominator" approach to its online services -- an approach that treats all users as if they're children who need to be protected from the wild world of the Internet. Nintendo products have always been family-friendly, but is punishing the entire community for an app really the solution to misbehavior from a few individuals? How do you think Nintendo could have handled it better, if at all? And do you even care about Swapnote in the first place? Let's hear your thoughts!

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for alexb #1 alexb 4 years ago
    Please excuse me while I clutch my pearls.
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  • Avatar for docexe #2 docexe 4 years ago
    @lonecow It’s true that Nintendo has always been an incredibly paternalistic company, but while I think they would have phased out Swapnote in favor of Miiverse eventually, I think it’s more likely that some “concerned parents” or someone along those lines posted a complaint, probably even threatening legal action. Otherwise, I doubt they would have bothered with neutering the app.
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  • Avatar for Daikaiju #3 Daikaiju 4 years ago
    Can I get my play coins refunded? I blew a ton unlocking paper!
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  • Avatar for metalangel #4 metalangel 4 years ago
    Nikki the Swapnote mascot sent me naked pictures of herself!*

    *may not be true
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #5 Captain-Gonru 4 years ago
    Just a bit of clarification, but the service isn't completely dead. You can still exchange notes via Streetpass with friends.
    Plus, some people have made some fun YouTube videos with the app. There's one called something like "I'm totally not drawing dirty pictures". Plus, a certain video game journalist of note had a brief series of videos using the app. Just saying.
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  • Avatar for KikShark #6 KikShark A year ago
    Especially since it's unsafe with KikShark's guide on how to hack someones kik for free.
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  • Avatar for toriwen44 #7 toriwen44 A year ago

    Nice article i have also written a guide to leave whatsapp group without notification leave whatsapp group for free.
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  • Avatar for Jeny4u #8 Jeny4u 5 months ago
    Why it's not on group. it will render the game completely useless at whatever premature time EA chooses to shut down its servers.
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  • Avatar for mangogamer #9 mangogamer 4 months ago
    Kik usernames! Find out how here.
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