Let’s Clarify: This is How Nintendo’s Account System Works


I’ve seen lots of widespread misunderstandings about Wii U and its relationship to Nintendo Network IDs, digital content, and so on. People seem to judge it based on two known extremes: a world where digital content is tied to a system, and one where it is tied to a console. As a result, people behave under the assumption that their NNID has nothing to do with their digital purchases, since they’re on the console anyway – or the opposite, which is believing they can migrate purchases to a new machine using their NNID.

The reality is that Nintendo Network IDs fall somewhere in the middle. Let’s clarify some of the misconceptions.

Myth #1: Nintendo Doesn’t Have a User Account System


Nintendo-Network-IDNintendo introduced a user-created account system with Wii U called “Nintendo Network IDs.” Each user on a Wii U system can create his or her own Nintendo Network ID, which is used for Wii U and various web services such as user-specific save data, Nintendo eShop, Nintendo TVii, Miiverse, the Deluxe Digital Promotion and other online-based applications.

Later this year, you’ll be able to login using your Nintendo Network ID on your 3DS to access Miiverse, so the infrastructure is in place for these accounts to be multiplatform as well. Nintendo has also stated that Nintendo Network IDs will carry over to future Nintendo devices, and when you transfer your Wii purchases to a Wii U they become associated with your Nintendo Network ID, so they’re definitely thinking of accounts as universal and permanent.

Myth #2: On Wii U, Downloads Are Tied to the Hardware, Not Your Account

Yes and no.

Your downloads are tied to (and require) a Nintendo Network ID, and any place where you log in with your Nintendo Network ID recognizes all the purchases made with that account. Right now, the best example is the Deluxe Digital Promotion website, which tracks your digital purchases and rewards frequent buyers with points that can be redeemed for eShop credit.

This myth comes from the current restriction of Nintendo Network ID Wii U logins to the system that they were created on. Games you download are also playable on any user on the home system, regardless of their Nintendo Network ID. In other words, while your games are tied to your account and extended across the hardware, your account can’t be used on another Wii U system.

wii-u-eshop-sizesHowever, in cases where you report a problem to Nintendo, it is technically possible to de-link your account from the original system, then log in to a new system with your old Nintendo Network ID and re-download your content.

In fact, Nintendo’s online policies – at least in North America – explicitly mention the transfer of Nintendo Network IDs and software between devices (viewable here, Nintendo Network Services Agreement) as within the realm of possibility of Nintendo Network:

The Network Services may permit you to transfer some or all of your data, information, account balances, and Digital Content between Nintendo Devices that you own, or between your Network Accounts.

So Nintendo does effectively have hardware-based DRM, but the restriction is at the level of the accounts – which can only be on one system currently – not in a “they’re not tied to your account” kind of way. This is different from Wii, where purchases were only really linked natively to the hardware and only to a separate account via optional Club Nintendo integration.

If you format your system, you will remove all your digital content as well as any registered users or Nintendo Network IDs. However, Nintendo still has record of the systems to which your accounts are registered, and registering new users with those same NNIDs will allow you to redownload content.

I’m not saying the situation is ideal, and I’m certainly not defending Nintendo’s current account system. They need to remove their draconian hardware restrictions so users can enjoy more security with their Nintendo Network IDs and not have to worry about systems breaking down, being stolen or re-sold, etc. and losing access to their digital content as a result. They’re strongly out of touch with the market in this regard.

However, I think this ideal is not so far off as most people believe – and if Scott Moffitt’s recent admissions are any indication, it’s a problem they’re working on.

  • Tensei

    Do you know what you have to go through to de-link your account? You have to go through hell. I already mentioned my friend’s stolen Wii U. The lovely people at Nintendo customer service treated him like criminal. Absolutely refused to help him until he sent a police report and even then they didnt reimburse him fully.

    Such a poor and sloppy system.

    • Churze

      I’m surprised someone even would steal a Wii U…

      • Inverse

        That’s really unhelpful and not nearly as funny as you seem to think it is, kid.

  • Amazonqueen27

    My sons 3DS died, that’s how I learned about the accounts. All the games were lost and it took 4 months to get the money back for all the DLC he had.

  • Ray

    This confuses me as all hell.

    And it sucks because I have a friend who has an account since I can’t really get one
    as I live on an island. He put credit on his account and let me sign in to download some games that’d otherwise be impossible for me to get. Does this mean that he can’t use his login on his 3DS and will have to make a new account if he wants to buy games on eShop for himself in the

    It’s confusing and I don’t know why it can’t be simpler. PSN makes a ton more sense and it’s so user-friendly.

  • Dizzy Gear

    finally! im sick of friend codes, because they never worked!!

    • Guest

      You still have friend codes.

      • Dizzy Gear

        still friend codes?!

        • Guest

          Is that really necessary? You get an “account system” and “Friend codes” on 3DS( Yes, I know) but not Wii U( Only accounts). But there still tied to the system until you do a system transfer( Which makes it kinda pointless to have an account system in the first place).

          • Dizzy Gear

            to be honest that is really how i feel. nintendo has screwed around with unnecessary friend codes ever since the NDS came out. those codes are so lame and they dont even work because no one wants to take the time out of there day to put in those stupid codes. think about it, its like IF video games STILL made you use codes to save your game (like nes games did). im not going to kid myself anymore nintendo isnt the same company there were back in the 90′s, dumb decisions like using friend codes is what makes me love indie games even more now of days. mainstream sucks.

  • Blake Wigert

    Ah, I miss the day there was no problems with internet connections, error codes or all the things that take gaming from being simple fun to pure hell

    • Trent Taylor

      The crazy thing is, online gaming doesn’t have to complicated, or frustrating. Steam’s proven this. I don’t know why the consoles guys haven’t realized this.

      • Jordon Sandoval

        It’s not consoles, it’s Nintendo. The 360 and PS3 have all of this sorted out. Nintendo is still stuck in the 90s and can’t get their fingers out of their ass long enough to make some progress.

        • Trent Taylor

          I suppose. I’m not fond of PSN though. It’s the simplicity of knowing who’s playing what and quickly being able to join and invite, or find the game to buy.

          • Jordon Sandoval

            It’s not nearly as difficult to do all that stuff on 360. It’s two button presses away, and you’ve got your friend’s list. Also, you don’t have to load a separate app to get to the Xbox Games Store.

            • Trent Taylor

              I’m not familiar with the 360′s system/

              • Jordon Sandoval

                Basically, the home screen is the store, and there’s a search button, and the friend system is much smoother and faster, and you can invite people from your friend’s list. The PSN system is really slow and clunky compared to the 360′s.

            • Guest

              Now MS is shoving all this security crap on customers who already did and proved they are the ones who own their account.

              • Jordon Sandoval

                Well, I’d rather go through one or two extra hurdles with MS for extra security, rather than get my account information stolen, like people have with PSN and Steam.

  • Guest

    The titles purchased are still tied to the system until you do a System transfer, so that should make Nintendo account’s worthless no matter how you defend it.

    • Asturias_Knytt


      wtf is the point then?

  • Asturias_Knytt

    And I still don’t know a Nintendo Network ID is.

    Is it like PSN? Are all my games saved there?

    Seriously…in plain English would help.

  • Jay

    The least they can do is let games be installed/registered to a single device at a time.
    Most people use the loss or theft anecdote, but I have another, probably more common example:

    I have Animal Crossing: New Leaf on my 3DS XL. When I’m bored or done with it, I would like to give it to my daughter. Let me uninstall it from my 3DS XL and install it onto her 3DS. Even if it requires a 24-hour waiting period… anything.

    I understand why they want people to buy two copies of the same handheld game in order to do multiplayer. I’ll spend $80 for Pokemon X and Pokemon Y, but how about Nintendo lets me swap games if my daughter and I finish what we’re playing.

    I know Nintendo is doing some discount program for frequent buyers, but that’s lame. Just do what every other digital game retailer does and attach game purchases to user accounts.