Transferring your Animal Crossing: New Horizons island from one Nintendo Switch to another is…not the easiest process. In order to minimize the potential for cheating, Nintendo has implemented some rigid restrictions into the game. The biggest of which is that players can only have one island per Switch and that islands can’t be easily transferred between consoles.
As Steff was awaiting for the arrival of her new Switch Lite, I scrambled to find a way for us to transfer our island to her Switch. Based on the little information online, I got a lot of conflicting messages and couldn’t find a solid answer on how to do it. Some guides even suggested lying on the phone with Nintendo in order to get them to do it!
Our island is now safely on Steff’s new Switch. In case you’re wondering how you can transfer your island, here’s how we did it.
1. You will need to activate your island backup on the old Switch. On the start screen, hit the “-” button. Tom Nook will explain the whole thing to you, but really you just need to enable island backup.
2. Start your game. Move like a single step, then exit the game. In the bottom left-hand corner, the game should now say that island backup is enabled. If so, close the game entirely.
3. Wait about five minutes. After that, restart the game. In the bottom left-hand corner of the start screen, you will see a timestamp for the latest backup. Once that’s in place, you can close the old Switch.
4. Set up the new Switch. Create a new user profile or transfer your existing one to the new Switch. Whichever way you choose, make sure to tie your Nintendo online account to that profile on your new Switch. Make sure you don’t have any save data for Animal Crossing: New Horizons tied to the new Switch, as you need to be able to trigger the intro. Best way to do this is by not playing Animal Crossing at all on the Switch until you’re ready to make the transfer.
5. Contact Nintendo support. You can reach out via email, phone, or live chat. We went with live chat, as it doesn’t require us to speak to a human being on the phone. Also, our live chat gave us the option to specifically request for Animal Crossing help.
6. Tell the support rep that you want to transfer your island to the new Switch. You don’t have to lie about breaking your old Switch or anything like that. They will then ask you for your new Switch’s serial number, as well as the email address that your island backup is tied to. They will then authorize the transfer on their end and walk you through the final few steps.
7. On the new Switch, start Animal Crossing: New Horizons. As soon as you get to that first black screen, hold down the “-” button. If you see Timmy and Tommy, it didn’t work. Restart the game. If you get to the title screen, you’ve still got save data that needs to be deleted. Odds are, you will have to do this step multiple times, as it doesn’t always trigger the restore. For Steff and I, it took about four times before we got the screen that asks us if we want to transfer the island.
8. Follow the steps to complete the island transfer. Make sure you tie the right character to the right account so you can pick up right where you left off.
9. The game will restart with your island intact!
It’s silly that transferring one’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons save is this complicated. Nevertheless, it’s done and Steff can now carry on her island adventure on her new Switch! Hoping this guide helps to demystify the process and allows you to move your island safely!