When a Nintendo Switch rolls off the proverbial factory conveyor belt, the systems don’t just get stuffed into boxes for sale. Nintendo tests all hardware to make sure that it runs correctly, of course. And as of the latest (and handy) Switch firmware update, the tool it uses to put the system through its paces has changed.
Discovery of the alteration comes from ever-reliable Nintendo game preservationist, togemet2, who recently shared an image of the old program on Twitter. Curiously nicknamed the Fish Aging Test, the test app, pictured above, runs for about 30 minutes. That’s what the timer in the photograph above shows, how much time is left on this particular exam. While the timer runs, a version of the underwater theme from New Super Mario Bros. Wii plays in the background.
“If the Switch passes through the 30 minutes without any issues, then it goes further down the production line,” togemet2 told Kotaku.
Here’s some shaky-cam footage of it in action, from a system that made it out into the wild with the back-end programs intact. The leading theory is that the fish aren’t entirely random, and appear to hail from a Nvidia graphics sample program that also happens to be aqua-themed.
So far, very Nintendo, right? The Japanese company has a way of making even mundane tasks, like downloading games on your 3DS, feel playful largely through music. Togemet2 tells Kotaku that in this regard, the Switch isn’t unique, as every system, from the SNES to the DS, have some sort of testing program. The SNES, for example, has a Nintendo-branded cart that can be inserted into the system to check out things like working buttons and proper sound. Some of these tests are straitlaced and boring, while others play cool animations, like an advertisement for the old Nintendo help hotline.
Well, the Switch has gone from a more (shall we say) youthful test program to a more serious and grown-up one. Now instead of watching fish “age” in real time, as hackers and modders call it, Switches get tested with a program that looks like this:
The tester still uses the 30-minute baseline, while also displaying important bits of info, like framerate and power consumption. A typical user will likely never see any of this, of course—unless their brand-new Switch happens to fall through the testing cracks. Does that sound improbable? Well, it’s actually happened before!
Makes me laugh to think someone out there might pick up a Switch, maybe wanting to try out that Animal Crossing game they keep hearing about, only to be hit with some weird-ass boxes that look nothing like a video game instead.
Will the change in testing affect everyday Switch owners? Not at all, but still, it’s cool to peek under the hood and see how the hardware that we use every day actually gets made.