Nintendo EAD employees, Yoshiaki Koizumi and Hideaki Shimizu, collaborate on a side-project for fun: a drawing app using the Nintendo DS touch screen which could send creations to a Wii for presentation on the big screen. Koizumi helped evolve the idea to support making flipbook-style animations with sound effects from the DS microphone. At the time, neither knew that the Nintendo DSi was in development.
Koizumi and Shimizu share their project with others in the office, calling it “Flipnote Workshop”. Initially, one of their colleagues dismissed the idea, thinking that nobody would want to make flipbook animations on a game console.
While on the train, Koizumi had the idea that the application could double as a traditional notepad, suggesting to Shimizu that it be called “Ugoku Memochou” (“Moving Memo Pad”), or “Ugomemo” for short.
For a while, they considered using the local wireless feature in the DS to let users share Flipnotes among friends, but they wanted a way for people to share their creations with the wider world. Fortunately, Takashi Tezuka shared news of the upcoming Nintendo DSi to Koizumi and Shimizu, who realised that the DSi would be the perfect platform for their project. They presented it to Tezuka, who found the concept unique, but thought that it had a limited window of opportunity to be completed, so quickly arranged a meeting with himself, Koizumi, Shimizu, and Nintendo’s CEO, the late Satoru Iwata, to discuss implementing an online service.
Because Nintendo’s Network Development Department was already busy with several other projects, Iwata feared that Flipnote Studio wouldn’t be able to release until late 2009, so suggested collaboration with Hatena Co., Ltd, a company which provides various social internet services in Japan.
The development of Flipnote Hatena begins. Over several weekends, Teppei Ninomiya takes up a temporary residence in a condo in Tokyo and develops the first prototype within just three days of work. From October, he is joined by a few additional Hatena developers to begin working directly with Nintendo inside their Tokyo offices.
After roughly three months of work, Junya Kundo of Hatena presents the announcement of Flipnote Hatena.
Following the demonstration, Kondo spoke about the Flipnote Hatena website for the PC and shared some details about its development. He noted that Hatena hadn’t actually taken any payment from Nintendo. Instead, he saw Flipnote Hatena as an opportunity to introduce a wider audience to Hatena’s other services, with some revenue coming in from advertising and selling premium features such as colour stars.
A preview of the Flipnote Hatena website was released later that day, featuring sample Flipnotes mainly created by Hatena and Nintendo employees.
These samples can be viewed in the Archive:
Flipnote Studio is released in Japan.
Flipnote Studio is released in North America, Europe and Oceania.
Flipnote Hatena passes 1 million registered users
Flipnote Hatena was shut down, following a notice issued on May 14, 2013 in the wake of Flipnote Studio 3D’s announcement.
Flipnote Hatena users gradually began to leave the service after the release of the Nintendo 3DS in 2011. As a result, development speed slowed and the Flipnote Hatena team was downsized, with staff reassigned to other Hatena projects. The staff were made aware that the service would be closed down to make way for Flipnote Studio 3D, a Flipnote Studio sequel for the Nintendo 3DS that was in the later stages of development.
Eitaro Fukamachi (nitro_idiot), a developer who joined the Flipnote Hatena team in 2011, shared their thoughts about the sudden announcement via Twitter, saying, “Even after a service is closed, the history will always remain”.
Flipnote Studio 3D is released in Japan, along with an online service called Flipnote Gallery World. It included a section called the ‘DSi Library’, which allowed limited access to Flipnotes brought over from Flipnote Hatena, provided that the unique Flipnote Studio ID of the creator was known.
The first fan-made Flipnote Hatena replacement services - PBSDS’ hatena-server and Austin Burk’s Sudomemo - are launched. Sudomemo is still available today.
Flipnote Studio 3D finally launches in the Americas region as a Club Nintendo exclusive. However, following concerns about inappropriate content being shared using Swapnote / Nintendo Letter Box on the 3DS, online functionality was omitted completely, except for the ability to use the DSi Library feature.
It was made available in Europe and Australia a year later with the launch of the new My Nintendo loyalty program in March 2016, still lacking Flipnote Gallery: World access.
Kaeru Gallery (then called ‘Project Kaeru’, after the app’s codename) launches as the first fan-made online service for Flipnote Studio 3D, following progress in efforts to reverse engineer the Flipnote Studio 3D online services. It uses a patch to replace the DSi Gallery function in worldwide versions with a full online service allowing users to browse & share 3D Flipnotes.
All official online services for Flipnote Studio 3D, including DSi Library, are closed down. Content from Flipnote Hatena is no longer available through official means. Kaeru Gallery launches in Japan to fill the gap.
The Kaeru Gallery DSi Library function launches, providing online access to browse a subset of old Flipnotes from the official DSi Library which had been captured by the Internet Archive. A command-line tool to do this called Flipnote Fetcher was released a few months earlier.
Nine years after Flipnote Hatena closed its doors, Flipnote Archive, a full collection of Flipnotes archived from the DSi Library, finally launches after years of hard work from Sudomemo and the wider Flipnote development community.