I’ve been a Nintendo guy for a long time. From the iconic Mario games to the charming world of Animal Crossing, Nintendo has always held a special place in my gaming heart. The reasons why I don’t venture much into other consoles are pretty typical – I just don’t have a lot of room in my life for multiple systems at the moment, so the Switch wins due to it’s unique blend of portability and docked play, and a great catalog of games my entire family loves to play.
As my children grew older, they naturally wanted their own Switch consoles, especially when traveling. That’s when the Switch Lite came into the picture, and I must say, it’s a great little console that strikes the right balance of cost and features. They removed a lot of the multiplayer functions (removable joy-cons, docking ability, etc) but kept the core mobile experience intact. However, as much as I adore Nintendo for many things, there’s one area where they consistently falter: their online strategy.
Allow me to explain. When you purchase a digital game with a Nintendo account (in my case, the primary account for our household), it becomes tied to that specific account. This means that if I buy a game on the primary console and my kids want to play it on their own consoles, they can only do so by adding my user to their Switch and playing the games under my account. As a result, cloud saves and other sync services don’t work reliably since they are linked to individual Nintendo account profiles.
Unlike the convenient family sharing feature found on platforms like iOS, Nintendo lacks a similar concept. While I understand the reasoning behind limiting simultaneous online play for a single purchased game, such as Splatoon 3, across multiple consoles. They have to make money, after all. However, the current setup poses a significant hurdle for families who wish to play together. To enjoy multiplayer experiences, each person requires their own console and their own copy of the game. This limitation significantly restricts the range of experiences that people can have, both in terms of gameplay and financial investment. If my entire family wanted to play one another we would need 4 consoles (average cost: $250) and 4 copies of the game ($60/each).
I’m not sure my family’s enjoyment of Splatoon 3 is worth ~$1250.
It forces us to make a decision early on – do we buy games online, enjoying the convenience of not having to keep track of tiny cartridges, or do we opt for physical copies, enabling easy gameplay on multiple consoles? I have tended to opt for physical cartridges to mitigate this, but a lot of games are digital only, or have DLC add-ons that are tied to one account, so there are still many limitations that essentially require you to buy the same game multiple times to ensure a fairly seamless multi-console family.
Personally, I wish Nintendo would, at the very least, allow Nintendo accounts within a family to download games purchased online, granting us the freedom to enjoy these games on any console of our choice. Even if they were to add controls to restrict each downloaded game to one active session at a time across family accounts, as they already do, it would be a significant improvement.
Nintendo’s prowess in creating enjoyable and memorable gaming experiences is unquestionable. However, their missteps in the online realm, particularly when it comes to family gaming, cannot be overlooked. By loosening the restrictions and embracing the concept of family sharing, Nintendo could unlock a world of possibilities for countless families, ensuring that the joy of gaming extends beyond the confines of a single console and copy of the game.
We’ll be thinking twice before buying more than one console from Nintendo whenever their next-gen console is released, as teaching my kids to share one console might be easier than dealing with the draconian online/family limitations of Nintendo’s software at the moment.