The Nintendo 3DS XL is out this summer. Hooray for tech nerds that love new hardware. With any new Nintendo device though, existing fans hoping to upgrade are always hassled by the same question: Will I be able to play my already purchased games on the new device? The word from Nintendo is yes you can, but with a significant caveat.
One of the biggest problems plaguing Nintendo’s home and handheld devices in the era of digital distribution is the lack of a central account structure for users. Buying and downloading games to the Nintendo 3DS through the eShop is easy enough, but having multiple devices with the same games on them? Impossible! Your 3DS was stolen and you need to get your games back? You have to send that thing to Nintendo and even then it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get all your games back. Unlike Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, Steam, Apple’s iTunes, and countless other digital media services, Nintendo does not recognize your purchases as tied to a single account which entitles you to use purchased goods on multiple devices. Even a Club Nintendo account that links all these purchases together doesn’t count.
How then will existing Nintendo 3DS owners who upgrade to the 3DS XL get all their games onto the system? A Nintendo representative told Digital Trends that the “System Transfer” feature in the existing Nintendo 3DS settings will transfer that info to the 3DS XL.
The transfer will carry over Nintendo 3DS settings like Internet Connection info, saved information like Friends Lists and Miis, Nintendo DSiWare titles, everything saved on the SD card, and Nintendo eShop account information, including download history and any balance in your eShop wallet.
Some early 3DS owners concerned that their Ambassador Program games won’t carry over don’t need to worry. Nintendo offered 20 free games to 3DS buyers that purchased the system before the July 2011 price drop, including 10 Game Boy Advance games that aren’t available in the eShop. Since the Ambassador Pass was a download from the eShop, that will transfer to the new system.
What’s the problem then? If you’re planning to keep your old Nintendo 3DS after upgrading to the 3DS XL, all of your games and data will be inaccessible on the original system.
Nintendo has already confirmed that it’s making transfer plans for the Wii U. This same representative told me in March that Nintendo’s official line is: “We are planning to make it possible to transfer the purchased contents from Wii.” Now that Nintendo is getting into the DLC business, it has got to find a way to centralize users’ information in a convenient way. System transfers that render old hardware inert are just unacceptable.