Nintendo’s User Account System is Outdated and Downright Unfair

For a while now I feel that Nintendo has been doing a good job of distancing themselves from any competition between the PlayStation and Xbox brands. They do things pretty differently. When the PS2 and Xbox where using DVD media, Nintendo’s GameCube used tiny little toy-like dishes. When the PS3 and Xbox 360 brought stunning HD games and rich multimedia functions to home consoles, Nintendo’s Wii introduced motion controls that helped it become the best-selling home console of that generation.

With the staggeringly technically powerful PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on the horizon, the Wii U has marked Nintendo’s debut into HD gaming and introduced a tablet for a controller.

I think it goes without saying that Nintendo runs their own pace to win their own race.


Despite the dramatic difference in the technical specifications of Nintendo’s consoles compared to their “competitors”, Nintendo has absolutely never failed to deliver quality exclusive titles on their hardware. Whether the Wii U is as strong as the PS4 or the 3DS is as strong as the Vita is hardly relevant, Nintendo uses what they have to craft excellent gaming experiences and there isn’t really much more you can ask of a gaming console. In this respect, it’s perfectly fine that they do their own thing because it works and it keeps the players happy.

While the software and hardware is just dandy, there is one area where Nintendo should definitely and undoubtedly take a cue from Microsoft and Sony’s practices with their games. This is an area where Nintendo has practically been getting away with murder and it needs to be addressed before their hardware, their software, the sales of the Wii U or anything else.

I’m talking about their utterly laughable user account system.


As of now, both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS have systems which tie user accounts in their entirety to the respective hardware. All of your downloads are linked to the hardware itself, whereas the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 tie your downloads and account info to the profile itself.

This is a problem. Hardware is volatile and typically fairly fragile. You can spill something on it, drop it in the toilet, your heavyset aunt could step on it. Worse yet, you could lose or misplace it or someone can outright steal it from your possession. Conflicting directly with the volatility of hardware is software, particularly downloaded software. It comes from the internet, the anywhere, everywhere, internet. The internet has given birth to the eShop, the PlayStation Store and the Xbox Marketplace. Because of these services we can spend thousands of dollars on video game software without ever leaving our homes and have access to it in mere moments. It’s a beautiful thing.

Even more beautiful is the security involved with this – at least on the PS3 and 360. If your console is broken, stolen, squashed, squandered, it doesn’t matter. It’s of little consequence. All you do is purchase another one and through the power of the internet you link your profile back up to it and voila! All of that precious, expensive software is right back at your fingertips. This system is effective and secure. It makes the hardware only useful as a means of accessing your software, while your software itself is a part of the ever-present internet.

Games pt1

This isn’t what Nintendo does. Nintendo locks your hardware and software together, favoring the volatile hardware instead of the omnipresent internet. They did this last gen with the Wii (while the PS3 and Xbox 360 introduced their nearly flawless account systems) and they did it this generation with the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS. If anything happens to your hardware, you can kiss your thousands of dollars in software goodbye. This is unacceptable and the fact that they’ve been able to get away with this for so long is puzzling.

Nintendo’s reason for this is a mystery to me, but I can make a guess. Nintendo is so terrified of people playing games that they themselves haven’t purchased that they’ll altogether forgo genuine user accounts. If you want someone to play games you’ve downloaded, then you’ll need to take your console to them. If you have two Wii Us in a household and want to play games together, then you’ll need to buy two copies of the game. If for any reason at all you lose access to the console itself, then too bad so sad.

The biggest problem with the lack of genuine user accounts on the 3DS and Wii U is that it seems to directly contradict where game consoles as a whole are heading. You can purchase dozens of Nintendo 3DS games and download them directly from the eShop. You can do the same thing from the Wii U. Why introduce the ability to obtain expensive software from the internet but not introduce a way to protect or maintain it?


Perhaps they’re counting on you to drop and break your console, then buy another system and finally rebuy every single game you already had? I can’t imagine that they’d actually be that greedy, but the reasoning doesn’t make a huge difference because the end result is the same.

I love Nintendo and so do most of us here at DualShockers. I even went on and on about how the Wii U won my heart at E3, while everyone else and their mothers were drooling over the PS4 and – let’s be honest – to a lesser extent, the Xbox One. And as I said before, Nintendo doesn’t necessarily need to imitate anything any other company is doing when it comes to delivering excellent gaming experiences. However, you cannot tie an immortal digital download to a very mortal piece of hardware. That simply isn’t the way it works. Look at iTunes, Steam, Google Play. Once again, look at the PlayStation Store and the Xbox Marketplace.

What Nintendo does is terrifying. Every time I drop or scratch my 3DS, I’m wondering if I should go ahead and buy another one right away. The last thing I want is for something serious to happen to it, because then all the games attached to it are gone forever too. Most of the time a digital game collection has far more monetary value than the hardware itself.


Maybe Nintendo should just kill the eShop. If people’s downloads are as volatile as the hardware itself, then you’re better off simply purchasing physical copies. Otherwise when something happens to your console – and trust me, things happen to even the most meticulous collectors – you’ll have to rebuy all of your downloads.

Join the Discussion

  • Krysanthia

    I love the big N, have since I was little on my NES and I will be first in line to buy Bayonetta 2 and a Wii U.

    But you are right, their whole account system is atrocious. So I have to buy the a copy of Super Mario 3 on my Wii/Wii U, but then I have to buy it again on my 3DS?
    Um, I bought this back on my original NES, and you want me to buy it two times again?
    Jesus Christ how many times do I have to buy this bloody thing before I own it completely.

    You do not get more sales with this re-buy tactic Nintendo, you *hurt* them.

    • Arh, let’s be fair here. If you have ICO for the PS2, but want to play the remake on PS3, you will have to re-buy it.

      Though, the example with Wii/U and 3DS is spot on. Three different stores? What the F, Nintendo?

      • Krysanthia

        In that example SMB3 would have been remade to have better resolution and run better on a superior platform. The VC is just emulation.
        But fair enough. Was just using it to reiterate on how many times they want you to re-buy their products.
        Alot of the older Nintendo fans have already purchased these games, and if Nintendo is trying to entice them to buy them again, this nickle and dime bullshit won’t work.

        • Jaxon Holden

          All VC games owned on the Wii can be upgraded to the more current Wii U version of the game for just $1 for NES and $1.50 for SNES. Keep in mind it costs them money to integrate gamepad support for off-tv play, fully customizable buttons and use with Gamepad, Wii U Pro Controller or Wiimote.

          And ALL Wii VC games are transferrable to the Wii U for free- you don’t HAVE to upgrade to the Wii U version of the VC game. And I guarantee all future consoles will transfer- the standard has been set with Wii to Wii U transfer and 3DS to 3DS XL transfer. So Nintendo isn’t exactly “nickel and diming” to the extent you claim.

          • Malakym

            I don’t think she’s talking about Wii –> Wii U or 3DS —> 3DS XL, but between the home console and the portables. Kinda like how you can get Resident Evil 3 on your PS3 via PSN, then play it on your PSP / Vita.

          • NeoTechni

            But the exact same features are on ps3 (sony invented remoteplay 7 years before nintendo ripped it off and called it off tv play) and sony didnt charge you twice for it. It even works on ps1 discs, and unlike virtual console you can even use the same save data. Even the same memory card

          • erh.. talking about the atrociousness the PS3 to PSP remoteplay was? Besides, remoteplay is an entire another matter, you can not participate in subject A and talk about subject B.

          • NeoTechni

            It was not atrocious. Nor is it another matter, its the exact same matter/subject. Its identical to off tv play. Im talking about subject a in a discussion about subject a. Quit your trolling

          • I thought the remoteplay could be fun, so I activated it – which caused to turn on my PS3 at random. That forced me to turn it off, and I’ve NEVER used it since, not on my PSP anyway. I’ve tried it a handful times on my Vita.

            And I thought we were talking about multiple buys, not off TV play/remote play, hence my comment on “don’t talk about sub A when we’re talking about sub B”

          • Suzaku Kururugi

            It was not “at random”. If you use remote play, which is using your PSP as a screen for your PS3, YOU ARE WILLINGLY TURNING YOUR PS3 on.

            Jesus Christ that was the dumbest comment I’ve read in the last past five minute.

          • Jesus christ. Try googling “PSP remoteplay PS3 ps3 turnes on random” and you’ll quickly see the issue. Now, who’s the most dumbest? Go cry in a corner.

          • wampdog29

            Also, they added an actual save-state as well to the 3DS and Wii U VC games. Wii’s save state was more like a pause-and-come-back-to-it-later type of save-state. Wii U’s is the real deal. Just another thing you are getting.

  • Judgephoenix

    That charred 3DS left me in tears

  • Incredible article! I’ve been wondering this myself. Only reason I haven’t written it myself is because I haven’t used the eshop or wiishop that much. I think I only have ONE purchase on the eshop. Super Mario 1.

  • Nicholas Perry

    Yes I agree so much.

    They really need to change this

  • Forty

    I’d like to also bring up, since it wasn’t mentioned in the article – they only allow transfer of digital games from one system to another through their system transfer of all games and store info, which wipes the original system of everything.

    While this might not seem particularly bad beyond being overly restrictive, the problem lies in that this has a 5 transfer limit. According to their FAQs, attempting it again after that limit has been reached prompts you to reset the limit by deleting your account activity. Doing so means deleting your ownership of any digital purchases. As far as I understand, while you can still play them, you can never redownload them as you don’t ‘own’ them anymore, meaning if they’re deleted or destroyed somehow, they’re gone forever. You also can’t get patches since those are done through the online store, I believe.

    This is one of the main reasons I refuse to buy digitally from them, which is disappointing because I was hoping to go mostly digital with the 3DS and Wii U, as I have done with my Vita.

  • Jaxon Holden

    While I do agree Nintendo SHOULD implement a new account system, I hardly agree with the severity of your statement: “if anything happens to the hardware, you can kiss thousands of dollars of software goodbye”.

    This is simply not true. It’s a lie. A common misconception that needs to stop, and it needs to stop right now. Club Nintendo IS the online account you speak of. Not in the traditional sense, but it serves as an online record of all eShop purchases, and every Nintendo console owner NEEDS to be registered with Club Nintendo, and link the account to their Wii U and 3DS. As long as you are registered with Club Nintendo and have your account linked, every eShop purchase automatically registers on Club Nintendo.

    If your Wii U or 3DS breaks, for WHATEVER REASON, you can contact Nintendo Customer Svc and get your eShop purchases replaced. There’s been story after story after story of this happening, and every time Nintendo has either credited the person’s eShop account, or if the console was sent in for repair, the games were reinstalled back on the system or onto the replacement system. YOU WILL NOT LOSE YOUR ESHOP PURCHASES UNLESS YOUR SYSTEM IS STOLEN, AND EVEN THEN, IF YOU OBTAIN A POLICE REPORT, NINTENDO WILL CREDIT YOU FOR THE PURCHASES.

    Now look, I agree the account system needs to be changed- I’m not arguing with you there. But I hate reading articles like this where the truth is DISTORTED or even LIED ABOUT to help bolster your argument. You made the bold claim that your purchases WILL BE lost forever if your hardware kicks the bucket, and that’s simply not true. We even have ON RECORD Nintendo replacing eShop purchases for Wii U’s that were stolen. So don’t tell all your readers they’ll be screwed if something happens to their system. Sure, it’s a pain to go through the motions and have the games replaced, but IT IS DO-ABLE.

    • Kenneth Richardson

      Sorry pal but you’re the one lying.

      Your digital content is not protected if something happens to your console. Did you just make that up on the spot?

      Even if you do register with Club Nintendo any digital game purchased before you registered will not be counted. That means that if you haven’t registered with them at all (and why should you have to?) then none of your purchases are protected and exactly what I said stands as truth. In general they don’t cover any digital content, where are you even getting this? It’s all tied to the hardware, not an account of any sort. No hardware no software.

      There have also been reports of people NOT having any of their eShop purchases replaced or credited – many more so I’d wager than reports of people actually getting access to any sort of download list/purchase history.

      Club Nintendo is far from the godsend you’re trying to make it out to be here. Again, like you said, if your hardware is stolen then what do you do? That police report drivel doesn’t always work and it’s hardly probable that you’ll always have access to one. And why on earth should you have go to additional lengths for a modicum of protection for your digital purchases when all you need to obtain them is a credit card number? This system is still far from optimal and nowhere near as good as XBL/PSN.

      Maybe if you HAD to register with Club Nintendo in order to shop at the eShop – and if NIntendo CS actually provided any of the angelic service you’re falsely claiming it does- we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  • Orange Lada

    Well written article and I absolutely agree. As an added comment I’d state that Nintendo is adding insult to injury when online pricing FAR surpasses what I’d pay at a retail store, yet they make far less on a retail sale due to the retailer’s cut.

    I’ve been hoping that the major system upgrade also allows Nintendo to lock software to the users instead of the hardware; if not, I question whether Nintendo intends to play fairly with consumers. At the moment Nintendo aren’t, and it’s going to bite them soon.

  • Stealth

    who cares

  • islan

    This is why I never plan on having a sizeable library of digital content on my Nintendo devices. I only dare spend small amounts on the most premium titles (I only have 1 digital title on my 3DS, and it cost $7). I’m still annoyed that the new Ace Attorney game is only coming out as a digital title, and I’m not sure if I’m willing to pay $40 on it with Nintendo’s poor system.

  • I myself have been a victim of Nintendo’s silly account system. I can feel you… Come on here and I’ll give you a hug.

  • Perry Tanko

    The tl;dr of the article is that Nintendo’s digital system SCREWS its customers.