Update: To avoid any upset or confusion on the matter, and for the sake of clarification: as we currently understand it, only game cartridges that have been used to create illegal copies of its software will receive online bans from Nintendo. Most pre-owned cartridges, and those that you have purchased yourself brand new, will still work with no issues.
Original Article: The Nintendo Switch has been subject to some pretty serious hacking attempts for some time now, with various exploits and vulnerabilities appearing throughout its short lifetime. Just a couple of months ago, one prominent hacker praised Nintendo's efforts in regards to security for the console, but stated that it's "completely compromised" due to its reliance on Nvidia's Tegra hardware.
It appears that Nintendo has now taken a rather bold - and potentially devastating - move in order to combat these growing concerns. Reports have surfaced suggesting that some pre-owned Switch game cartridges have been banned from accessing any online features - a feat made possible thanks to unique identification keys (or certificates) attached to individual game carts. When accessing online features with an affected game, the following error code is displayed.
One of the Switch's current security issues allows hackers to copy data from official game carts, enabling dumped ROMs of these games to be shared online and ran through emulators. Nintendo can trace these pirated copies back to the original game cart thanks to its unique certificate, and any carts being used in this manner seem to be receiving instant bans when they access online features, presumably being detected by Nintendo the second an online connection is formed.
Of course, punishing the hackers who own the original copy of the game makes sense, and taking away their online privileges in response to pirating software is more than understandable, but there are more issues that come as a result of this. Essentially, if an innocent customer buys a used copy of a Nintendo Switch game, there is no way for them to know whether or not the game they're buying has been used illegally in the past. If it has, their game won't be able to access any online functionalities and they'll get an unforgiving online ban in the process.
As it stands, if a customer buys a second-hand copy of a game on a rival platform such as the PS4 or Xbox One, they can have complete confidence that the game will be safe to use. On Switch, this isn't the case, and this is a glaring problem for both Nintendo, and the pre-owned gaming market in general. With Nintendo being just months away from entering a new age for its online gaming functionalities, and with many of its system-selling games such as Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate using online features, having a swarm of banned cartridges floating around second-hand stores will only cause issues and upset for customers, as well as bad press for Nintendo itself.
We have contacted Nintendo for a statement on the matter, but are yet to hear back. We will, of course, update this article should any statement be made.