Ultimate Animal Crossing: New Horizons Save Data Guide: Cloud Saves, One Island per Switch, Transfers

2 months ago 13 Comments

There’s a lot of particulars to understand about how game save data works in Animal Crossing: New Horizons between cloud saves, local data transfers, and how many islands you can have saved on a Nintendo Switch system!

No need to worry or get confused though because you’ve found our ultimate guide to everything you need to know about game saves in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

How Many Islands Can I Make Per Nintendo Switch?

Only a single Animal Crossing: New Horizons island can be saved on a Nintendo Switch system at a time. This includes both physical cart copies and digital download copies

The Nintendo Switch saves all game save data to the system’s internal storage, and never to the physical game cartridge or connected SD Card. This means you cannot use any SD Cards or different forms of game copies to bypass this restriction.

This is a departure from past Animal Crossing games on GameCube, DS, and 3DS so make sure you are aware of the differences. Unlike Wild World and New Leaf, you cannot simply purchase a new physical cartridge copy of the game and insert it into the same Nintendo Switch you have already played on.

No matter what, only a single island can ever be saved on a Nintendo Switch.* You’ll need to either delete your save data and start over, or purchase a new Nintendo Switch system, to create a second island.

Here’s the full statement regarding island saves directly from the Nintendo UK website for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to read yourself:

Please note: only one island can exist per Nintendo Switch console, irrespective of the number of users registered to or copies of the game used on one console. One Nintendo Switch and one copy of the game is required for each unique island.

*Small Disclaimer: It’s possible that some different regional versions of the game may save separately, like an NA version vs an EU version, allowing for multiple islands. But we can’t say for sure until the game releases, so for now we’re saying one island per system no matter what!

How Many Characters Can I Make Per Switch?

Up to eight players can live together and be saved on a single island on a Nintendo Switch system. Local multiplayer is also supported for up to 4 players living together on the same island.

Here’s the full statement regarding characters directly from the Nintendo UK website for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to read yourself:

Up to 8 players registered as users on a Nintendo Switch console can live on one shared island, and up to four residents of one island can play simultaneously on one console.

Does Animal Crossing: New Horizons Support Cloud Saves?

Cloud saves will be supported in a limited form sometime after launch in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. That might sound confusing, and that’s because it is a bit confusing right now, but we’ll try and break it down.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not support the proper full Save Data Cloud feature of Nintendo Switch Online. However, likely in response to fan feedback since E3 2019, the developers are working on adding a limited new function to recover save data from the cloud when ‘system failure, loss, or theft’ occurs.

This new limited form of cloud saves will require a Nintendo Switch Online membership, just like the normal Save Data Cloud feature does. Most importantly, this feature will not be available at Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ launch on March 20th and will arrive sometime in the future.

It’s a little unclear what this all means but here’s our guess. We think Nintendo will introduce two important restrictions in this limited version of cloud saves that currently do not exist with Save Data Cloud for other games:

  • Save data restores from the cloud will be limited to only a couple times per year, instead of unlimited restores.
  • Functionality to ensure save data is only moved, not duplicated. This could mean if the original system ever connects to the internet, the save data for New Horizons is automatically deleted, or something like that.

We’re just guessing with those two details though, but the official wording from Nintendo does state a ‘limited ability to recover Animal Crossing: New Horizons save data’, so some restrictions should be expected.

Here’s the full statement regarding cloud saves directly from the Nintendo eShop listing for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to read yourself:

This game does not support the Save Data Cloud functionality of Nintendo Switch Online. However, a limited ability to recover Animal Crossing: New Horizons save data from the server in the event of system failure, loss, or theft will be available to Nintendo Switch Online members sometime in the future. Check back for more details as they are available.

Can I Locally Transfer My Island Between Switches?

Local user and save data transfers are not supported for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. There is no way to transfer your island between Nintendo Switch systems other than the unreleased cloud save option detailed in the section above.

Most games on Nintendo Switch allow you to locally transfer your game save data using either the Transfer Your User Data or Transfer Your Save Data features, but as far as we know, both of these features will not work for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

To be fair though, there does appear to be some logical reasons for these disabled functions. For the user data transfer, Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not actually use user profiles to save data as far as we know, so that wouldn’t be possible.

And for the save data transfer, if multiple players have saved characters on one island, it might not be fair for those other players to have their save data taken away from them to another Nintendo Switch by one player. However, the same issue may be at play for the announced upcoming cloud save transfer, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Here’s the full statement regarding save data transfers directly from the Nintendo eShop listing for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to read yourself:

Animal Crossing: New Horizons does not support the ability to transfer your save file from one Nintendo Switch system to another.

We also received more specific information about this from the download card in Germany too, translated below:

The transfer of user and storage data between consoles are not supported for this software.


Well, that just about covers everything we know so far about game save data in Animal Crossing: New Horizons! If there’s anything else you’re not quite sure about or think we should add to this guide, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons launches worldwide in less than two months from now on March 20th! Check out our release date countdown here, or pre-order the game here. Stay tuned to Animal Crossing World for more news as we approach the release!

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John

Does that mean my save files won’t be in my cartridge?

Seto

No

Kevin Krämer

Your save files are stuck on your system. Regardless of a sd card or physical Switch game.

Vladimir (not the AC character)

Nintendo Switch cartridges do not have any user save data written on them, unlike DS and 3DS games. The user save data is stored either on the system memory, or a micro SD card if it is inserted, and your preferred save location has been set to it.

otopa

So does this mean that I won’t be able to get my save data from ACNH if I move to a new console (like I’m about to do when I get the AC Switch)?

Vladimir (not the AC character)

@otopa @John If you have a micro SD card you could pop that into your new Switch, or you could see what the new Save Cloud specifically for ACNH is like. Also, you could just start the game for the first time on your new Switch without getting the old one involved. If that’s not possible, remember to set your default save location to a micro SD card when you start the game for the first time in your old Switch. This may sound confusing, so let me put it in steps. 1. Set your preferred save location to micro… Read more »

otopa

I preordered my console from Bestbuy the first day it was available, so it should be here before ACNH is released. Also, I have a 400gb micro SD so this method should work perfectly, thanks! I got confused about cloud saves when all I really wanted was the ability to move my saves if I decided to switch my Switch. As long as my save goes to my SD, I’m not worried about cloud at the moment. That brings up new questions, though. Like, if the save is set to go to the SD, does that mean I can dump… Read more »

Mash

Just interjecting – your save DOESN’T go to your SD. It only saves directly to the Switch’s internal memory unfortunately. With most games, a save/user transfer would move that over to your new Switch, but ACNH apparently isn’t one of them, so to keep your save data you’d just need to start the game on your new Switch. Or keep an eye and see if Nintendo says anything about the cloud save option in the meantime, which we can hopefully transfer save data with!

otopa

I don’t mind waiting to get the new Switch since I’m getting digital (I never even hoped the U.S. would get bonuses like some other regions got) but…. I’m already on my third Switch so it’s a little discouraging to hear I won’t be able to move that save over without some extra work on my part.

Vladimir (not the AC character)

@Mash I thought that save data would save to Micro SD if the system memory is full…

Daniel

Does this mean I cannot save my town data to a microSD? I bought one so if anything happened to my town, I could pop that into a new switch and my island would be all good.

Taylor

Too bad they are doing this save to console thing. I guess Ill have to skip this game even thought this is why i got a switch in the first place.

emjay

“purchase a new Nintendo Switch system, to create a second island.”
so I bought a switch lite for my younger sister, but I don’t want to make her a separate account. can she just play acnh on that switch using my account (I already play acnh using my account on my switch)? will that not affect my game progress?