“From a technical perspective, we found them to have rather convoluted technical innards (particularly Flipnote Studio 3D,” James told IGN in an email. “So we had a long-running joke where we speculated about what Nintendo could possibly throw at us next.”The community made the idea of a new Flipnote app for the Switch an in-joke, but the impetus to create fake screenshots for April Fools’ didn’t materialize until five days before April 1.
“Towards the end of March, somebody who apparently wasn’t aware of the joke started to get on our case about [Flipnote Switch] rather aggressively, thinking we were intentionally tricking the community.”
As a response, James created a quick mock-up in Sketch, a design program, and presented it to the community. While the community member in question wasn’t very pleased with the glib response, another developer on the channel was briefly fooled. That spurred the developers to try and flesh out the concept and present fake screenshots of a “leaked” Flipnote Switch app for the community’s annual April Fool’s joke.
James organized the effort and designed fake UI. Other contributors included Calcium who created the artwork, Liss who contributed a fake Japanese translation, and Austin and Rob from Sudomemo, a website dedicated to sharing Flipnote creations long after the service was shuttered officially.
Together, the team created several “leaked” screenshots of a new Flipnote App coming to the Switch, complete with a fake title screen. You can check out some of the assets in the gallery below.
The Fake Flipnote for Switch April Fools’ Joke
James told IGN he has no idea how the screenshots leaked from their Discord server, but the images were soon being picked up by Nintendo fansites as legitimate leaks.
“It was wild that any outlets picked it up at all to be honest, especially when the first few [sites] cited the source as being ‘some random people on a Discord server.’ Like, that wouldn’t normally strike you as being remotely trustworthy, right?” James said.
“But in the following days the telephone-game effect kicked in and soon enough the source was somehow ‘an insider at Nintendo of Japan.’ Things got a little scary then.”
The team released the “leaks” online three days before April 1 with a plan to reveal themselves on April Fools’. By then the screenshots had already made their way to sites like r/NintendoSwitch on Reddit and 4chan.
Then on April Fools’ James revealed the joke.
“Initially it seemed to go as expected,” James said. “Of course we knew people would be disappointed and that there would be a few harsh responses but it felt relatively light-hearted for the most part.”
While the early comments were more finger-wagging than malicious, that soon changed. “Gradually the responses became more intense[.] People started bringing out the slurs and calling for us to be doxxed and/or murdered. While we’re usually fairly laid back, it was clear that people were taking this worse than we imagined.”
“Honestly, go f*** yourself. Why not spend your time creating something useful instead of misleading a bunch of people into thinking something good is around the corner?” read one comment in response to the joke reveal.
“In hindsight, it was a bad time to pull a stunt like this with everything that’s been going in the world recently,” James told IGN. “Everyone’s already a lot more stressed out than usual and it was extremely uncool of us to give them the false hope of something exciting on the horizon.”
James also regretted the decision to stagger the timing of the joke by releasing the screenshots early and revealing the joke three days later.
What began as an in-joke quickly spiraled out of control, thanks to a combination of the internet’s ability to obfuscate information and the video game community’s fixation on leaks and rumors.
“Ultimately there was no malicious intent or anything like that, just an in-joke that was handled very poorly,” James concluded. “It should go without saying that we’re definitely not doing anything like this again.”
Matt Kim is a reporter for IGN. You can reach him on Twitter.