the key complaints when Nintendo rolled out Nintendo Network IDs in 2012 was that, despite Nintendo’s insistence that they’d built a modern account system that answered everyone’s problems, the benefits associated with the new accounts still weren’t quite on par with what players had come to expect on PSN, Xbox Live, and even their iOS and Android devices. For one thing, NNIDs offered virtually no support for digital cross-buy, even for games that appeared on multiple platforms like NES Virtual Console games. You couldn’t log in on a friend’s system and play local multiplayer using your account and your data. And, of course, the most damning issue of all: if you need to replace your Wii U, your NNID doesn’t let you simply log back on your new system and access all your old digital games—you had to make a special call to Nintendo tech support.
Nintendo’s recently started paving over some of the early issues with NNIDs. You can now unite your eShop balances across both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U by linking your systems to the same NNID. Some games, like
OlliOlli and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, have started to support cross-buy. But many of the bolder issues remain unresolved, even today. Thankfully, Nintendo’s new account system—the aptly named “Nintendo Account”—seems to be moving in the right direction.
You Can Now Link Your Nintendo Account to Other Online Accounts
Previously, to use Nintendo’s services, you needed to create a dedicated Nintendo Network ID using your email address. Now, you can create a Nintendo Account using your Google, Facebook, or Twitter account, using your login credentials for those services when you sign in to Nintendo’s online services. You can also use your email account or the account information for your old Nintendo Network ID.
This won’t be a game-changer for many who already had NNIDs, but it’s definitely a step that brings the process of signing into Nintendo services more in line with the modern federated login approach, which lets you use the same username and password combo for all kinds of different apps and services.
And speaking of making user logins simpler…
Club Nintendo’s Replacement Will Use Your Nintendo Account
Way back when Club Nintendo still existed, you had to link your Club Nintendo account to your hardware if you wanted to reap any cool benefits for your digital purchases. You couldn’t just get rewards through your Nintendo Network ID, so you had to retain two separate logins. Not anymore:
Nintendo Accounts will double as accounts for Nintendo’s new membership program, called “My Nintendo.”
The My Nintendo service will provide lots of different ways to use your Nintendo Accounts. You’ll be able to buy digital games directly from Nintendo’s website. You’ll get access to discounts and deals based on your purchase history, play history, and account info. For example, you might get a convenient notice when new DLC is available if you’ve been playing the corresponding game, and you might get a discount offer on your birthday. You’ll also rack up points by purchasing games, playing games, and interacting in other ways with Nintendo’s services and products. Those points can be redeemed for DLC, discount coupons, and official merch—there’ll even be benefits tied to other Nintendo stuff like theme park attractions, movies, and retail goods.
Your Nintendo Account Lets You Share Data Between Systems
Down the line, your Nintendo Account will allow you to share data between console games, handheld games, and smart device apps through a cloud-based service. This could include save data, character data, and so on. While Mr. Kimishima didn’t touch on this in his presentation, it’s likely that we’ll see this feature implemented liberally once NX launches—Mr. Iwata previously stated NX could extend across multiple form factors, so it’d be nice to be able to share save data when moving between your console and handheld.
But, while all of this is very encouraging, these new account features don’t really fix the big lingering pain points that have haunted Nintendo’s past account systems. And so far, Nintendo’s remained silent on many of the more controversial omissions.
Will Nintendo Accounts Enable Support for Cross-Buy?
With cross-buy for Virtual Console games being a top-requested feature for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, it’s a bit disappointing to see that this point hasn’t been directly addressed from the outset with Nintendo Accounts. Sure, there aren’t a whole lot of Virtual Console games available on both platforms, but Nintendo could
at least announce universal cross-buy for NES games.
I wouldn’t count cross-buy out just yet, though. Given that Nintendo’s NX is supposed to unify both home consoles and portables under a single platform architecture, it’s quite feasible that we could see a number of games released for both console and handheld simultaneously, without the extra work that went into projects like Smash Bros. for 3DS and Tipping Stars. That could mean we’ll see Nintendo implement virtually ubiquitous cross-buy for a much larger number of games next generation. If that’s the case, cross-buy is sure to be a big selling feature they’ll want to save for the full-blown NX reveal.
According to Reggie Fils-Aime, who spoke a little about NX during last year’s E3 Digital Event, we can expect more information on the new platform next year. If NX’s selling point really does have to do with a shared game library, it’s likely we’ll learn more about how the account system plays into that vision when the platform is revealed.
Can I Log In On a Friend’s System?
With Nintendo teasing the idea that we’ll eventually be able to access save data and character data from the cloud, it seems that they’ve set themselves up nicely for another most-requested account feature: the ability to log in on a friend’s machine. While in an ideal world, you’d be able to have guest login access and be able to provision one of your own digital games for a session or two at a friend’s place, on a more basic level it’d just be nice to be able to load in your
Smash Bros. settings or your Splatoon account so you can compete or cooperate with your buddy in the same room, using your own account.
So far, mum’s the word on whether this will be possible with Nintendo Accounts. Frankly, it’s fairly rare for Nintendo to create games where your multiplayer experience is defined by your account, but one would hope that as Nintendo becomes savvier at online play we’d start to see more reasons to want to keep our account data wherever we go.
Can I Easily Transfer Accounts (and Purchases) Between Systems?
Nintendo’s draconian DRM policies are easily one of the biggest PR blunders they’ve faced regarding NNIDs, and that’s a problem they’re ripe to correct with Nintendo Accounts. While your digital purchases are technically tied to your NNID, there’s no way to activate an existing account and recover your digital purchases on a second system without going through Nintendo tech support. Your ID can’t be deauthorized or untied from another system without being totally deleted. So even if you do remove the old account, it can’t be reactivated on a new machine, which means your purchases are really and forever gone. It’s positively infuriating, and Nintendo’s “system transfer” workaround—which requires two working systems, one of which
must be the system where you registered your NNID—doesn’t offer a worthwhile solution for anyone who has to actually rebuy or replace a console.
Even if Nintendo does fix the account transfer headache, they’ve got another potential issue to contend with: family sharing. With Wii U, if one account registered to the system buys a game, every account on that system can play it. But when NX rolls around and it’s inevitably possible to play everything from your library on all your Nintendo devices, will families be able to play the same games, or will they need to purchase multiple copies? Since not every game supports local multiplayer, it’d be nice to be able to load up
Splatoon for a squad match with the wife. I’m sure most people don’t terribly mind having to own two devices to play online-only games, but adding the burden of owning two separate copies of a single game just to share the experience with family seems decidedly un-Nintendo. It’d be nice to see a family sharing option built in to Nintendo Accounts, where you can link multiple accounts and share games between them, even for simultaneous play sessions across multiple devices.
It’s clear Nintendo’s come a long way since they first introduced NNIDs, and that bodes well for the new Nintendo Account system. But before we can issue a final verdict, we’ll need to learn more about some of the sticker details that, at least so far, Nintendo has avoided.