Nintendo Confirms Switch Save Data Can't Be Transferred

Sometimes shit happens, like accidentally deleting a save file you've invested lots of blood, sweat, and tears into. Unfortunately, there's no way to backup the save files for Nintendo Switch games. It seems hard to believe but Nintendo has confirmed that's the case.

An FAQ on the company's site explains Nintendo says on its own site that save data is kept on the system's internal storage and "cannot be saved or copied to a microSD card." If the internal memory fills up, the FAQ says some of it will need to be deleted to make room for new save files. And remember, the Switch internal memory is only 32GB, nearly a quarter of which is taken up by the OS.

That's a departure from the Switch's handheld and home console predecessors, both of which allowed users to transfer and backup save data. On the Wii U, save files could be transferred to USB storage devices while on the 3DS had an elaborate and cumbersome but still effective way of transferring save data to other 3DSs. On the Switch, however, the Data Management section only lets you delete what's already there.

When asked about whether there was really no way to move save data from one Switch to another, Nintendo said in a statement to Kotaku, "At this time, it is not possible to transfer save data from one Nintendo Switch system to another."

On the PS4 it's pretty easy to move save data between the system, USB storage devices, or Sony online cloud storage. It's possible to sync save data between some games on PS4 and their Vita versions even. For all of the inadequacies of Sony's solution, it still looks remarkably robust compared to what's currently available on the Switch.

Everything inside a Nintendo Switch. Image credit: iFixit.

In effect what this means is that if your Switch breaks, or is lost, so is all of your hard work. Everything you ever accomplished in Zelda: Breath of the Wild gone. All those unlocks in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe once again locked. We've travelled a long way from the days of patiently and carefully navigating save menus and caring for memory cards so as not to overwrite or corrupt the endless hours poured into our favourite games, but somehow the Switch makes that past feel closer than it should be.

Of course, Nintendo's coy use of "at this time" leaves the door open to possibly adding the feature down the road, or finding some other bizarre workaround as the company seems to love doing. But for the time being you'll want to take extra care. "No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main," goes the John Donne poem. The same cannot be said for my Breath of the Wild saves.


    I'd ask if things could get any worse but I fear Nintendo will hear me and take it as a challenge instead of a criticism.

    Definitely waiting a year or so until Nintendo irons things out (if at all).

    Last edited 05/03/17 10:38 am

      Don't be stupid, the Switch is perfect and any criticism of it whatsoever is just haters hating. You big hater.

        Sad thing is some will actually behave that way. If the current run of the Switch is OK for some users then I hope they do get enjoyment out of it.

        As for me, I'm actually reverting to an old plan I had back in the day when money was scarce.

        I used to get games before the console. The honest reasoning is I knew I could get the hard ware (second hand or otherwise) later but I knew games would go out of print.

        So by the time I had said console, I at least had a few games I put my pennies together for and was at the ready. In some cases my fears were confirmed and by the time I got the console the games I had were already out of print.

        While times have improved, I find myself doing this now. I have Breath of the Wild on the way and might get Splatoon 2 when it comes out later this year.

        But the Switch itself, I don't see myself going near until Christmas this year at the earliest.

        Don't get me wrong, Nintendo do have some good ideas (and if MatPat is right, they VR ready and in the bag!), but the implementation is just grossly lacking.

          Yes, Its quite funny really reading some comment sections. Some people act like not liking the console they like is a personal insult to them or something. To them negative opinions of a console they like is against the law.

            I could never understand that. For example, if one says he or she is getting good entertainment from a Megadrive, my pointing out that the sound is limited and the pallet is limited should not change the entertainment value.

            Sonic is still going to bounce of the walls at eye-watering speed.

        Conversely, the Switch is a massive steaming pile of shit and if you point out that many issues could be resolved in an upcoming update or just by taking care of your console, you're a blind Nintendo loving shill.

          I may be missing a whoosh, but I was absolutely being sarcastic.

          EDIT: I see what you mean. To be fair, the Switch does have a few issues, as do a lot of consoles. And some Nintendo fans on Kotaku are just as bad as the Xbox and Sony fanboys on IGN. Hell, there was a dude on the main Switch review thread who didn't make a single comment, but up voted every vaguely pro-Nintendo comment and down voted every vaguely anti-Nintendo comment.

          Last edited 05/03/17 2:11 pm

            I agree, neither extreme is particularly pleasant, but I think things need to be kept in perspective. And I get it, people want to defend their decision to buy or not buy it buy calling out the pros / cons, but people calling the demise of the Switch because you can't transfer saves at launch is a tad hyperbolic.

          And if Kotaku constantly scrape the barrel to find criticisms eg "Shock! Secret cost of screen protector for screen device is so bad!!" while still praising the Xbox One that still has unstable and buggy OS (at least it still does for me, but not as bad as when I first got it and it crashed 20 times in the first day).
          I mean this is a console that you take with you so it's not like PS4 or Xbox One where you want to transfer saves between consoles, like my friend and I do between our houses.
          Sometimes I think Kotaku just haven't really thought about the Switch very much and are confused by it.

            I'll give you the screen protector issue, but the lack of save transferring is 100% a legitimate issue. Possibly even more so on a hand held as there's a greater issue of you losing it, dropping it, etc.

    Personally i think cloud saves on a portable console is essential and a glaring ommision for a premium priced games console. If you lose it/gets stolen/gets damaged by someone else you lose all your saves? Even free apps on my phone have cloud saves!

    like accidentally deleting a save file you've invested lots of blood, sweat, and tears into

    How does that even happen?

    *Highlights a save file and then presses delete*
    WHOOPS #1
    "Would you like to delete your game?" - *Presses yes*
    WHOOPS #2
    "Are you sure? You won't be able to recover this data once deleting it" - *Presses yes again*
    WHOOPS #3

      True. But the console dying or getting stolen (or even just lost, given that it's portable) is quite feasible.

      I remember when my PS3 died back in the days before they had cloud storage. I lost a 200+ hour Oblivion save :( At least I had the option then to be backing up to USB, although I wasn't actually doing it so I still lost everything. I learned the lesson though and did weekly USB backup from then on.

      You'd hope / assume that Nintendo will have some kind of cloud save solution in place by the time they start charging money for their online service.

        I've never thought of Nintendo the type to have a free cloud service, heck their online Pokemon Bank is something you have to pay an annual fee for.

        Usually you'd just pop in an sd card, move the save file to that, eject, put it into a computer, and copy the data over. I'm assuming that's what they'll eventually implement. I'm guessing the reason they're holding that feature back is probably because they're trying their hardest to plug exploits, i.e. homebrew-ness.

        I'd say an update by way of their upcoming online service is highly likely.

      Never had a child or a younger sibling, I take it? I lost a lot of save files to my youngest brother back when everything was in memory cards - somehow even though he couldn't read at all he had an uncanny talent for navigating through multiple warnings to delete save games.

    Can't say I've ever backed up my saves on any console, Nintendo or otherwise, so probably won't be missing it. Of course, now I've said that mine will probably have a catastrophic hardware failure 40 hours into Zelda.

    I guess I won't be buying a switch at this time :P

    Wow, now not even doing backups? I mean it's one thing to have saves encrypted so only you can use them or whatever, but now to have them locked inside the machine too? Fucksake Nintendo, stop going backwards. Already lost all my shit one time too many when you bricked my 3DS, don't want to have to go through that all over again.

      That sounded especially bad because you lost actual GAMES bought on the estore, right?

      I mean, how fucking prehistoric is a system that you don't get your purchases tagged to a portable profile?

        Not without posting down another unit to have the account physically transferred over to.

        But I was more peeved about losing all the progress I'd made in those games, Pullblox and Mighty Switch force were gigantic pains in the arse to get through as they were nearing the end. Those couldn't be pulled from the unit, for whatever reason. Though I imagine that were it not for the encryption on the file system there might be a chance to pull the thing apart and pull copies off it, with the right probes and connections in place. That seems to be outside the service they offer though.

    Nintendo will simply sell us a "fixed" version 2 revision of this console next year.

      Speaking of which, does the Xbox One S have a better and more stable OS and easier to use GUI than gen 1 Xbox One? If so, I may trade in my Xbox One for one. All I use my Xbox One for is the Tenplay app and the only game I still own for it on disc is Rockband 4 (for all my 360 era DLC). I've never had a system crash so much, even the bluray app crashed on me. Not as bad now, but it's still sluggish and sometimes crashes and many things are still hard to find.
      Maybe I'll wait for the Scorpio.

        Speaking of which, does the Xbox One S have a better and more stable OS and easier to use GUI than gen 1 Xbox One?

        As far as I can tell, the OS is basically the same on both thus would have the same UI.

        I love the concept of the switch, and many of the upcoming games appeal to me. At the end of the day, I will be buying a Scorpio. I see it as future proofing myself.

        I also own an XBox 360 almost exclusively for the Dishwasher games, so I am hoping I can play them on that too, or at least have any future Ska games available to me.

        Never had my Xbox one crash, but I'll give you the gui is pretty badly laid out.

        Yeah, navigating the xbone's UI is like interpreting the manifesto of a cryptographer who happened to be a doomsday cultist. There's a couple games I've got on there that I don't have on my PS4, but I never play them because fuck me the xbone's awful to use.

        I don't like the controller much, either.

    Kinda makes sense, there last couple consoles have been easily hacked due to access to the save data.

    "And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

    The bell tolls for thee, Nintendo!

    So, missing a feature at launch (that won't be necessary immediately under most circumstances) and implying that it will come up in the future is "coy"? The bias of the writer is showing up bad there.

    The PS4 was pretty barebones back in launch day and the current XBone is very different to what it was in launch day. It is obvious that such a feature is coming up if only because it has been present in previous Nintendo game mchines. What about giving it time instead of trying to crucify it over every little thing, jeez.

    The only two reasons I can see them locking the save data inside the system so it cant be copied is to...

    A) Stop players hacking their saves.
    B) To sell cloud save storage.

    Otherwise the inability to transfer data seems to be a design decision that has no context... and without understanding or knowing the reason... ultimately makes it a STUPID design decision.

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