Tech

Behind the 12-year-old Wii Sports hoax that briefly fooled the Internet

Before his resignation in late 2017, Uber's then-CEO Travis Kalanick faced more than his fair share of scandals. But by far the most (read: least) important of these was Kalanick's oftrepeated claim that, at one point, he "held the worlds second-highest score for the Nintendo Wii Tennis video game," as a New York Times profile confidently stated without qualification.

Ars dug deep to get at the truth of this claim, publishing a 3,000-word expose that proved definitively (read: probably) that Kalanick was really just confused about what it means to have a "high score" in a game like Wii Sports Tennis.

Now, over two years after that blockbuster report shook the world of tech-executive video game high-score competition, new information has come to light that has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of this important (read: pointless) story yet again.

Wait, what happened?

First, a partial recap: the closest thing Wii Sports Tennis has to an overarching "score" is the player's "skill level." That's the Elo-style measure of performance that goes up and down depending on how well you do against the computer-controlled AI.

Based on a formula derived by a truly obsessive Wii Sports Tennis player, it takes roughly 160 perfect 40-Love matches against the game's computer opponents to raise your skill level to 2399. After that, the skill level asymptotically approaches but never quite reaches the mythical 2400, since the game's internal decimal always gets rounded down to 2399 for the on-screen display.

Enlarge / Unless there's some magical, unknown way to alter photos, this is definitive proof of a 2400 Wii Sports skill rating.Archive.org

The only semi-credible claim to the contrary comes from an unsigned post to defunct Web host 250free back in early 2007 (archived here). The anonymous poster (who posed with a Mii avatar named "Adam") wrote that it took "nearly 20,000 games" and over 900 hours of play across 78 days to get from a 2399 rating to a 2400 rating. A counter displayed on that page suggests more than 60,000 people read Adam's story.

The truth of that anonymous claim was always questionable, even with the "photographic evidence" of Adam posing in front of a screen showing a 2400 rating. The important thing, for our purposes, was that the claim itself existed online in the late 2000s, when Kalanick could plausibly find it and perhaps cite it as evidence that his presumed 2399 rating was "tied for second."

A message from the past

Keep all that in mind and imagine my reaction when I got an email that led off with the line "My name is Adam Haller, and I'm the shirtless guy in the 2400 Wii Tennis picture."

Our little "Adam" is all grown up, and he found a shirt!
Enlarge / Our little "Adam" is all grown up, and he found a shirt!

Haller, who later confirmed his identity with a more modern (shirted) photo, went on to lay out the details of his hoax from more than 10 years prior (lightly edited here for clarity):

I just wanted to let you know that there was a global leader-board at some point for Wii Tennis. It wasn't hosted directly by Nintendo but a website similar to highscores.com (I can't recall the exact URL) [Editor's note: He may be thinking of Read More – Source

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Ars Technica

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