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Nintendo Switch’s infuriating data management almost ruins the experience

My save files want to be free


Despite all of the creative ideas poured into the Switch, or perhaps specifically because of them, the Switch’s design can sometimes feel like a mess. That’s a shame, because things like its effective-yet-boring UI are well-thought-out.

And I’m not talking about hardware issues with the Joy-Cons or the system’s finish getting damaged by adhesives. I’m talking about simple, inelegant design choices that often make using the system much more frustrating that it has to be.

These are the sorts of things that don’t seem like a big deal — at first — but begin to grate on your nerves the tenth or hundredth time you find yourself struggling with bad design. The sorts of things that should be easy end up being difficult, and add frustration to what should be a simple process or a standard feature.

The biggest offender may be the way the Switch handles data. Simple things like getting images off of the Switch are a multistage process:

But it goes beyond that.


In the past few days, I’ve been spending most of my time playing games on my PC and my Switch.

Since I have multiple computers, it’s nice being able to pick up my saved games from any machine that can access services like Steam. And, in the rare event that every computer I use becomes unusable, I could always download my saves onto a new machine. Even better, online games like Overwatch save all my stats and loot on their servers. There’s no local saved games to lose.

But you cannot transfer game saves from one Switch to another. They are tied to the console. Not the account, mind you, but the hardware itself.

While the financial setback of having to replace a dropped or stolen Switch isn’t fun, especially since it’s not easy to find one right now, I’m actually more concerned about losing the 40-plus hours I’ve soaked into Breath of the Wild. There’s no way for me to keep a copy of my game anywhere else, should I lose my console.

If I lose my Switch, I’ll also lose all the time I’ve invested in my games. You can always buy a new Switch, but there’s no check you can write for the lost time. There’s no excuse for this sort of thing in 2017.


I’ve owned three Nintendo 3DS systems, and transferring my purchases from my existing hardware to each new portable has been frustrating. But it’s possible. It can be done.

You’d imagine it would be as simple as just signing into your Nintendo eShop account on a new device and going into your account to re-download your purchases, but it’s more complicated than that, even if you’re lucky enough to have both 3DSes systems. If you don’t have both systems — for instance, if you lost one, you actually have to call Nintendo to sort things out. I know this, because I’ve done this. Twice.

On the Switch, digital games can only be played on one console at a time, no matter what happened on the old console.

Just like the 3DS, if you want to get your games on a new console because you don’t have the old one laying around, you have to call Nintendo. Moving games from one PC to another is as simple as logging into your Steam account. If I end up getting a PS4 Pro later this year, I know that all I’ll need to do is sign into my PSN account and download my games again. Same with the Xbox One. There are limitations to how you can access those games, but the games can be moved relatively easily.

Locking your game to specific hardware isn’t just backwards; it’s baffling. This issue has been solved by literally every other video game company on the planet.


Even something as simple as letting a friend borrow a microSD card is impossible if you’ve used that card on your Switch.

Nintendo Switch microSD card warning Nintendo via Polygon

If you need to use a microSD that’s already been used by another Switch, the card has to be formatted first. Why? Security, I guess. But there are other ways to keep your system and games safe, Nintendo.

I don’t think many owners will have a problem with this, but we ran across how annoying this was when doing coverage with multiple Switches in the office and wanting to keep images on a single SD card. It was impossible. There likely won’t be many of you out there who are trying to organize screenshots across an online outlet, admittedly, but it’s still an annoying issue that doesn’t need to exist.


The Nintendo Switch is often a brilliant console that’s surrounded by simple design choices that don’t make sense.

Now that I know my Breath of the Wild saves are tied to my console, I can’t help but look at my Switch like it’s a ticking time bomb. The more time I sink into the game, the more time I know I’ll never get back if something were to happen to the console.

The gaming press doesn’t always use hardware in the same manner as the average player, but the possibility of dealing with these issues comes up for everyone as time goes on. Replacing a console isn’t that rare. There’s no reason these limitations need to exist on Nintendo’s latest system, and these are the sorts of problems that frustrate players as they slowly learn about each limitation.

Your data is in a prison, locked on your console. That may not bother you now, but it may become very important if something were to happen to your Switch. Consider this a look into your future if Nintendo doesn’t ease some of these restrictions in future firmware updates.

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