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Three annoying ways Nintendo Switch storage is locked down

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Still linked to the past

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Now that Nintendo Switch consoles are arriving (though not for everybody), we have finally found out exactly what you can and can’t do with them when it comes to save files and downloaded games. The answer: not very much at all.

Polygon has pointed out all the various problems, which amount to a system that’s significantly more locked down than the competition. It seems as though Nintendo wants to limit everything to a single console rather than to your online Nintendo account — which could make life a bit more difficult if you lose your Switch or happen to want to use a friend’s.

Here are the three main problems:

  1. When you save your game, it only can be saved to local storage. You can’t move the save file to a microSD card and it’s not uploaded into the cloud. So if you’re 40 hours into Zelda and lose your console, you’re fresh out of luck and will have to start over.
  2. You can’t take a microSD card out of one Switch and put it in another one — as far as Nintendo’s concerned, it has to be reformatted. This presumably makes it harder for people to pirate games — but it also means that you can’t take your downloaded games and just play them on another console, even if you log in with your account.
  3. Downloaded games are locked to one console at a time. Even if you log in to another console, you can’t download and play your eShop-purchase games unless you deregister your other console and activate the new one.

That last part might not seem like a big deal, but is does mean that if you lose your Switch (or it gets stolen), you have to call Nintendo and have the company deregister your old device before you can download them again. And even then, your save files are kaput.

Other systems like the Xbox or Playstation have much more user-friendly policies when it comes to your games and their associated save files. It’s not just that your games are saved to the cloud so you can start where you left off on any console — it’s that you can log into another console and have access to your games (though there is some persnickety “primary console” stuff to deal with sometimes).

Nintendo got some well-deserved plaudits for choosing to launch the Switch without region locking, but it seems like Nintendo’s progressiveness ended there. Perhaps these restrictions (and those annoying Friend Codes) will get better with future updates, but I wouldn’t assume that’ll be the case. Right now, if you’re lucky enough to own a Switch, make sure you understand what you can and can’t do with these files. It’s probably less than you would like.