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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