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The Nintendo Switch Uses Friend Codes After All

Just a month and a half after Nintendo promised that it wouldn't happen, every fan's worst nightmare has come true: friend codes, Nintendo's widely reviled system for connecting online users, are returning for the Switch.

Now, to be fair, friend codes aren't the only way that users can flesh out their Switch's friends lists. In addition to friend codes, users can add friends via a local Switch-to-Switch connection, by sending requests to players that they've already encountered during online multiplayer, and by importing their friends lists from two of Nintendo's mobile apps, Miitomo and Super Mario Run. However, if you can't get two Switches in the same room and you haven't previously connected with your fellow Switch owners online, friend codes are going to be your only option (although individual games might implement their own solutions). According to Nintendo, the Switch's friends list is capped at 300 users.


Xbox Live and Sony's PlayStation Network both use username-based matchmaking systems, which make it relatively easy for players to find one another (provided that you or your friends' online handles aren't complete gibberish, of course). By contrast, Nintendo's friend codes are random 12-digit strings that are hard to memorize and change from system to system (and, sometimes, from game to game), making syncing up with players that you know in real life a major hassle.

Previously, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime promised, "There are no friend codes within what we're doing," but a patch that hit Switch systems earlier this morning indicates otherwise. In addition to revealing the truth about friend codes, the new update unlocked the Switch's eShop and enabled online multiplayer for any games that support it (which is, at the moment, only Super Bomberman R—presumably, other Switch launch titles will join the fray when the Switch launches tomorrow).


Still, there's a chance that friend codes are only a temporary solution. The Switch's online network will be free throughout the spring and summer, but will change to a subscription-based service sometime this fall, and will presumably receive some improvements to justify the cost. Let's hope that a friend code replacement is one of them—online is an area where Nintendo has traditionally lagged behind the competition, and if the company wants to remain competitive, they'll need to considerably step up their efforts in that arena.