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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's new Stage Builder mode is recommending inappropriate content

Stages with inappropriate images, names are being listed as "Recommended" and do not disappear when reported or blocked

A new Stage Builder mode added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has resulted in a number of inappropriate submissions being promoted through the feature in its first day.

Stage Builder launched last night with version 3.0, and allows players to create their own custom stages for use in the game. Though there are some small limitations to what players can make (a stage has to have some ground to stand on, for example), users can use the Switch's touch screen to draw any shape they like for terrain and certain other decorations and obstacles, including writing out words.

Users can then upload those stages online, where other players can find them either by searching for keywords in the title, searching by a stage ID (if they know it), or by finding it organically through one of three sorting features: By Recommended, By Popular, or By Date.

The combination of these features has led to numerous stages with inappropriate content not only being created and uploaded, but also being promoted on the By Recommended and By Popular sort features, the former of which is immediate visible whenever a user goes to view submitted stages online. At the time this piece was published, multiple stages consisting of or including phallic imagery or other sexual drawings were visible on the By Recommended page, as well as multiple references to 9/11. Some of those images had been up since within the hour of the update going live last night.

In addition, though Nintendo has censors many inappropriate words for use in stage titles and other shared content, users have found a number of ways around the profanity filter, including a few fairly obvious words that are not blocked at all. And since the stages with these titles are also appearing in Popular and Recommended, their visibility makes certain types of content easily searchable.

The online stages do have a Report feature visible by selecting a given stage, though the function requires users to both select a reason from a drop-down list for the report as well as use the controller to type out a more detailed explanation before submitting. In addition, neither reporting a stage nor blocking its creator seems to remove the content from being visible in the Recommended, Popular, or Date sorting sections for the user.

A message appearing when you first open the Smash World menu (which includes shared custom stages) says that "Inappropriate Posts are Prohibited," and specifies the ban of content containing personal information, harassment or bullying, hateful or discriminatory content, or content that infringes upon the rights of others.

Though this isn't the first time Nintendo has allowed stage building in its games under similar conditions (and certainly not the first time people have drawn phallic symbols in an online mode of a game), the wave of inappropriate content being shared seems more prominent than in past Nintendo online titles. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U had a similar stage builder with online sharing features added six months after launch, but didn't have the same apparent search curation that Ultimate has. Meanwhile, Super Mario Maker's toolset made it more challenging to free draw inappropriate images.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is also likely dealing with far more submissions than either game had, given that Super Mario Maker sold 4 million copies over its lifetime, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U sold 5.3 million, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate sold 5 million in its first week.

GamesIndustry.biz has reached out to Nintendo for comment.

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Rebekah Valentine

Senior Staff Writer

Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.