Nintendo has created quite a legacy for itself. Sure, it's best known for its popular characters, memorable games, talented developers, and so much more on the creative side of the business, but it's also known for its hard line family-friendly policies. The company would rather sacrifice functionality and, at times, revenue to avoid offending audiences. Now Nintendo has acted once again in the interests of thinking of the children by discontinuing SpotPass support for its Nintendo 3DS SwapNote app. This basically cripples SwapNote, as its primary use involved sending handwritten messages and photos via the Internet. Want to send a fun message to someone on your Friend List via the Internet instead of meeting in person? You can't anymore. Sending messages via local StreetPass remains an option, but how often has anyone used that? Stephen Totilo at Kotaku explains:
Nintendo just turned off one of the online features of the 3DS, seemingly forever, deactivating the online support for its note-sharing SwapNote service on systems worldwide. The company did this, effective 10pm ET today, after saying SwapNote was "actively misused" to transmit "offensive material" among system users, including minors.
According to Nintendo, that service was exploited to send offensive material. The gaming giant specifically calls out the app's support for the sharing of photos, so this doesn't seem like just a case of people sharing naughty drawings.
The company is saying the only way to stop the problematic photo-sharing is to deactivate SwapNote's online functionality. This is effective around the world and, notably, Nintendo was able to do this without requiring users to make any changes on their end.
Those fun special SwapNote messages from Nintendo developers have also been discontinued. I can think of other ways to protect children from rogue SwapNope messages besides turning off the service. There's moderation options to consider, the much-lauded parental controls, terminating the photo sharing option while leaving the text messages intact, or requiring some additional authentication in order to send SwapNote messages online. It's just easier for Nintendo drop the whole thing though, as expecting parents to be involved with their kids' 3DS activities is apparently a step too far. I've used SwapNote at times to send [appropriate!] messages and photos to friends and while I haven't used to much lately, I'm sad to see the feature go.
There's no shortage of ways to send messages to friends in our online world, but seeing Nintendo retreat from online communication once again in the name of the children is head-shakingly disappointing. Other companies and services have implemented ways to police inappropriate content, but Nintendo doesn't dare want its name linked with children seeing naughty things. The media loves to come down hard on the company at any sensationalistic opportunity, and to that end I understand why Nintendo made this decision. Still, if the company didn't want to risk offering online communication tools like SwapNote, why develop and release them at all? Surely they realized the risk was there.