Nintendo won’t have a family system until the horrible, hardware-locked account system is fixed
Nintendo wants to create systems for families, but the company’s own account system is keeping that goal from becoming reality.
The problem is that Nintendo still locks content downloads to hardware, not a player’s account. So when I buy a game on my 3DS XL, it’s locked to that system. The games on my standard 3DS? Locked to that system. The games on my new 2DS? You got it. Locked down.
You can move games, but only a few times
There is a process to move games from one system to another, but it requires a download from the eShop, and you’re limited to the number of times you can transfer content from one system to the other.
“The number of transfers is limited to a total of five for each Nintendo eShop account,” Nintendo’s documentation states. “The number of transfers left will be displayed on both systems when carrying out the transfer and when selecting which systems to transfer with. The number of transfers you have left will be reset to 5 if you delete your Account Activity in Nintendo eShop.”
This is insane, especially when Nintendo is so aggressive with improvements and updates to the hardware. The process of moving content from one system to the next should be simple, unlimited, and built into the console. Sony and Microsoft already have this problem licked; you’ll be able to access your content on the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4 from any system as long as your account has been downloaded to that system. This behavior rewards families with multiple systems, and it makes replacing broken systems or upgrading into a new model much simpler.
Don’t expect to have your purchases linked to your account rather than each system any time soon.
“We don't have anything new to announce, unfortunately, other than we've definitely heard that feedback many times from both inside and outside the company,” Dan Adelman, Nintendo of America's head of business development, told Destructoid in an interview. “It's definitely something that we're very much aware of. All development for the infrastructure really happens out of Japan, so we've kind of communicated this need in the market, and they're very much aware of it and working towards really just always improving the eShop.”
If your system dies? You’re basically shit out of luck until Nintendo either repairs it or recovers your data in their shop. This is the case for every 3DS or DS in your collection, or your children’s systems. Your 3DS purchases are kept completely separate from your Wii U purchases. As far as Nintendo is concerned, every system you buy is a walled garden.
Contrast this to Sony’s PlayStation Network accounts, which make it easy to redownload every game you’ve ever purchased on your PlayStation 3, PSP, or Vita, no matter what hardware you used to purchase the content.
You can buy a brand new PlayStation 3, log in with your account, pull up your history, and replace your collection. This is something that’s so expected in modern hardware that we don’t even remark on it; the story is that Nintendo is so ass-backwards when it comes to digital games.
How this impacts families
One of the unintended consquences of a hardware-based account system is that it disincentivizes players from purchasing digital games. When I buy a physical 3DS game I can hand it to my daughter to play on the 2DS, which is her favorite system, or play it on my 3DS XL, which is my preferred way to play. My son has a standard 3DS, and he can play the game if we're not using it.
This makes the physical games a much better deal. If I buy Mario Kart 7 on a cartridge, we can play it on any system. If I download Mario Kart 7, it's locked into one system, with no possibility of sharing, and it's going to take days, if not weeks, to get back if that system is broken.
This is a ridiculous state of affairs, and it's already bit me in the ass when I accidentally bricked my Wii U and couldn't play any of my downloaded games until it was repaired and shipped back. Even if I ran out and bought a new system that day, my games on the bricked unit were locked down.
Locking games into the hardware used to download them make no sense; imagine if your Steam account could only work on one PC, or if your games were stuck in the first laptop you used to play them. We don't tolerate this limitation from anyone else, and family sharing along with unified accounts across hardware is getting better for consumers in the next-generation, not worse.
Nintendo has yet to even hint that this situation will be improving and, as the Wii U stumbles in the sales race and portable systems have to fight competitors like the Vita as well as iPods and iPhones, this disadvantage will only hurt Nintendo more.
For the love of God, Nintendo, fix this. It's a disgrace.