Back in July, a poster on a forum dedicated to hacking and homebrewing Nintendo hardware reported something weird happening with their Switch: they set the game console down, and when they returned to it, it was running the old Nintendo Entertainment System game Golf. They apparently played the game for a bit, then turned it off, and Golf disappeared. And, given that they recorded absolutely no proof of this bizarre event, you (and the rest of the internet) would be forgiven for thinking it was just another dumb hoax by a forum poster looking for attention.
But here’s the thing: Not only is Golf apparently embedded in every single Nintendo Switch, it seems to be there as part of an elaborate tribute to the company’s late president, Satoru Iwata, who died in 2015. This is per Ars Technica, which poked around the efforts of these communities and watched as hackers delved into the system’s firmware to discover its secrets.
Certain groups of homebrewers had known for some time that there was an NES emulator named Flog (get it?) hidden in the Switch’s code, but no one had found a way to trigger it without doing a bunch of jailbreaking and other brute force methods. But, looking through the code, they claim to have eventually worked out that Golf’s appearance was linked to a specific date—that is, July 11, the day Iwata died—and set of Joy-Con gestures—the same hand movements he frequently made while giving his beloved Nintendo Direct presentations. And why Golf, a simplistic but fun little golf game released in 1984? Iwata programmed it, meaning that a bit of his code lives on in every single Switch. It’s enough to make grizzled old games fans and industrious hackers alike get a little misty-eyed. (Provided this is all actually true, anyway; the July 11 unlock is done through the system’s internet-controlled clock, so people won’t be able to test it en masse for another 10 months.)