Here’s how Animal Crossing’s new Island Backup feature works
The second wave of Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s Summer Update went live today, bringing the game to 1.4.0. Alongside a new fireworks festival event, and the reintroduction of the Dream Suite feature, the update brought something fans have been waiting for since the game launched: cloud saves. Well, kind of.
Nintendo calls the new feature Island Backup, and it exists separately from the cloud save backups that are provided for almost every other game on the console. In order to enable Island Backup, you’ll have to talk to Tom Nook on the title screen by pressing the minus button, and telling him you’d like to backup your data. After a brief moment of connecting to the internet, he’ll then tell you that your save data will now be automatically backed up in the background whenever nobody’s playing the game.
Restoring your data is a little more complicated, and it comes with a pretty big caveat. Nintendo says that you can only restore your data if your console has been lost, stolen, or damage, and that you’ll have to contact Nintendo Support in your region to successfully restore your island. Vooks can confirm, after rigorous testing, that you cannot restore your island without first contacting Nintendo Support.
If you’ve done this, you can access the restore option by holding the minus button after you see the black Nintendo screen when launching the game. This must be done with a fresh copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons ver. 1.4.0; if you have any save data at all, or are on a lower version number, the menu for it simply won’t load. You also have to be using the same account as the one that enabled Island Backup, and that account will need to have Nintendo Switch Online. According to Nintendo Australia’s support page, once all these conditions are met, you’ll simply have to search for the island, select the correct island (if you’ve backed up multiple), and it’ll download, restoring your island to its former glory.
Here's the AUNZ support information for AC:NH's Island Backup, including the full process for restoring the data. Will be testing ASAP to see if said process can be done without contacting support. pic.twitter.com/HW9GkdVDoR— Oliver Brandt 🏳️🌈 (@Chocobalt) July 30, 2020
Knowing this, we tested the process to see if you could bypass the need to call Nintendo Support by backing up save data on one console, installing the game on a new console, and trying to restore it on that. Unfortunately, this does not work, with Mr. Nook telling us he couldn’t find any recoverable data. We thought the save data may then be linked to the console itself, and transferring between consoles was a no-go, so we made an all new island on the second console, played through the entire tutorial, backed up the save data, and then deleted it from the console. The result when trying to restore said data… nothing. Nook still can’t find it.
From this testing, we can confirm that the process cannot be completed without first contacting Nintendo Support, as it appears to require some sort of flag to be set server-side. This presents a bit of a problem in some places; Australia, for example, has closed its support telephone line in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in only a contact form on their website being available to launch an enquiry. Other countries, like many in South America or South-East Asia, have an official Nintendo presence, but no official support line available. For people in those countries, restoring a backup may not be possible at all.
Nintendo says that a proper tool for transferring your island between consoles is still to launch later this year. However, it’s difficult to give the company the benefit of the doubt on this one, given how difficult — and in some cases, completely impossible — they’ve made it to restore your data. What becomes of that upcoming transfer feature is anyone’s guess, but for now, if your console is lost, stolen, or damaged, there is at least some hope of getting your island back. You just have to be prepared to jump through some hoops to do it.