Nintendo Switch locks eShop games to your 'active' console

You can only play titles from your Nintendo Account on one system at a time.

Toru Hanai / Reuters

Nintendo's excellent but imperfect Switch console is hitting stores and shipping out to homes today, but there's still a few odd details sprouting up. It appears that the Nintendo Account, which replaces the Nintendo Network ID, ties itself to whichever Switch you're playing on when you sign in. If you want to play games on a different console, you'll have manually disengage your account from the first one before signing in on another machine.

It's an awkward move that's oddly out of step with how Xbox and PlayStation have operated for years, which let users designate a 'home' or 'primary' consoles, respectively, and download games onto multiple machines. But this restriction is even worse for a console like the Switch. Sure, users might not run into more issues if their new Nintendo console sits firmly nestled in their entertainment center.

But should you heed its hybrid call and pluck it from out of the cradle for a worldly adventure, danger calls. If you absentmindedly leave it on the bus seat, you're leaving all your eShop-bought games locked into the Switch with it. At this time, you can't detach your Nintendo Account from your console remotely -- you would have to contact Nintendo's help like and hope they let you in.

Xbox, PlayStation and Steam store their game permissions in the cloud, letting you download the content you own simply after signing in on a new machine. Some of these also let you migrate save data. But Nintendo doesn't currently offer cloud or SD storage for saved games. That means, if your Switch gets stolen, you'll have to contact the company and bargain for access to your Nintendo Account, assign it to a new machine, and download your titles anew -- but no matter what, you'll have to start all your games from scratch. Keep your consoles close, Switchers.