I Ain't Even Mad About Friend Codes on the Nintendo Switch

Friend codes aren't ideal, but they're not as bad as they appear at first glance, either.

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

Good news, everyone! The Nintendo Switch has friend codes! If you want to communicate with your friend and / or play with them online through your Switch, you have to register their 12-digit code. Think of it as … scanning a barcode of friendship.

Mike wrote up everything involved with the friend-adding process, but here's the gist. Once your Switch is updated and linked to your Nintendo Account, you can start the adding process. You can add friends locally, search for users you've recently played with, or simply enter a person's code.

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Here's the nice part: You don't have to trade friend codes to become pals. Instead, you can just accept anyone who propositions you, or you can decline or block them.

Your Nintendo Account also offers up "Suggested Friends" you've linked to from Miitomo and Super Mario Run (See? Miitomo was still in our hearts all this time!).

While I'm miffed you can't search for users via their emails or user names, I have to admit my irritation over the Switch's friend code system (which I conveyed as "[SUSTAINED SCREAMING]" in the comments section of Mike's report) has since cooled off. If I don't need to actually exchange codes, it's fine. I still remember how my Wii friend menu had way too many greyed-out half-friends who promised to reciprocate with their own codes, but never did.

A lot of iOS games still dole out friend codes if their social features don't go through Game Center. It's not exactly an antiquated requirement. Fire Emblem Heroes uses friend codes, for example.

Above all, I understand why Nintendo's doing this. The company's determination to make the Switch's tiny game cards taste bad so kids won't eat them says everything: When it comes to the children, Nintendo is always going to err on the side of caution.

That's because bad press sticks to Nintendo like chewing gum to hair. To most people in the developed world, the name "Nintendo" is synonymous with both "family" and "video games." Not even Sony and Microsoft can boast that kind of association. When the average person thinks "Sony" or "Microsoft," there's still a good chance they think of TVs and Windows.

Look everyone, it's Jeff! Hi, Jeff!.

Nintendo doesn't have that kind of PR wiggle room. When the mainstream press is compelled to turn its attention on the company, the consequences are usually heavy. Remember how the Nintendo 3DS got wrapped up in reports about 3D supposedly hurting kids' eyes back in 2011? Never mind that parents had no problem plopping 3D glasses on their kids when they visited the theatre. Nintendo is supposed to be 100% safe, 100% pure.

So what does Nintendo's image have to do with friend codes? For one thing, friend codes discourage spam – which, frankly, is a big problem on the PlayStation Network. If kids start getting messages on their Switch encouraging them to "BUY THIS PILL AND GET A BIG PEN ONE FIVE TODAY!!," it'd only take a few scandalized parents to start an avalanche of bad press.

Friend codes also make it harder for freaks and weirdoes to worm into Nintendo's kid-heavy community. It's not a perfect shield, but that extra layer of protection is certainly handy if Nintendo needs to defend itself: "Children cannot use all of the Switch's online features unless they enter their friend's code, and we encourage kids never to share their code with somebody they don't know and trust."

Obviously, it is disappointing to see Nintendo abandon the user name search we enjoyed with the Wii U, but interestingly, the formation of Miiverse is what prompted Nintendo to make that move. Since the Switch lacks a unified social hub (booo), that also might factor into Nintendo's return to numbers.

In the end, Nintendo's hyper-caution is just one of those annoying things you have to deal with if you want to play Zelda.

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Comments 10

  • The best thing Friend Codes do is allow people to change their user names! I'm sure lots of people who play on PSN would love that feature.
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  • Avatar for ATBro #2 ATBro A year ago
    Isn't this a problem though? How are we to ever expect any sort of objectivity from you, when you say to us, "this thing sucks, but Nintendo did it so it's fine." No thank you.

    This says it all right here.
    "That's because bad press sticks to Nintendo like chewing gum to hair."

    This is 100% false. Bad press never has more impact than a glancing hit on them because they have fans like Nadia. People who don't care how bad or consumer-unfriendly they are as a company because they can just say, "it's for the chilluns!" If you think that Sony or Microsoft could get away with friend codes you're delusional. But they have to actually contend with expectations, whereas Nintendo simply shrugs and and says, "that's what you get" and everyone seems to be OK with it.
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  • Avatar for NightingaleXP #3 NightingaleXP A year ago
    @ATBro It's just not that big a deal in this kind of implementation, as the thing. The old two-way system was nightmarish; this is just a different way of telling someone your username, ultimately.
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  • Avatar for StrwbrryJams #4 StrwbrryJams A year ago
    Agreed, I have a really hard time feeling fussedown about this.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #5 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @ATBro As I state here, I've played countless mobile games that utilize friend codes, so I doubt I'd care much at all if Sony or Microsoft did the same. Heck, if Sony decided to implement friend codes for the sake of its spam problem, I'd be about as understanding towards the idea as I am to the Switch's codes.
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #6 touchofkiel A year ago
    Weird, I've had a PS account for the past 10 years and this is the first I've heard of message spamming. And I play online quite a bit.

    But yeah, I'm with ATBro above. It does sort of feel like "eh, it's Nintendo, what are you gonna do?" Nah, it still sucks regardless.
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  • Avatar for swamped #7 swamped A year ago
    My main beef with PSN is that I can't change my display name. So if friend codes get around that, whatever. Steam and Blizzard do it, they just don't do it with an arbitrary set of numbers.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #8 Roto13 A year ago
    I don't really see how friend codes help curtail spam though. Either messaging is open, not requiring people to register each other first, and bots can send spam, or it's not, and they can't. That's a separate issue from friend codes.
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  • Avatar for NYCAlex #9 NYCAlex A year ago
    My main issue is Nintendo not listening to their fanbase and stubbornly sticking to their guns.
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  • Avatar for robertalphin84 #10 robertalphin84 11 months ago
    Friend codes also make it harder for freaks and weirdoes to worm into Nintendo's kid-heavy community. more go to visit Kamagra
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