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.
SwapNote is a cute, free Nintendo-made app that lets users create and share hand-written notes and drawings. Users can connect the program to the Internet and, with SpotPass activated, transmit and receive notes. It's been available since December 2011.
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.
If you have a 3DS and have SpotPass activated, you probably just got this news in the form of a blue light flashing on the system and the following note in the system's notifications interface:
Thank you for your support.
Nintendo has learned that some consumers, including minors, have been exchanging their friend codes on Internet bulletin boards and then using Swapnote (known as Nintendo Letter Box in other regions) 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.
Nintendo always wants to provide a positive experience for all consumers and limit the risk of any inappropriate activity or misuse of a service. We feel it is important on this occasion to take this action.
We are very sorry for any inconvenience to the many consumers who have been using this service responsibly; however this decision was made considering the point that many minors also use this feature of Swapnote. Thank you for your understanding.
Nintendo will continue to work to ensure more consumers are aware of our Parental Control features, which allow parents to manage their children's experience on our systems. For more information, please click here.
Service stop date: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 7 p.m. PT
Service being stopped: Nintendo 3DS software Swapnote – Sending and receiving notes using SpotPass
Affected regions: All regions where the service was offered
Special Notes services are also stopped
Nintendo itself has regularly sent notes to 3DS owners about new and upcoming games. The messages are often addressed from Nintendo's top creators. But it seems like all online functionality for SpotPass is being cut off.