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All the Nintendo accounts you need for your Switch

There are fewer than you may think

my nintendo Nintendo

Nintendo has developed a bit of a reputation for sending console and handheld owners through the rigamarole of its online services. The company has juggled friend codes, a variety of IDs, friend codes again and, most recently, an account system that appears to be more akin to that of Nintendo’s competitors. But knowing which accounts are required for what remains inscrutable to Nintendo fans of all kinds.

Now that the Switch is mere days away, it’s time to take stock of every ID, account and service that hopeful owners will need in order to get the most out of their consoles. Laying it all out there should make keeping track of what’s what slightly less terrifying ... even if only slightly.

Nintendo Account

The unified Nintendo Account system is the most important one to have as a modern-day Nintendo console owner. It’s a system that lives online, connects to a variety of accounts and platforms, and is required to get the most out of Nintendo’s other online services and mobile games.

Anyone can create a Nintendo Account on the service’s website, although there are a variety of options for logging into the system. While everyone must make a dedicated username and password, logging in with Twitter, Facebook or Google — or Nintendo Network ID, which we’ll get to in a second — is also possible if those accounts are linked.

Once inside, users will find ... not much! There’s an account activity tab, which keeps track of all recent Nintendo eShop purchases tied to that Nintendo Account; parental controls settings for restricting younger users from certain features; and a typically dry coupons catalogue. (There’s also a mysterious “Check In” function, which is a unique QR code that doesn’t have much of a real world use yet.)

The barren Account landing page did get some minor tweaks recently, including a handful of these features. Most notably, though, is the introduction of another ID that account owners need to manage.

Nintendo’s original explanation of its then-unreleased account system.

Nintendo Account User ID

Nintendo quietly ushered in the new User ID system earlier this week, although what it does is still mostly unclear. We’re certain that it will be used for doing Nintendo Account-related things on the Nintendo Switch, which is the first major Nintendo console to use Nintendo Accounts since it launched last year.

It’s likely that the User ID will be akin to Gamertags and PSN IDs on Xbox and PlayStation consoles, respectively. Our biggest hope is that the IDs will be used to search for and connect with friends more easily than Nintendo’s numerically-based code systems.

The User ID needs to be a minimum of six characters, and it must be original. It can also be changed through the Nintendo Account website. Chances are that owners of the “Nintendo” or other popular IDs will squat on them for good, so don’t expect them to open up.

My Nintendo

My Nintendo doesn’t require a separate login, thankfully. It’s a rewards program that arrived last year in place of the similar, discontinued Club Nintendo. Unlike Club Nintendo, which did use unique sign-in credentials, My Nintendo doesn’t require as much effort to get back into. It’s linked to the Nintendo Account system, so staying logged in there will grant instant access to My Nintendo as well.

That’s good news, as it’s something that users will want to keep tabs on. Buying Nintendo games or completing missions in Fire Emblem Heroes, Super Mario Run and Miitomo will unlock My Nintendo points, which can be used to redeem rewards. These rewards aren’t as fancy as the ones Club Nintendo used to give out — there’s very little physical swag on offer here — but no one can complain about a nice discount or occasional free game.

my nintendo
My Nintendo has several games-based achievements available to users.
Nintendo via Polygon

Long story short: Anyone with a Nintendo Account should be covered on My Nintendo. Just make sure to link the Nintendo Account to all devices and games in order to reap the My Nintendo benefits.

What about Nintendo Network ID?

Nintendo Network ID is dying an early death, it seems. Although Nintendo Network IDs remain a viable option for logging into Nintendo Accounts, the service was born and will die with the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.

Anyone who still uses those consoles on the regular should keep tabs on their Nintendo Network ID logins, though. Making a Nintendo Network ID requires having a Wii U or 3DS handy, as the only way to make one is to do so natively on the platform.

The Nintendo Network ID works very similarly to the Nintendo Account: It’s needed to get into online multiplayer and the eShop. Nintendo explained the difference between the two on its support page, which boils down to platforms. The Network ID is specifically for Wii U and 3DS functions, while the Nintendo Account was designed with the company’s future in mind.

So, about friend codes ...

Prior to the Nintendo Network ID, there were friend codes. Oh, lord, were there friend codes. On the Nintendo 3DS, for example, anyone who wants to add other players to their system friends list had to trudge up their personal string of random digits and exchange them — a process that remains in place.

Friend codes: The most miserable 12 digits in the world.

Individual games had their own friend codes, and it was the worst. The Nintendo Network ID largely squashed the need for those, and for that, we are forever grateful. Yet the system has reared its ugly head once more in two surprising places: Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes. Both games use unique, randomly assigned codes to connect to other players, despite also requiring them to also hook up their Nintendo Accounts to the games.

It’s an asinine and bizarre development that may raise serious red flags for the Switch’s online service. We have yet to actually test out the online multiplayer functionality on the new console ourselves, but the recent arrival of the User ID has alleviated many of our concerns.

Of course, practice makes perfect, and we’re eager to see how all of these systems work in tandem when the console launches on March 3. In the meantime, go and sign up for those accounts and be ready for launch day.

The first look at the Nintendo Switch