2 Nintendo Switches, 2 Children, 1 Dad with a credit card
April 21, 2020 9:50 PM   Subscribe

What is the best (i.e. cheapest) way for me to purchase games on the Nintendo Switch so that both kids can play on their own individual console under their own profile?

I can't figure it out from the Nintendo website obviously or I wouldn't post it here. It seems like if you purchase a game for download, you are allowed to play unlimited with unlimited guests on your own console, and you can plan on someone else's console under the original purchasing account with a single "guest" player (i.e. not on a specific Other Person account).

I have 2 kids who are spoiled enough to each have their own Switch consoles. I want to be able to purchase a game once and let each play on their own consoles under their own accounts. Seems like a simple and common enough problem, right?

I have my own Nintendo Switch account, and I play occasionally, but I don't have my own console. When I purchase a game under my own account, it seems like I can only download once (maybe I am wrong), but I definitely can only let one other account play the game. I just had to purchase the latest version of Mario Kart ($69.99) twice just so that each kid could play on their own console under their own account (so they can accumulate experience points and advance in the game under their own name).

Am I missing something, or is there some trick I'm not seeing? (possibly relevant: I am not a huge gamer and have limited experience with this kind of thing).
posted by Slarty Bartfast to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh yes, both kids' accounts are "family accounts" under my account. Still can't do it with me as the purchaser.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:51 PM on April 21, 2020

Your Nintendo Switch account (the admin account in control of both of your kids' accounts) should be able to login and download a game from the Eshop on the second console without having to pay again. If you browse for the game in the store it should say "purchased" where the buy button would be. If it has a price there you are logged in with the wrong account. To redownload you need to navigate to your portrait/avatar in the shop corner and open account details. You should see an option for redownloading games. See this help page from Nintendo.

It is possible to play a single game purchased from the eshop on multiple consoles, but there are caveats:

1. Your account is set as the "primary account" on only one Nintendo Switch console at a time. You can change which console is primary, but only one can be primary at a time. The primary account can play downloaded games offline while a non-primary console must have an internet connection to play the game. Cloud saves for the primary account will also be mirrored on both Switches assuming the game supports that.

2. On the secondary console a player must be logged in with your account to play the game. On the primary console any account can play downloaded content. (Please note: I was not able to verify whether this applies to child accounts underneath a parent account acting as primary, but it kind of looks like they are considered separate accounts for this purpose.)

3. Only one of the consoles can use a downloaded game at once. For example, if you downloaded Animal Crossing on both consoles it would not be possible for both to start and play the game at the same time. If you try this the primary console will win the fight and pause the game on the secondary console. (Another note: it might be possible to disconnect the internet connection on the primary console and play entirely offline and then pass the validation check on the secondary console. I don't have two Switches to test this.)

This is all explained (rather poorly) on Nintendo's website. This Kotaku article was also helpful in puzzling it out.

You might try testing this out after your kids have gone to bed or something to make sure you understand how it all works. I think if it turns out the child accounts are considered separate accounts (meaning they must use your user account to play the downloaded games) that eshop downloaded games are not a good option for you as they will not be able to have separate saves. Ultimately you may find it much easier to purchase a single physical game and be in control of which child gets to play it at any specific time. Further, if they want/need to play the same game at the same time that won't work (barring possible workarounds with Internet connectivity that are probably too involved to ask kids to manage even if they do work.)
posted by forbiddencabinet at 11:01 PM on April 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Regarding the primary and secondary console, I was kind of surprised by how this is implemented in Animal Crossing - unless one of your kids is much younger or less interested, this sounds like a bad experience all round if it's a game they want to play.
posted by carbide at 12:12 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

That sounds like a nightmare?! If it's ok with supplemental questions. Would having a lite and a regular switch allow for two game sessions? Would you still need two copies of the game? Does the lite take game-cards? The "one island per console" thing suggests that if OP has two consoles, one game could work right?
posted by Iteki at 12:55 AM on April 22, 2020

We have two Switches and decided game sharing wasn't feasible.
posted by LoveHam at 4:52 AM on April 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

Unfortunately, game sharing is possible but not really workable in real life. Especially with Animal Crossing.
posted by cooker girl at 6:07 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

A suggestion to look into:

Would it be helpful if you actually bought the physical cartridge of a game instead of just a download? That way (I think), you could have the game accessible on two consoles, just not simultaneously.
posted by Leontine at 6:43 AM on April 22, 2020

Yeah, you can share a physical game card between two Switches since the save games are stored on the console not the cartridge. Of course you have the issue of a) not being able to play on two Switches at the same time, and b) the possible sibling arguments that might result. As a parent of multiple kids myself, I would definitely be enforcing either a "one copy of the game, share it fairly or no-one can play" policy, or a "Child A gets this game for their birthday - it belongs to them and Child B can borrow it when Child A isn't playing".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:00 AM on April 22, 2020

Response by poster: This is kind of what I thought, it is not really workable. One kid once played Splatoon 2 on my account and ended up spending all the credits another kid had earned and that ended with an entire night of consoling a weeping 7 year old.

Plus, they do play some games online with each other. Physical cartridges are the solution and if it's a game they each need a console to play together (Minecraft, Splatoon, Animal Crossing) we are buying it twice either way.

Pretty evil, Nintendo. You own the kid gaming market, you should throw families a bone.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:08 PM on April 22, 2020

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