Nintendo Account service can be unnecessarily complicated. I don’t know what this is about Nintendo, but their online services always seem to have some weird quirks to deal with that you wouldn’t have to worry about on other consoles or PCs. One of those weird practices is having a Nintendo Online Account running on multiple switches at once and managing save data on two (or more) consoles. You would think it would be simple, but it isn’t, as I learned when testing my Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite part. Here, I will explain how to properly have a Nintendo Account on multiple systems, the differences between main and secondary consoles and how to accommodate them, and more.
The very first step to getting your Nintendo Account on multiple Switches is very simple – just sign in! While the rest of the process is a bit complicated, you won’t encounter any errors or anything just by connecting to another switch.
However, there are two designations for the Switch in terms of viewing your account. The first switch you connected to is the primary switch, while any subsequent switch will be a secondary switch. There are ways to change this, but first, it’s important to know the difference between primary and secondary switches in order to choose the right one for your primary account.
Main switch vs secondary switch
Unfortunately, you can’t sign in to the same Nintendo Account on multiple systems and get the exact same features on every console. The Primary Switch consoles get all of the normal functions you would expect from the Switch, but the Secondary Switches can only access and play games from your account. when connected to the internet. If your secondary switch can’t connect to the internet, you just can’t play games on it, which affects its portability a bit.
In addition, the primary switches will always have priority over the secondary switches in terms of content playback. If I start Super Mario Odyssey on my secondary switch, then try to start it on my main switch, it will start on the main switch with no problem. The secondary Switch, however, will be started out of the game and return to the Switch menu. It’s a bit rude! This even applies to situations where I’m playing an entirely different game on the secondary switch. In short, if the primary switch is used, the secondaries are cut off from access. This is problematic if you share accounts between family members, less if you are the only person using both switches.
Fortunately, it’s not that hard to switch (hah!) Between the main consoles. It’s just a bit hidden.
Change your main switch
To change the main switch, you must have physical access to it. Then do the following:
- Go to the online store
- Navigate right to highlight your avatar in the upper right corner and select it
- In the main account information area, scroll down until you reach the main console section (it’s almost the end)
- Press the “Unsubscribe” button and enter your password to confirm the unsubscription.
You will then receive a notification that the next Switch to connect to the eShop will be designated as the primary console in the future. Do it on the switch you want to be the primary one!
Which one should I do the main switch?
Which switch you make the main switch will depend on your situation. But the general rule is that whatever switch you take outside the house will be best served by becoming the main switch. Even if you play more on the Switch that’s at home, it will likely be connected to the internet at all (or most) times.
In the most common situation, where you have both a normal Nintendo Switch and a Switch Lite, you’ll want to make the Switch Lite the primary console. The Switch Lite is purely a handheld console, with no ability to connect to your TV, so there’s a good chance it’s going to be the Switch you take out of the house.
Understanding Switch Backup Data
Once you’ve connected your Nintendo Account to each Switch, your work is unfortunately not yet done. If you have the Switch Online subscription service, your save data will automatically be uploaded from the cloud after you finish playing, with a few exceptions listed below.
However, this cloud save doesn’t work the same as, say, Steam. On Steam, once a save is uploaded to a cloud, you can switch to another computer and, provided you’re signed in, pick up where you left off. You can do something similar on the Switch, but it’s not that transparent. For starters, it’s not even enabled by default! To activate this feature:
- Go to Settings, then to Data Management
- In this subsection, scroll down to Save Data Cloud and click on it
- Go to settings and you will see Automatic backup of backup data and Automatic download of backup data. Turn them both on.
With this, your cloud backups need to be uploaded and uploaded from your Switch Online cloud whenever you are connected to the internet. But, it only works for games downloaded on both systems! If you download software from the eShop, your Switch does not automatically extract backup data from the cloud.
If you need to move a cloud save for which no software has been downloaded to the Switch, you will need to do it manually the first time. Here’s how:
- Close and exit the game on the Switch you were playing on, so that the cloud saves the updates.
- On the Switch you want to continue playing from, navigate to System Settings and then Data Management.
- From there, you can go to the Save Data Cloud option, find the game you are looking for, and download it.
Some proprietary Nintendo games, such as the Pokemon and Super Smash Bros. titles, do not allow data to be saved to the cloud. Nintendo’s reason is to prevent save manipulation or corruption, but ultimately it’s just a big pain for consumers as some of these titles involve quite a bit of farming and grinding.
You can still move the save data for these games between switches, but it can only be on one switch at a time. In the “Data management” subsection of the system settings, you can choose to “Transfer your save data” to move the save games of these games. Also, if you don’t have Switch Online, you will need to use this same method to move Switch save data between consoles.
Dealing with your Nintendo Account on multiple Switches isn’t the most confusing thing, but the settings for determining which Switch is the primary one and where your latest save data is stored are just hidden enough to cause problems for anyone. Now move on to the game and enjoy both your Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite!