My daughter turned 11 today, and given the fact she loves the thing but always has to share our existing unit with me and her brother, all she wanted was a Nintendo Switch. So we got her one.
It was a lot of money for a birthday present, but my wife—as she always does—found ways to justify it to me, like the fact we already own all the games, and so we managed to get a good deal on a teal Switch Lite (the colour she wanted, she’s 11, she’s very picky), got her a nice case to go with it and got ready to see one happy kid.
This morning she burst into our bedroom, we gave her her present, and she was thrilled. She loved the Switch, loved the colour, loved the case (an Animal Crossing one in the same colour as the console). Being such a huge Animal Crossing fan, that’s what she wanted to play first, and having previously looked up and confirmed the fact we could transfer her island to her own Switch, we were ready to let her go at it as a special birthday treat (normally my kids aren’t allowed to play games during a schoolweek).
I fired up the Switch, we got her a new profile, went to link it to my Nintendo eShop account so we could access the same games and...huh. Despite living peacefully on my existing Switch for five years without ever needing to have its information logged back in, it was now asking me for a Google Authenticator code. Weird, but whatever, I could do that.
So I opened up my phone and then Google Authenticator and it was blank. Which of course it was. I got a new phone in February 2021, and when I first setup Google Authenticator it would have been on an older phone, which I only found out this year—when I was locked out of my Ubisoft account for the same reason—doesn’t carry codes over to new hardware.
With the Switch now asking me if I’d like to enter a backup code instead, I started getting a little sweaty. Nobody except my Mum, writing passwords down in a little paper book she keeps under her monitor, actually keeps their backup codes, right? Only I did, I could now remember, I always do for important stuff like Nintendo hardware, I had starred it and archived it in my work email when I first got them, all those years ago.
I punched “Nintendo Switch backup codes” into my email and got...nothing. No results at all earlier than 2017, actually, which...oh. Oh fuck. That’s right. I used to work at a place called Gawker, which was awesome until it was destroyed by a wrestler and a vampire fascist, and amidst the turmoil of having to change owners we all lost access to our old work-related Google accounts.
I bought my Switch, and presumably set up 2FA, sometime before 2017, and so those codes were gone now too. Now I was really sweating, but in desperation figured it’s OK, I can just call Nintendo and they’ll walk me through an account recovery. I’ve had to blog about people doing this for 15 years, now that it’s my turn it can’t possibly be that hard, right?
Only it is, because Nintendo Australia—presumably as a result of constant Covid lockdowns in the city they’re based, Melbourne—now no longer has a phone number you can call, just a website form. Which can take up to seven days to be responded to.
I’d ruined her birthday. Well, not the whole thing, the Switch will endure past this week’s headaches, and she’s going to have a huge party and all will eventually be well, but for now, in those first few hours of joy and delight where she should have been revelling in getting this amazing new thing, it all turned to shit.
I know a lot of this is technically my fault! Like I said up top, I am nothing if not a large idiot, stumbling through the days and blogs like a man continually grasping at a phone falling onto concrete. I was too arrogant to set the console up ahead of time because I knew Switch firmware updates only took a minute or two, too assumptive that logging into an account I’d owned for so many years would be easy.
But come on, man, Google Authenticator sucks, and even after going through this earlier in the year with Ubisoft, I had no idea what other old accounts were locked behind a dead installation. The whole concept of backup codes also sucks, Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan and the State of Florida suck, and what are the odds that Nintendo Australia doesn’t have a single phone number I can call? And all of that happening at once?
So to my daughter, if you ever find this post and read it, I’m so sorry we couldn’t get Animal Crossing working on your birthday. Hopefully you’re reading this years later and it all worked out perfectly and you’re the world’s greatest Resident Services Manager, tending to an island that’s as bold and beautiful as you are.
And to everyone else, spare me the advice. I know I could have handled some of this better, but come on, how am I supposed to account for all this shit going wrong at the same time, on the same day? Sometimes you can prepare for what life’s throwing at you, and other times you just have to shrug and say, well, the irresistible forces of monopolistic tech companies, a global pandemic and Nintendo’s online operations sure got me this time.