As I write this column, it’s the morning after a tiring night before. I spent it fighting. Specifically: fighting Nintendo’s eShop.
For context, we bought my daughter a Nintendo Switch for her birthday, thereby continuing a great family tradition of buying consoles approximately eight seconds before they’re due to be replaced by something new. But she wanted Mario Kart 8 in the house – and, to be honest, so did I. Folks online then wisely suggested I set the Switch up in advance. What could possibly go wrong?
I was prepared for the inevitable firmware updates and fiddling with profiles. That all went well, with Nintendo allowing me to sign into the device with a phone. What baffled me was how appalling the process for buying digital games was.
Clearly, I’ve been spoiled by years of Google Play and the App Store. Want a game for your phone? Prod a button, your card is charged the exact amount, and the game downloads. Google Play goes one stage further, letting you buy online, in a browser (rather than on-device), and sends your download wherever you fancy. Easy.
Nintendon’t buy anything
Nintendo’s eShop has apparently decided to adopt a position that’s the precise opposite of ‘take my money’. Or at least that was the case for me. Aside from my initially not knowing you had to connect the Switch to a Nintendo account before buying any games (itself a weird decision, in my opinion), I found the eShop was relentlessly keen to sign me out, regardless of the browser I was using.
During the brief seconds I was signed in, clicking a ‘buy’ button on a game would sometimes lead to a purchase page and sometimes not. I then found there was no cart. I’d have to buy a dozen games individually. OK. Fine. Whatever.
That all worked for the first five. Then Nintendo declared there was a problem with my debit card. I figured my sometimes twitchy bank had blocked it, although I received no text. No matter. I switched to a credit card. Nope. Then another. Nope. Then PayPal. Still nope. I couldn’t buy anything more. Which was doubly frustrating, given that I was setting this up for my kid’s birthday and there was a sale on.
House of cards
I headed back online, looking for a solution. And then discovered there isn’t one. Instead, forums are full of people fuming at being in the same situation. Some are never able to use standard payment options to buy games again, while Nintendo support shrugs its shoulders and suggests eShop vouchers.
So… that’s what I tried. Buying them with a card Nintendo claimed no longer worked. Naturally, one voucher didn’t get added to my account until the second time I tried. And I now have random pennies kicking around that will never get spent, which will mock me every time I venture to the eShop.
This all comes across like no-one at Nintendo has used the internet since 2005. I’m certainly not of the opinion ‘it just works’ always applies to Apple. (Hello, iCloud!) But I often hear people refer to Nintendo as the ‘Apple of gaming’. That might be true when it comes to great hardware, an emphasis on innovation, and polish. But the company has a long way to go to match the reliable and streamlined purchasing experience of games on the App Store. And given that games are what Nintendo does, I hope things will improve when the Switch’s successor rocks up.
• Related: The 30 best Nintendo Switch games to play today