It’s almost a trope at this point that Nintendo doesn’t understand online services, but games like Splatoon, with its robust multiplayer, appeared to demonstrate that the company was making its way towards joining the rest of us in the Year of Our Lord 2018. The company’s new cloud save game service demonstrates that in some critical ways, Nintendo still doesn’t understand how online services are expected to work.
We already knew that Nintendo’s service wouldn’t work with every game. What’s new — and this information wasn’t disclosed in the most recent Nintendo Direct — is that the Nintendo Switch Online service may delete your saved games as soon as you stop paying for it. Nintendo’s FAQ states:
Save data stored via the Save Data Cloud backup is available for as long as you have an active Nintendo Switch Online membership. Classic games in the NES – Nintendo Switch Online collection and the save data for those games will not be removed unless the user chooses to do so manually. These items are stored locally on the Nintendo Switch system but cannot be accessed without an active Nintendo Switch Online membership.
On its own, the first sentence of the quote has some ambiguity, possibly implying that the saves are retained but not accessible unless a membership is restored. But the second sentence clarifies that saved data from NES titles won’t be removed if an NSO subscription expires, which implies that other data stored on NSO servers will be. Polygon asked Nintendo for clarification on this point and was told: “We have nothing to announce on this topic.”
Nobody Else Does Things This Way
On the PC side, games that offer cloud save backups tend to retain those backups indefinitely. I stopped playing World of Warcraft in 2012 and didn’t return to the game for four years and two expansions. I have characters in WoW I literally haven’t logged into in over a decade. But when I got back from a four-year vacation (and then this year, when I logged into a 10+-year-old character), all their gear, items, and quests were exactly where I left them.
The more Nintendo reveals about this service, the worse it looks. Subscribe in perpetuity, or lose access to your saved games forever in the event of total system loss.
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