It would be fair to say the imminent arrival of the Nintendo Switch Online service isn’t been greeted with open arms by the Nintendo community. Up until now, Switch users have been able to play online with spending a penny, yet Nintendo is showing off its paid online service as if it’s a big event that’s a great treat for fans.
In terms of what users get for their subscription, above and beyond what’s available now, it includes a rolling library of NES ROMs, undisclosed eShop offers, and cloud saves. It’s also a requirement for online multiplayer and the use of the Nintendo Online mobile app, both of which are free right now.
For a portable console, cloud saves are probably the biggie for a lot of folks though. Nintendo Switch consoles can be lost or broken far more easily than other hardware, and at this point, this would mean all of a user’s save data would be lost too. By subscribing to the Nintendo Switch Online service, save data files can be uploaded to the cloud as back-ups and retrieved at a later date.
Only, it now turns out there’s a major caveat to cloud saves too. Both the UK and US FAQs for Nintendo Switch Online say “Save data stored with Save Data Cloud cannot be kept outside of the duration of your Nintendo Switch Online membership." Once a user’s subscription is up, Nintendo says it’s “unable to guarantee that cloud save data will be retained.” In a nutshell, the cloud saves may be deleted if a subscription expires.
If we compare this to other platforms, Nintendo doesn’t come out looking too hot. Sony offers a 6-month grace period for users to download their saves after a PS+ subscription expires, while on Xbox cloud saves are free as standard. On PC, the likes of Steam, Origin, and Uplay all offer cloud saves indefinitely, totally free of charge.
For Nintendo, this is something it needs to get on top off if it wants to charge £17.99/$19.99 for the privilege. The Switch Online service is already incredibly far behind the pack in terms of feature set, and deleting cloud saves is a big no-no, even if a subscription ends. Credit cards expire; people may have to wait until payday to renew a subscription; there are any number of reasons why a subscription may temporarily end, and losing the saves is not a good solution.