One VERY SPECIFIC Way to Share a Nintendo Digital Title Between Systems
Nintendo is an interesting company when it comes to digital downloads. While they have made some great strides such as unique sales to grab your attention and "upgrades" at a discounted price to previous purchasers of certain titles, they hold a vise grip on what you can play your games on. While an Xbox 360 or PS3 owner could sign in on another console and play their digital library, Nintendo regularly hardwires a digital copy to a single system. If you had a Wii and upgraded to a Wii U, moving your games over required eliminating them from the previous system. Even homes that own multiple 3DS systems lean toward physical purchases, as the two gamers couldn't share their library between systems. Digital titles are wholly in control of the All Powerful Nintendo, and that's that.
While not perfect, though, I recently stumbled upon one loophole that I wanted to share with the internet at large. There is one very, VERY specific situation in which Nintendo allows a digital copy to be transferred to another system and account. It requires one thing, though: both systems must not be connected to a Nintendo Network ID. Also, the more games being transferred, the more patience one must have.
I originally called Nintendo Customer Service because my son had a 3DS from about two years ago. I've enjoyed it from time to time, but for my birthday this year I was given the gift of a 3DS as well. I was hoping that the $30-some odd dollars I'd spent on games I knew my son would NEVER play could get ported to my machine. Sadly, transferring is an all-or-nothing gambit. If I transferred my Game Boy Metroid or Zelda: Oracle games, he would lose the ability to play his Mario Kart 7, and my cheap Game Boy rereleases could be acquired much cheaper than re-buying the 3DS digital titles he owns. After saying thanks to the representative, I simply said "I wish there was a way to give him a title from my brand new system. I got the Mario and Luigi Dream Team set because I like the design, but he's ga ga over the series, and would get much more use out of the download than me," to which the Nintendo rep, after talking with their supervisor, stated that it was in fact possible.
As stated before, both systems must NOT be connected to a Nintendo Network ID, as the being connected to online services nullifies the loophole. Also, I strongly suggest doing any and all backups: use the transfer tools available in the 3DS shop to make backups of your save data, and use a PC to make a physical copy of your cards. After ensuring both consoles are updated to the latest firmware version, selecting "Transfer from Nintendo 3DS" within the options menu and sending from System A to System B will format the original system and transfer all data to it, but will not erase the licenses from the original system (again, ONLY if it hasn't been connected to a Nintendo Network ID). The transfer pages on the systems specifically talk about deleting all data off of the system losing the memory, and how the target system will have all of it's data erased, yet what it does is merge the device licenses.
My son lost some save data, but his passion, the camera and videos, remained intact. I had to transfer the data back from the PC onto the card, which is assigned to the specific unit, so the original data became "corrupted". Going into the Nintendo eShop found all the titles he owned with a "download" icon pictured. A few hours of searching (I had written down everything he owned) and his games were back where they belonged, with "my" copy of Dream Team now licensed to his 3DS.
I know this is a very specific situation, but as a Dad, I can see this as being useful. Your kid wants a game, and another kid got it on his system but never plays it, it was just pre-installed, and all he does is cartridges. Or, you want a 3DS and a friend wants a title, he could chip in and help you buy your system, then you could transfer it to him. It is an all-or-nothing, it could risk deleting a save if you aren't careful, and I would still suggest calling Nintendo Customer Support to walk you through it: while I gave you the steps this is an informative article and I hold no liability if you botch your saves trying to do this yourself. On another note, the representative told me a fun fact: If two people own a game digitally, and you move a memory card, that title's save file can be played on the other machine. Say you're driving on a long car trip, and Billy and Suzy own Luigi's Mansion on their 3DS. Billy's playing when his battery dies, and Suzy isn't using her 3DS. If they both own the digital copy, Billy can pop his SD card out and put it in Suzy's machine to continue playing. While an obscure feature, yet another handy thing it's better to know than not.
One day, I hope Nintendo joins the rest of civilization in the digital world. Allowing online access to the titles you own on another machine is an easy and fun way to "take your games" to your friend's house without having to bring the entire unit along for the ride. Even though the 3DS is a single-person owned machine, I strongly feel it needs multiple sign in options as well. But for now, I hope at least one person finds this information useful.