Of course, this problem is solvable and has been solved by dozens of other competitive online games. Nintendo could ensure current rankings and items are tracked in the cloud, for starters. Games like FIFA 19 operate just fine with cloud saves on other consoles and there's no reason they couldn't do the same on the Switch.
Besides, if Nintendo truly wanted to crack down on cheating in its Switch games, it should start by tackling the rampant, unchecked hacking in Splatoon 2. Hacking that has nothing to do with cloud data, it should be noted.
But wait, there's more strange and disappointing news about cloud saves on the Nintendo Switch. It seems that there's no buffer period for anyone who lets their Switch Online subscription lapse -- the second an account goes offline, all of its save data is deleted from the cloud. This means if someone forgets to renew their subscription, or there's a billing error, or a hundred other imperfect scenarios, their save data is instantly lost to the ether.
Here's how Nintendo explains it in the Switch Online FAQ: "Save data stored via the Save Data Cloud backup is available for as long as you have an active Nintendo Switch Online membership."
Both PlayStation and Xbox have explicit plans for handling cloud saves in inactive subscriptions. PlayStation will hold onto cloud backup data for six months, while Xbox offers cloud saves to all players at all times.
Engadget has reached out to Nintendo for clarification on its approach to cloud saves and will update this article if the company responds. However, it's had a few crucial days to set the record straight and has yet to correct any outlet reporting on the instant-delete function.
Nintendo is an expert at cultivating a love-hate relationship with its fans. The rocky, why-is-this-a-thing launch of Nintendo Switch Online feels familiar to anyone who picked up a Switch and marveled at its lack of storage or backup options, or its constrictive account practices. The Switch is a successful machine, selling 20 million units since its launch in March 2017 and single-handedly revitalizing Nintendo's brand, which took a beating with the Wii U.
Nintendo isn't totally out of touch here. The company is willing to open up the Switch to cross-console play, and it's already enabled this function in a few games. Switch players in Rocket League and Fortnite can team up (or against) people on Xbox One, mobile and PC, for instance. PlayStation is the sole obstacle keeping modern consoles from playing together, and this stance is a glaring stain on the company's reputation.
However, that's a big-picture problem. Right now, Nintendo fans are concerned about the security of their personal data, and whether all the time they throw into the Switch will actually be worth it. What if all of their playtime is suddenly, irrevocably deleted due to human error or accident? Nintendo has an answer for that question; it just isn't a good one.