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Nintendo pulls game from eShop after developer revealed it included a secret code editor

A developer who included a secret code editor in their Nintendo Switch game has had it removed from the Nintendo eShop.

Amir Rajan, who developed the role-playing, text-based game A Dark Room, included the secret “easter egg” to “allow kids (and coding adults that have forgotten the joy) to discover what [he] discovered [about coding] 25 years ago”. Just a couple of weeks later, however, the game has been removed, but the exploit was not spotted by Nintendo directly; instead, it was the developer themselves who revealed the secret “easter egg”.

“I have a crazy announcement I want to share. Please boost,” the developer said in a post online. “Last week I released A Dark Room to the Nintendo Switch. Within the game, I also shipped a Ruby interpreter and a code editor as an Easter Egg. This Easter Egg effectively turns every consumer spec-ed Nintendo Switch into a Ruby Machine.”

“I deeply regret how this has blown up,” Rajan said in a candid interview with Eurogamer after the game was removed from the eShop. “A simple toy sandboxed environment has been framed as this massive exploit. And of course, it’s the community that exploits these things that pushed it up to that level. I’m partly to blame with my sensationalised media posts. I acted alone and stupidly. It was a last second ‘spark of inspiration’ and I snuck it in assuming that plugging in a USB keyboard and pressing the “~” key wasn’t part of the test plan.”

The developer insists the editor only permits players to draw lines, squares, labels, and play sounds. It could also detect if a button on the Joy-con has been pressed. “You can’t even render an image with the damn thing,” Rajan said.

“The narrative that has played out online is exactly what’s wrong with this trashcan fire of a world,” Rajan continued. “Everyone is an armchair expert. Everyone thought the worst. You’ve seen that I’ve been called a dick, idiot, and everything in between. Because sensationalised news sells. If the narrative was ‘I added a sandbox to A Dark Room that lets you mod the game and provide a medium for kids to code (and technical parents to show their kids what they do),’ it would have gone unnoticed.

“Again, I’m partly to blame for sensationalising the extent of the ‘coding’ environment.”

“A Dark Room was removed from the eShop on 26th April, and we learnt of the likely reason for its removal through the weekend,” said a statement from Circle Entertainment, A Dark Room’s publisher. “We’re liaising with Nintendo to clarify on the next steps and will deal with the matter accordingly; they are regretful circumstances and we apologise for the issue. We have always worked hard to carefully follow Nintendo’s processes and terms throughout our history of publishing on DSiWare, 3DS eShop, Wii U eShop and Nintendo Switch eShop, and we’re sorry that there has evidently been an issue with this title.

“Until we clarify the next steps with Nintendo we can’t offer any further comment.”

“Having Circle deal with some of this cannon fire is not something I’d ever want,” Rajan said about the impact the revelation has had on their publisher. “These past three days have been the worst days of my life. And I don’t know what to say except I’m sorry, and all I wanted to do was allow kids (and coding adults that have forgotten the joy) to discover what I discovered 25 years ago.”

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond.

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