Why are Nintendo Switch Games So Expensive?
Despite its reputation as the console of choice for casual gamers, I usually end up choosing the Nintendo Switch for my daily gaming fix over its more powerful competitors. The Nintendo Switch is an extremely versatile console with options for all different sorts of gamers, from the most casual of casuals to the ultra-hardcore.
November 30, 2019

Even if (like me) you enjoy those 60+ hour epic RPGs, the Switch has something for you: check out my list of the top 15 RPGs on the Nintendo Switch if you need some inspiration.

But as I look over my transaction record for the past couple years, I (and my wife) had to question: why the hell am I spending so much money on the Nintendo Switch?

Nintendo Doesn’t Chase Trends

A major reason why the Nintendo brand is so powerful is that they don’t innovate: they iterate. The latest Mario Bros. game would be instantly recognizable to someone who hasn’t visited the Mushroom Kingdom in 35 years.

Look at Luigi’s Mansion 3: sure, you’re sucking up ghosts with a vacuum cleaner, but you’re still running, jumping, and platforming against the clock on each stage. It’s an iteration on the Mario formula, not a reinvention.

Yes, Nintendo likes to keep spamming the nostalgia button, but they always keep the quality of their games extremely high. There’s no Day-1 Updates with Nintendo: it’s a finished product on launch every time, even though with digital content management that’s no longer strictly necessary.

But that devotion to quality means you’re never going to see a Nintendo-owned intellectual property sell outside of the $40-$60 (USD) range, and reduced-price sales will be rare.

They Have A Captive Audience

Even outside of the gaming world, corporations are focusing on building captive audiences. Look at Netflix: once they have you as a customer, the price just keeps going up; I currently pay the increased rate for the UHD/4K package.

Disney is happy to offer many people a year of Disney+ for free, because once you’re hooked it’s going to be very difficult to cancel it. Disney/Marvel IP’s are so insanely popular, I’m only surprised that they didn’t put it all behind a paywall years ago.

By comparison, Nintendo makes Netflix and Disney look like amateurs. They’ve never allowed their competitors to play with their toys, even in leaner economic times when they must have really felt the pressure to.

And now that the Nintendo Switch almost literally prints money for them, I don’t see that ever changing. Want to play Pokemon Sword or Pokemon Shield? Want to play Smash? You only have one option: a Nintendo console. And unlike Sony or Microsoft, they have absolutely no reason to drop the price on the current AAA flagship IP in a couple years, so prices stay high.

Cartridges are expensive to manufacture

Gallons of ink have been spilled over the years from journalists writing about Nintendo’s steadfast devotion to plastic cartridges. They doubled down on them in the early days of the console wars and have stuck with them in the handheld market ever since.

Cartridges do have their upsides, like being a lot more resistant to damage than CD/DVD/Bluray, but as this PC Gamer article points out, cartridges will always be more expensive to manufacture.

The increased price is really noticeable in 3rd-party software. Despite my love for the Nintendo Switch, I always check my Xbox One or my PC to see if I can get a digital copy of the same game for a cheaper price, and I usually can. Nintendo has to protect their physical game sales by offering the digital-only version at the same price.

The Indie Gaming+ Games Journalism Feedback Loop

Despite the inter-console price discrepancies, offering 10-year old AAA RPGs for full price, and the high prices of Nintendo-specific titles, I find that where my bank account is really bleeding is in the Indie scene. I may only buy a couple of $40-$60 (USD) games a year, because there’s a psychological barrier at that price point for me. But a $5, $10, or $20 game? Checking my balance statements, I was shocked to see that I was buying one or two of those a week.

The level of hype that surrounds indie games is unreal, and it’s so easy to get caught up in it. And Nintendo has really thrown the floodgates open to Indie Devs on the Switch. With the exception of one or two yearly standout titles, how much quality game time am I getting out of these titles? Unfortunately, the answer is usually less than 4 hours before I never pick it up again.

“We all need to choose carefully whom we trust when it comes to spending our hard-earned money.”

I ultimately blame myself for making bad purchases, but some of the blame has to fall on the less scrupulous games journalism sites that are pushing games on the public that they know are shit. There are way too many untrustworthy sites giving awful games wonderful reviews without disclosing personal relationships between developers and reviewers.

Guaranteed positive coverage is traded for insider access to the industry, free games, and other perks.

Conclusion

Because honesty is worth it. Your trust is worth it. At the end of the day, I’m a gamer just like you, and I’m tired of buying bad games because I believed the hype from dishonest salesmen masquerading and journalists.
Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon

Contributor

He prefers to play RPGs, but also enjoys strategy games and the latest AAA titles. When he’s not glued to a screen, he can usually be found painting Warhammer 40K models or trying out the latest board game. Occasionally, Matt’s wife makes him leave the house to travel the world.

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