The Nintendo Network ID announcement for the 3DS is very exciting. It's a step in the right direction, towards current console expectations. It's unifying the eShops and giving 3DS owners access to Miiverse, so they can connect with other users and share knowledge amongst themselves. It seems like Nintendo is actually getting things right.
Except, the company is not. The addition of Nintendo Network IDs and Miiverse migration are good news, but there are many unanswered questions, and there’s a way that this step forward could really be a step sideways.
It all has to do with how the Nintendo Network IDs will be used. During the Nintendo Direct presentation, and on the newly created 3DS Nintendo Network ID informational website, Nintendo talks about what will be available, once the firmware update is released and system is in place. The 3DS and Wii U eShop balances will be shared, provided someone registers the same Nintendo Network ID on both systems. People can buy Wii U games from their 3DS, and vice versa. All future 3DS eShop purchases will require a Nintendo Network ID, even if someone is downloading free content such as a demo.
However, it mentions nothing about past 3DS eShop purchases. It would have been so simple for Nintendo to take a moment to say something like, "All past 3DS eShop purchases on a system will now be tied to the Nintendo Network ID after the firmware update." People would be reassured that, finally, the archaic days of games tied to a system were dead. Their past purchases would be safe and tied to their new Nintendo Network ID. Even if a perilous fate befell their 3DS, they would still have their games. Except Nintendo didn't. Which leaves us wondering what will happen with those past games.
Even if, by some miracle, past 3DS eShop purchases will be linked to a Nintendo Network ID after it is registered to a system, there's another problem. The official Nintendo Network Accounts Page for the 3DS makes a point of saying only one ID can be registered for each 3DS system, and your Nintendo Network ID can only be registered on one 3DS at a time. Think about that for a second. If your 3DS is lost, stolen, or broken, you're stuck. The official webpage says that account information can only be transferred to a different 3DS via the "transfer title and data" procedure. For those who have never gone from, say, a 3DS to a 3DS XL, this means having both systems in front of you and going through a special process that sends authorizations over to the new 3DS XL while also resetting the old 3DS. Nintendo hasn't offered any information on worst-case scenario situations, and you could still be stuck starting over with nothing.
Adding Nintendo Network IDs to the 3DS is a good thing--make no mistake about that. However, Nintendo is going to have to make sure this system is rolled out in the right way. Users need confirmation that their past purchases will be linked to their registered accounts, so they can be assured that they will always have access to games they own. They need to know that, if something bad happens, they can buy a new 3DS, 3DS XL, or even 2DS, log in with their Nintendo Network ID, and not have to worry about going to Nintendo to prove their old system was broken or stolen, so an ID can be transferred. 3DS owners need to feel secure with their console ownerships, and know Nintendo is going to handle this the right way. Between now and the December 3DS firmware launch, the company is going to have to step up and prove it's taking users’ concerns to heart.