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Nintendo Ditches Friend Codes On The Switch

Friend codes, Nintendo's cumbersome and much-criticized system for linking together multiplayer players, are no more, according to Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime.

Fils-Aime told CNET, "There are no friend codes within what we're doing," while discussing the Nintendo Switch's improved online architecture. Older Nintendo portables, including the 3DS, required users to input random 12-digit strings in order to add other players to their online friends list. While the Wii U, Nintendo's most recent console, uses a handle-based system more like the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live for online interactions, friend codes returned in Nintendo's mobile hit, Super Mario Run, leading many to wonder whether the system would be resurrected for the upcoming Switch.

According to Fils-Aime, the move to a more streamlined matchmaking system is part of Nintendo's efforts to modernize its online network, which lags behind its competitors in terms of features and ease-of-use. Improvements coming with the Switch include smart-device-based matchmaking lobbies and voice chat, as well as "free" virtual console titles that will unlock for a limited period of time. Fils-Aime didn't specifically say what would replace friend codes—according to CNET, friends lists will be handled on a "case-by-case basis," although Nintendo hopes to create a unified friend system somewhere down the line.

The Nintendo Switch comes out worldwide on March 3. Online play will be free during the system's launch window, which includes spring and summer, before moving to a subscription-based service later this fall. A better online network is just one of the Switch's many innovative features, which also include versatile motion controllers called Joy-Cons, exclusive games like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the ability to instantly convert the system from a TV-bound console into a portable for on-the-go gaming.