When Nintendo launched the Switch, it was a hard time for me personally, because while there was a handheld option, it was mostly a system to play games on your television. With my semi-okay eyesight and medium-size Roku television, I just didn’t need another game device like that, even though I longed to play Fire Emblem: Three Houses. However, when the handheld-only Switch Lite was announced, I rejoiced, ordered it, and have been happily romancing every woman in Three Houses.
But the launch of the Lite has brought on new issues for those who have both systems.
Gizmodo’s Alex Cranz brought to my attention just how broken the Nintendo Switch cloud save system is, after the huge excitement for a new Animal Crossing, because of strict restrictions on cloud save access—already only available to those who are part of Nintendo Switch Online, which is an additional subscription cost.
The problem is the limitation Nintendo is putting on saves. The FAQ at the end of the New Horizons video notes that cloud saves will not immediately be available. Instead, they’re coming later, and only to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. That’s an obnoxious caveat given Sony, Microsoft, Google, and even PC stores like Steam support cloud saves for free.
Worse is that according to the fine print, those saves aren’t freely accessible to the Nintendo Switch Online holders—rather the cloud save is only intended to be used in the case of a lost or damaged system and can only be used once.
Nintendo’s Switch cloud save feature has always been a pain in the butt, clearly designed more as an emergency backup than as a way to provide easy access to save data for multiple consoles (and they’ve always mentioned that it would vary on a per-game basis), but this is inexplicably an even less flexible version of it.
This was actually timely for me because I had been contemplating if it would be worth it to invest in a Switch for times when I have guests over, but paying $299 to play Smash on a TV screen, when literally everyone else I know already owns it, felt like a waste—especially when all the games I want to play and do play on a regular basis are just handheld games. Still, for hardcore gamers and those who have accounts for their children, it seems ridiculous that there is such limited save options and recovery options for games.
With how much all these things cost, the leaning towards digital downloadable content, and the general downsizing most people are doing, it’s necessary for digital purchases, and the data that goes along with them, to be protected in some way—if not by automatic cloud saving, there should be a “backup” option that you can ignore for weeks on end until you realize, “Yeah, that’s probably the right idea.”
I’m lucky that if I lose my Switch, then the worst is that I lose some progress in Pokémon and just have to do the whole thing again—which is pretty much what I sign up for every time I buy a new game anyway. For others, lack of a robust, free cloud save option may be a more frustrating limitation, and one that seems strangely controlling to impose on gamers.
Cranz says that this policy seems “less like a company making purposeful choices to prevent piracy and cheating, and more a company stuck in an outmoded way of doing things,” and considering how much Nintendo traffics in nostalgia and repackaging successful IP, that’s probably not far from the truth.
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