Nintendo's Latest Solution for Its Cloud Problem Is Still a Half Measure

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My birthday gift from my partner this year was a Switch Lite. Actually, it was part of an elaborate upgrade scheme we cooked up. His regular Switch was kinda broken—you have to jiggle it a few times in the dock for it to connect properly to the TV. I almost never hook my Switch up to the TV. It made sense to buy a Switch Lite for me, and give my Switch to my partner.

Except neither of us remembered Nintendo’s cloud problem.

And we didn’t remember until I’d already redownloaded my games and transferred my user data off the Switch and onto the Switch Lite. At this point, I was already several weeks into building my Animal Crossing: New Horizons island, and I was so ready to continue on my new device. That is, until I booted the game up, only to be greeted by Timmy and Tommy at the airport, prompting me to create a new island from scratch.


I burst into tears. This was a completely overblown reaction, but to be fair, I was a bit batty about this game at the time.


I closed out of the game and immediately checked Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Nope. My 2.5 campaigns had disappeared into the ether. What ensued was a harrowing hour of me googling Nintendo cloud saves like a maniac and finding that actually, there was no way to port an Animal Crossing island to a new system. Losing my Fire Emblem campaigns was also salt in the wound.

It wasn’t as if I couldn’t see that my save data still existed. We found it after poring through the System Settings menu, so I had the comfort that my island wasn’t erased. (My Fire Emblem campaigns, however, were toast.) Ultimately, I ended up having to go back to my regular Switch, where my island was still pristine and intact, unaware it had come this close to oblivion. The Switch Lite was returned to its box. Nintendo said the ability to move your island would come “later this year” and we decided to wait it out.


Well, it’s “later this year” and Nintendo announced today that cloud saves are finally coming to Animal Crossing starting July 30th (along with some other new gameplay features). I was ecstatic for about… 10 seconds before I read Nintendo’s actual release.

“Nintendo Switch Online members can enable the new island backup service, which automatically uploads island and user save data to the internet at certain times. If your Nintendo Switch system is lost or damaged, you may be able to recover your island paradise as long as you’ve enabled island backup. In the event of loss or damage, contact Nintendo Consumer Support about restoring the island and user save data on your new or repaired Nintendo Switch system,” the release reads. It then goes on to say that this feature is separate from Nintendo’s Save Data Cloud functionality and that a “function specific to Animal Crossing: New Horizons to move users and save data to another system is planned for later this year.”


So, am I good, Nintendo, or what? This sounds like it’s more of an emergency failsafe in case your Switch craps the bed. Plus, it’s not terribly comforting that Nintendo says you may be able to recover your island. The specific call out that yet another function to move users and save data to another system is upcoming also doesn’t sound like it’ll help my situation. I haven’t been playing Animal Crossing as much lately, but this made me want to tear my hair out.

It’s frankly frustrating and absurd that Nintendo’s cloud saves are dependent on an individual game. I don’t have enough space in my brain to remember which games are compatible with the feature and which ones aren’t. In ye olde times, back when we had physical cartridges, this wasn’t an issue. Sure you might accidentally overwrite a save, but so long as a system could play your cartridge, you were good.


What about microSD cards, you ask? Well, I had one in my Switch and a fat load of good it did me. When I popped my microSD into the Switch Lite, I was told it wasn’t formatted correctly and to use it, I’d have to erase everything on it. At that moment, I found myself missing my old GameBoy even harder.

Consoles aren’t meant to last forever. Even if you take good care of your device, you can’t fully control whether your asshole cat knocks your Switch off the bed stand and breaks a Joy-Con. Or if after a couple of years, the connector to the Switch dock gets messed up. Maybe you lose it while moving. It’s not unreasonable to think some people might want to upgrade in the future—both in the case of the Switch Lite and a beefier, future Pro. Perhaps you are Mrs. Moneybags and would just like a second Switch. All these are reasonable scenarios that shouldn’t end with you losing all the hours you’ve put into a game.


For now, I’m stuck in Switch limbo. As cool as swimming is, and the new Animal Crossing updates look, I just don’t feel great about advancing my island even further. And considering the batshit turnip escapades I’ve been in, I also don’t feel keen on restarting a totally new island and losing the 10.5 million bells sitting in my Nook Stop account. Hell, it’s made me wary that each new game I download and play has the chance of ending up like my Fire Emblem saves. Gone forever.

In an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter which Switch I play any of these games on. In that world, my partner and I could both store our user data on both devices and seamlessly switch between the two. But until Nintendo figures out how to let me move my island to a new Switch with 100% reliability, we have a Switch Lite and an old, half-borked Switch that neither of us knows exactly what to do with.