I absolutely love the Nintendo Switch and take it with me everywhere. The other day I even realized that I have purchased more games for this hybrid system than I have for any previous console I've ever owned. However, it's not perfect. The limitations when sharing digital games between multiple Switch consoles in your household are especially frustrating and could definitely be improved upon. I mean, it's 2021 but Nintendo Switch still doesn't have Gameshare.
The digital download problem
I purchased my Nintendo Switch shortly after it first released and instantly fell in love with it. A few months later, my husband opted to get his own Switch so we could both play our favorite Switch games. This worked just fine at first; as 30-somethings we're pretty old so we prefer to purchase physical copies over digital downloads when we can. That way, whenever we buy new games we can easily take turns using the cartridge.
Sharing physical game copies between multiple Switch consoles is incredibly easy, however, sharing digital games with others in your household definitely is not. Some of the best indie games can only be purchased digitally and sometimes buying digital is much easier than trying to get your hands on a physical version anyway. So, over the past two years, my digital game library has become rather large. That wasn't that big of a problem, until about a month ago when Monster Hunter Rise (MHR) released.
Primary and Secondary console limitations
Things turned out in such a way that I ended up getting a digital copy of MHR rather than a physical one. My husband wanted to play as well. However, I needed to use my Switch even when I wasn't playing MHR. So we decided to do the closest thing to a Nintendo Switch Gameshare service as we could (though Nintendo never intended it to be used this way). We digitally "swapped consoles" by making my console the primary on his Nintendo account and his console the primary on my Nintendo account. So what does this mean? Hold on to your hats — things are about to get confusing.
With this in place, my husband can freely access and play my digital games on his system because my Nintendo account now sees his console as its primary console. Similarly, I can freely access and play all of his digital games on my console. Sounds good, right? Not quite. There are now some limitation on how I can play all of my own digital purchases on my console.
You see, now my Nintendo account is just a guest on my own console. Understandably, only one of us can access a specific digital game at any given time, but there's also the added limitation that I must be connected to the internet in order to play any of the digital games that I have purchased on my own console. This proves frustrating if I'm traveling or my internet goes down.
Additionally, you have to go through the process for each account on a system rather than just saying that one console is the primary or secondary console for all accounts listed on it. That means that if you have kids or family members in your home and everyone has their own Switch account on a system, you'll need to go through the process for each person's account instead of just setting it up once per console. It's tedious and clunky.
Once again, Nintendo never intended for assigning a primary and secondary console to be used to share games. But, it's ridiculous that there isn't a convenient way to truly share digital games with other Switch consoles in my home. I personally think that both Nintendo and its fanbase would benefit from a true Nintendo Switch Gameshare system. Of course, it's possible Nintendo is avoiding setting anything up because it doesn't want anyone to exploit the system.
How Nintendo Switch Gameshare could work
I completely understand that Nintendo wants to prevent people from misusing their products or getting access to games without actually paying for them. After all, If Nintendo makes less money, the sad-but-true consequence would be that it wouldn't be able to produce as many awesome games and hardware for us to use.
That being said, I believe a Nintendo Gameshare system could be put in place that benefits players without negatively impacting Nintendo's software earnings. To do that, I think the Japanese gaming company could honestly take a cue from Netflix. The media streaming service allows you to purchase additional screens for your account, thereby making it so multiple people within your household can easily watch their favorite shows at the same time from different devices. The number of screens on your account impacts how much your subscription costs.
It would be awesome if Nintendo employed something like that, potentially through its Nintendo Switch Online service, to let multiple Switch devices easily access a digital game purchased from one account on another Switch. As a default setting, this dream Nintendo Gameshare service would only allow digital games to be accessed by one person at a time. However, people could pay a monthly subscription to have more than one person access digital games at a time, with the price changing depending on how many screens you want to add. Now, this wouldn't work for all games, such as Pokémon Sword and Shield, which specifically thrives off of selling multiple versions. But we're used to exceptions when it comes to Nintendo services. Like how Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn't work with cloud saves.
Of course, it's a known fact that people rampantly abuse Netflix's system by giving people access to their account who don't live under their roof. Nintendo could combat that by implementing some kind of verification process that helps you prove that the Switch systems connected with your Gameshare belong to people in the same household. Kind of like how Amazon Prime allows you to merge accounts so that all members can enjoy the benefits within an Amazon Household. It would certainly be less complicated and more convenient than what we have now.
Nintendo Switch Gameshare would be sweet
Considering how expensive gaming can be, it would be nice for Nintendo to at least make it possible for people within the same household to easily share digital games between systems. Please, Nintendo, make it so.
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.