At Facebook’s headquarters earlier this week, some employees mocked up designs on whiteboards, while others, fueled by Red Bull, hunched over in front of screens, tapping furiously. The company was holding one of its signature hackathon events, which in the past have produced its chat feature, Timeline profile design, and the iconic “Like” button. Except this crash-coding session wasn’t meant to produce the next big feature for Facebook’s 1.49 billion users. Instead, company staffers were building a level for the next Super Mario game.
Super Mario Maker, which is set for release on Sept. 11, is one of the most hotly anticipated Nintendo games of the year. The game will let players design their own levels that they can play through as Mario or share online. They can also download levels designed by friends or semiprofessionals, creating a virtually endless supply of levels to try.
Nintendo, which is currently without a permanent leader after President Satoru Iwata died in July, is hoping that an innovative new Mario game can breathe some life into the Wii U, a product that’s struggling. Sony, which is currently leading the game console market, has sold more than 20 million PlayStation 4 systems, at least double the number of Wii Us sold. Nintendo’s hardware struggles aside, the company managed to turn a profit last quarter, thanks partly to the weaker yen and its hit Wii U shooting game Splatoon.
Facebook collaborated with Nintendo to offer employees a lighthearted break from their daily coding routines. Mark Zuckerberg, in particular, is a proponent of video games, which he has credited with being an inspiration for getting into programming. As part of the Super Mario Maker promotion, judges from Nintendo and Facebook crowned a winner on July 29, who will have their level available to owners of the game after it comes out. Facebook engineers Doug Strait and Roy McElmurry won for their submission, Ship Love. And as you can see from the photos below, these geeks take their Mario very seriously.
—With David Paul Morris
Correction: A previous version of this story contained photo captions that incorrectly identified the location of Facebook’s headquarters. It is in Menlo Park, Calif.