If you find yourself asking why Switch games are so expensive, you’ve probably never owned a Nintendo console before. As a GameCube veteran I can tell you that finding reasonably priced copies of Pikmin 2 and Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door proved impossible back in my student days…
But that was partly down to the fact that the GameCube wasn’t a huge seller, and stores understandably didn’t carry many copies of games that weren’t selling. Given the Switch has already outsold the GameCube by more than 2:1, that’s clearly not what’s going on here. What gives?
Reason 1: supply and demand
The most basic answer to the question “why are Nintendo Switch games so expensive” is “because they can be”. If people are still paying £45 for Breath of the Wild three years after release, then why would Nintendo bother with a price cut? You don’t last as a company for over 130 years without knowing a thing or two about maximising profits.
A better question is why this seems to be unique to Nintendo consoles when PlayStation and Xbox games plummet in price after a few months. The answer is probably that people tend to buy Nintendo consoles for first-party Nintendo games, with third-party titles an added bonus. In short: Nintendo is perceived to make the best games for Nintendo consoles, so there’s not too much competition from third parties.
Reason 2: Switch cartridges are an expensive format
Back in 2017, puzzle adventure game Rime was released for the Switch – and it was £10 more expensive than on other formats. “What gives?” asked everyone, and Eurogamer answered.
In short, Switch game cartridges are more expensive to produce than Blu-rays employed by other formats. On top of this, the cost of the cartridge depends on the size of the game, with 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB cards available.
The port of LA Noire, famously, doesn’t fit on the cartridge Rockstar Games went for, and requires you to download a large portion of the game. This means it will be useless on the day when Nintendo turns off the Switch’s online services…
But shouldn’t that mean that eShop games are cheaper? Well the same article explains that: “we’ve heard that Nintendo’s policy is that Switch eShop games should cost the same as their physical versions, in a bid to keep bricks and mortar shops on-side”. How very convenient for all concerned.
Reason 3: There aren’t any microtransactions
Some publishers make money from their games through a long tail of sales via microtransactions. However, Nintendo’s games don’t tend to go down this route. Yes, some have paid DLC, but these tend to be meaty extras rather than charging, say, a pound for cosmetic changes.
As a result, Nintendo (and its games-publishing partners) need to primarily make their money from the up-front cost. You could argue this is more honest.
The only exception to this trend is Nintendo’s mobile games, which introduced micropayments when the company found that people baulked at paying more than a couple of quid for an app. In other words, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Where to get the best cheap Switch games? Hello eShop…
Although Nintendo wants eShop prices to have parity with physical copies, there’s a big loophole: not every game gets a physical release, and that means the eShop store is full of excellent indie titles at tempting sub-£20 prices that you won’t find in the shops.
My advice? Fill your boots with eShop vouchers and then go on a spending spree. Start with Cuphead, Hollow Knight, Stardew Valley, Golf Story, Rocket League, Good Job! and Untitled Goose Game.
Remember that every purchase from the eShop gives you back coins that can be spent on other digital games too. So buy enough indie games, and you might just enough coins to pay for Super Mario Odyssey… Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch after all.
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