The game, a golf game programmed by Iwata in his early days at Nintendo, could only be launched on the date of Iwata’s birthday, by using the joycons on the Switch’s main menu screen to make a specific gesture he was famous for.
Yesterday, Switch hacker SciresM reported that Nintendo’s recent firmware 4.0.0 has removed the golf game from the console. Specifically, he says all related APIs have been stubbed (meaning the function call is still here but does nothing), and the game itself has been overwritten with random data.
Switch update 4.0.0 stubs “flog” — all code to launch it removed, and flog executable overwritten with (signed) garbage. https://t.co/6Q47sHn7Ud
It’s unclear why Nintendo made that decision. The golf game was a nice little touch and a good demonstration of Nintendo’s spirit. Mainstream media loved the easter egg once it was revealed by hackers.
However people have a few theories. The most obvious one is that somehow, Nintendo fears that tinkerers could use this as an entry point for future hacks. Specifically, there were hopes in the scene that a full fledged NES emulator was shipping within the Switch, and that maybe the golf game could easily be replaced with other NES games. In the same line of thoughts, maybe Nintendo are getting ready for NES support on the Switch, and wanted a clean slate.
Some people are hoping that maybe the removal is temporary, and the homage will come back temporarily each year, as we get closer to Iwata’s birthday (in July). An other explanation from twitter user user @joelippard, which I find strangely satisfying, is that maybe by finding the game, hackers have broken its meaning.
It’s because the flog was intended to be an “omamori” for Iwata, or an amulet asking for a blessing. You don’t open an omamori, or else you lose its benefits. When people found the Golf Iwata tribute, they “opened” the omamori. It’s all about their culture.