One of the welcome changes that Nintendo has made with the Nintendo Switch compared to how they handled games in the past is that your digital purchases will be linked to your account. This is versus the older way in which purchases were previously tied to hardware, meaning if you sold your hardware you’d be selling your games at the same time.
Linking to your account means that if you were to get new hardware to replace your old one, you’d be able to download your games without worrying about wiping it from the previous console. However it seems that Nintendo’s system isn’t quite as “free” as we had thought. According to footage captured by YouTuber CrazyDopetastic (via ArsTechnica), your digital purchases are still tied to one system and one system only.
When asked, “if I want to take my system with me… if I were to buy a digital game, could I buy it once, or would I have to buy it multiple times so they can use those games?”, Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development General Manager Shinya Takahashi replied in the negative.
According to Takahashi, “Currently we don’t have a system like that in place for Nintendo Switch, but we haven’t made any final decisions about how we would approach that going forward in the future, so unfortunately I can’t provide any concrete answer for you right now.” What this means (for now) is that if you were for some reason to own multiple Switches and they all shared the same account, you wouldn’t be able to install one game across all of them. Instead it sounds like you’d have to buy one copy of the game per system you own.
However we should note that this is based on a translation so maybe something got lost along the way. Also Takahashi did say that they “currently” do not have a system in place, meaning that maybe it could come at a later date, but for now this is the situation as we know it.