Nintendo: Switch Digital Games Cannot be Shared Across Multiple Systems

The feature may be added later, but Nintendo has no definitive answer right now.

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If you plan on buying multiple Nintendo Switch units for your household when the console goes on sale next Friday, March 3, you'd better be prepared to shell out for multiple copies of the games you want to play with family. While Switch eShop purchases will be tied to your Nintendo account, you can only log into that account on one console at a time.

"Currently we don't have a system like that in place for Nintendo Switch," said Nintendo's Entertainment Planning & Development General Manager Shinya Takahashi, "but we haven't made any final decisions about how we would approach that going forward in the future, so unfortunately I can't provide any concrete answer for you right now."

The answer was recorded by YouTuber CrazyDopetastic at a recent 1-2-Switch preview event at the Nintendo World store in New York City (via Ars Technia). An attendee had asked Takahashi if he would be able to buy digital games from the eShop once and let his kids play them on different Switch units. The implication seems to be that while digital purchases are tied to a Nintendo account, the accounts themselves are locked to hardware.

Both PS4 and Xbox One allow you to download game to the same account on multiple consoles, as long as your account isn't logged in from more than one device. So you can download a multiplayer game on one console, then let another user with access to your account download the game onto their account and play together.

Whether or not Nintendo adds sharing functionality to Switch in a future update, the console will be lacking several digital features at launch. A Web browser will be added later, as will video streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.

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David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 23, 2017 1:25 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, Nintendo: Switch Digital Games Cannot be Shared Across Multiple Systems

    • reply
      February 23, 2017 1:35 PM

      not again!

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      February 23, 2017 1:38 PM

      Man they are so hilariously bad at this

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      February 23, 2017 1:42 PM

      Aaaaannd all my switch games will be physical copies. Thanks for clearing that up Nintendo!

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        February 23, 2017 1:45 PM

        Same for me, but for a different reason. I bought a $15, Zelda-themed carrying case with lots of pockets. Since I'll have the pockets, I'm just going to stick to cartridges. I'd rather spend money on games instead of pricey SD cards.

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        February 23, 2017 1:58 PM

        Aaaaannd all my Switch games will be through the Homebrew Channel!

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      February 23, 2017 1:49 PM

      Have they confirmed this does work for physical games?

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      February 23, 2017 1:51 PM

      Welp. Glad I'm getting physical copies.

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      February 23, 2017 1:51 PM

      Jesus that’s fucking retarded, why the fuck is nintendo so ass backwards in this regard? Between randomly geolocking the 3ds, for whatever reason deciding that you need a new3ds for metroid on the VC and the hardware locking of digital bought games you start to wonder if nintendo is out to sabotage themselves.

      They are sitting on a goldmine of vc game yet they are making people use emulators to get access to them (because fuck the second hand market, I'm not paying hundred of dollars for a snes game I already bought at an obscene price back on release day).

      Even their cartridges come with a pain of having to solder batteries (metroid zero missions had me do that the other day).

      Why would I buy a digital game now over a physical one I could share or re-sell?

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        February 23, 2017 1:58 PM

        Is this something people do fairly often with other consoles?

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          February 23, 2017 2:08 PM

          Could you specify our question? I'm not sure what you are asking, the sharing of data between consoles? Yeah. Especially given the handheld nature and if you have family/kids.

          Its not like nintendo is oblivious to it either, the 3ds version of mariokart had a share game feature for multiple players.


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            February 23, 2017 3:31 PM

            Yeah, I've never really been in a situation where I could/wanted to sign in on another console (that wasn't my home console), so I have no idea if it's a thing lots of people do or not.

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              February 23, 2017 3:46 PM

              [deleted]

              • reply
                February 23, 2017 5:00 PM

                [deleted]

                • reply
                  February 23, 2017 10:48 PM

                  No it's at the same time. We have a couple threads asking how to do this every month.

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                    February 24, 2017 10:18 AM

                    Same with PS4.

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                      February 24, 2017 10:19 AM

                      Nvm I remember seeing PS4 threads about it. They're just not as common

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              February 23, 2017 5:50 PM

              People do this more between their phone and tablet than with consoles. I have three daughters. Be really nice to buy a game digital once and have them all play on separate machines. You can do this with family accounts on Google and Apple.

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          February 23, 2017 4:23 PM

          No, you can't.

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            February 23, 2017 10:53 PM

            Yes with Xbox.

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            February 24, 2017 1:56 AM

            Me and my gf do this all the time... I make her PS4 my primary PS4 and she can log into HER account to play any games I have purchased that are downloaded on her ps4.
            Meanwhile I can log into my ps4 at home and play with her online since I am signed into my account and have actually bought these games...
            PS3 used to be you could have 5 consoles registered under one account but too many people abused that and that's why we only have ONE primary console and that’s it.

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              February 24, 2017 3:19 AM

              Got it. There are similar restrictions on Steam (single game at a time restriction with computers logged in) and I remember the terms you talked about with the PS3.

              I assume its this way with the Switch since offline will be a fairly common use case because its also a handheld without something like a cellular antenna for check-ins. You can sign in multiple users on a single Switch so if the owner of the system has the game than you can presumably sign into that system and use your save game. Confusing!

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                February 24, 2017 3:47 AM

                I don't know why Nintendo can't just go to the Microsoft or Sony route.
                Primary user shares all licenses with all other uses and also applies it's PS Plus status to all users... So you only have to purchase one monthly online subscription for all users on one Console.
                Plus if you go to someone elses house you can just sign in (without disrupting your home console) and play whatever you're library contains.
                I know it's a rare scenario but when I visit family out of town, it's nice to know I can just login to my cousin's PlayStation and play MY games...
                Sony just needs to work on their stupid cloud saves

                • reply
                  February 24, 2017 3:55 AM

                  It works in your first scenario since you can have multiple user accounts on a single device, all with their own save data. The roadblock is if someone else's device doesn't have the game.

                  Of course, if you go visit out of town you can just bring your own Switch with you, pretty easy compared to packing a PS4. Even if you decide to bring the dock its still a very small amount of hardware to carry since the dock is about the size of two 3DS XLs stacked.

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                    February 24, 2017 4:00 AM

                    It just sucks when you want to play together...Like me and the lady do without buying extra copies.
                    I'm sure once we move in it won't be as big of a deal but it's always cool being able to play co-op or something online like destiny on our own console and full TV.
                    Hopefully Nintendo adds a family account or something

            • reply
              February 24, 2017 7:07 AM

              So, is your PS4 her primary?

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                February 24, 2017 1:44 PM

                Yeah, I get to play the few scary games shes purchased...
                We do communicate so we don't buy the same things
                it also sucks when I want to play Remote play wih the Vita
                it automatically goes to your primary PS4 and theres no way of changing that... Unless you're at home, it'll detect the ps4 on the same wifi network.

        • reply
          February 24, 2017 6:02 AM

          Yeah I shared digital games with some friends on PS3.

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        February 23, 2017 4:09 PM

        you cant re-sell or share xbox1 or ps4 digital games either, what are you on about

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          February 23, 2017 4:35 PM

          Reread what I wrote, the last part is completely independent. It just a value assessment between digital and physical if you subtract the ability to access the same account on multiple hardware (something you can with xbox/ps4 as seen here for example: http://manuals.playstation.net/document/en/ps4/settings/activation.html)

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          February 23, 2017 6:57 PM

          You can use them on multiple consoles, though. Have a PS4 at work for downtime situations and I can have a game on both.

    • reply
      February 23, 2017 1:54 PM

      Eh this doesn't really bother me. I'm far from a Switch fanboy but the just purchases being account bound was more than what I was expecting from nintendo. Pleasantly surprised.

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      February 23, 2017 2:08 PM

      The way they have things setup they could change that in the future and lock it down to one copy running at a time per account. I don't think they designed it to check for that stuff prior to launching the game though (particularly with how it appears accounts work in general) which would be the problem. You can still download it on another system, but that requires moving your "account" to that system which probably gets rid of it on the prior box. I do wonder about how that works with the SD cards though.

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        February 23, 2017 3:38 PM

        Yeah, I don't see how they'd get around this outside of requiring online check-ins to make sure a game isn't being played on multiple systems at once from a single account.

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          February 23, 2017 3:44 PM

          Isn't that how the other systems do it? On Xbox One your designated main or "home" console will be able to play digital games offline, but all others with your account attached have to be online for the check in and the game to work outside of your "home" console.

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            February 23, 2017 3:47 PM

            [deleted]

          • reply
            February 23, 2017 3:57 PM

            I dunno, I only have single consoles. I went all digital with Wii U and 3DS and this time things are account based so I'll be doing it here for sure.

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          February 23, 2017 4:08 PM

          I think the way they would do it is pretty simple, you link your Switch to your Nintendo ID, and if you want to link a new Switch to that Nintendo ID, you have to "unlink" the old Switch in order to redownload the games.

          Here is a sneaky way Nintendo can still allow remote "unlinking" in the case that you "lost" your old Switch. There is a rumored mechanism that allows firmware to be shared with other Switch, even if they are offline. This of course happens via the ad-hoc Wi-Fi features that let you play local multiplayer with other Switch owners. This could also be used to remotely "unlink" even if they never connect to Wi-Fi again. They essentially turn all the ad-hoc Switch units into a detective that simply pushes the "unlink" command to deactivated Switch, regardless of internet connection.

          Of course that would be kind of sneaky and I think it is likely they just do the "unlinking" the next time the old Switch goes online. If this is the case, they could just limit the amount of remote "unlinking" you can do in a given year, so you can’t just share your account without eventually running out of account resets.

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            February 23, 2017 4:22 PM

            You could change licenses between missing or sold 3DS and Wii U consoles with a phone call. This removes that step now that software licenses are account based and not hardware/account based.

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              February 23, 2017 4:31 PM

              Right, but if I am understanding this article correctly, you can’t share them across multiple systems, which means the only way to get them to a different system is by "releasing" the licenses from the previous system.

              Basically this is all just a roundabout way of Nintendo saying they will offer a digital way transferring licenses to a different system, without requiring a link cable, and without requiring a phone call. So that leads me to believe you have to "unlink" the old system while it is connected to the internet. Then you can start redownloading the games to the new system.

              They could still have the old "phone call" method for when the old system is inaccessible to prevent it from being abused by people who think they can trick the licensing system by keeping one system offline.

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                February 23, 2017 5:03 PM

                You'd have to download games to the other system regardless. I assume it would be a matter of logging off one system and signing on the other one.

                Again, I don't really care about this. Save games aren't even physically portable via cartridges anymore since they no longer have rewritable flash. Save files are now on device and in the cloud.

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                  February 23, 2017 5:05 PM

                  Oh I agree it doesn’t matter to me, I was just trying to reverse engineer the possible technical steps to transferring games to a different system. It will probably all be well documented once it is released and someone tests it all out.

    • reply
      February 23, 2017 3:53 PM

      Hahaha. Nintendo digital store, not even once!

    • reply
      February 23, 2017 4:14 PM

      ooooof

    • Zek
      reply
      February 23, 2017 4:16 PM

      Doesn't bother me. You old farts and your kids and families.

    • reply
      February 23, 2017 4:38 PM

      So let's list the digital game stores that do allow this:

      * Xbox (license is tied to console and travels with purchaser account)
      * ?

      • reply
        February 23, 2017 4:57 PM

        Both PS4 and Xbox One allow you to download game to the same account on multiple consoles, as long as your account isn't logged in from more than one device.

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        February 23, 2017 5:03 PM

        Every one but Nintendo?

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        February 23, 2017 5:32 PM

        Xbox, PSN, Steam, Origin, UPlay, iOS, etc

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          February 23, 2017 6:34 PM

          It doesn't work on Steam, at least not for the same game at the same time while both computers are online. I can't say for sure about Origin or UPlay because I don't really use them.

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            February 23, 2017 6:58 PM

            I don't think anyone is expecting multiple consoles at the same time.

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              February 23, 2017 7:40 PM

              then this is such a niche user case that frankly I dont fault nintendo for not supporting

              the only thing Id be worried about is how you get the games back if you lost the console, but historically they have a solution for that so I'm sure theres a similar thing

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                February 23, 2017 7:57 PM

                Probably less of an issue since it's portable, but it's super nice with most services that you can go to a friend's house, log in to your account and and have your digital library accessible on a completely different system.

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                February 23, 2017 8:15 PM

                Niche or no, it works on every other platform.

              • reply
                February 23, 2017 9:07 PM

                I love going over to my buddy's house with a PS4 and loading up the latest co-op game I've grabbed on my account. Not niche to me, damn it! Not niche to ME.

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                  February 23, 2017 10:26 PM

                  in this case it would make more sense to just bring your switch over and use their dock. it would be a hassle to login to another account, use up their storage, then tell your friend to remember to delete your stuff when you leave

              • reply
                February 23, 2017 10:01 PM

                How do you think that a niche user case?

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            February 23, 2017 9:55 PM

            Actually, no. You're right. I probably misinterpreted the use case here.

            Then are people complaining about not being able to play a game on multiple devices at the same time or are people complaining that you can't log out of your original device to play the game on a different device? The Ars article seemed to imply the latter.

            AFAIK, the PS4 and XB1 have some workaround to allow two active sessions. Steam and the other PC services only allow one active session. Apple doesn't seem to care when it comes to iOS and Mac apps. Otherwise, everyone allows the second scenario I mentioned.

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      February 24, 2017 3:19 AM

      I don't want yo ben that guy but, with the console being an hybrid, wouldn't it make more sense for this specific use to own an extra dock rather than a second system?

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      February 24, 2017 6:58 AM

      I'm never going to be using someone else's switch, so who cares.

      • reply
        February 24, 2017 7:28 AM

        What are you going to do when your switch dies because you dropped it?

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          February 24, 2017 7:30 AM

          Log in with my nintendo account and put all my games on the new switch (after a phone call to nintendo).

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