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Nintendo Rules and Cart Prices Making Switch Games More Expensive [Report]

Third-party developers are trapped, having to make physical Switch games more expensive.

News by Mike Williams, .

If you've noticed, there are a few Nintendo Switch games that are more expensive than their platform counterparts. The game with the highest visibility has been Rime from Tequila Works, a game coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch. The Switch version costs $39.99, while the others cost $29.99. So what's the deal?

Rime will cost you on Switch.

Rime publisher Grey Box pointed to the proprietary cost of the Nintendo Switch cartridges as the reason.

"We set prices for our products based on the costs of development and publishing for each specific platform," said a Grey Box spokesperson when asked about the additional price hike. The company has declined to say more.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime demurred on the issue, when asked about the difference in price between some Switch games and their counterparts on other platforms. He said pricing is up to the developer and publisher.

"We don't make that pricing decision," he said on a Facebook stream. "When you see those differences in prices, call up that third-party publisher and ask them."

Eurogamer is reporting that both statements are true. The cost of making a physical Nintendo Switch game is higher than that of a Blu-Ray for an Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or PC game. That costs goes even higher as you move up the list in cart sizes - 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB - with the latter costing way more. You can bring those costs down with a higher print run, but indies don't really have that option.

Developers and publishers do determine the prices of their games, but it seems that Nintendo's rules are getting in the way. Eurogamer reports that Nintendo policy is that physical and digital versions have to cost the same. This is apparently to appease brick-and-mortar retailers and it's why many indie developers are Nintendo eShop only.

Currently, Rime is one of the few games where we can see the effects of these problems in action. Has-Been Heroes, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Binding of Issac: Afterbirth+ are Switch physical releases as well. With Has-Been Heroes, the physical and retail prices are the same. With Puyo Puyo Tetris, the physical release is more expensive, but the reason for that could be the inclusion of the physical keychains coming with every copy.

Binding of Issac: Afterbirth+ is available on other platforms, but requires buying Rebirth, Afterbirth, and Afterbirth+ in a bundle. The Steam bundle costs $5 cheaper than the $39.99 asking price of the Switch version, with no discounts.

As the Switch continues on, we'll see how Nintendo and its indies handle the situation moving forward.

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Comments 12

  • Avatar for rezzyk #1 rezzyk 5 months ago
    Cartridges were absolutely the right choice for the Switch so I don't think I can ding Nintendo too much on this. I assume for the majority of games we won't notice the difference. I'm actually surprised that indies like The Bindings of Isaac have physical releases, I figured they would be digital-only. I don't really like the rule that digital and physical should cost the same, though.
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  • Avatar for CipherStone #2 CipherStone 5 months ago
    Considering Nintendo kinda needs to get developers on board for the Switch, I feel like they really ought to be willing to take a hit on the carts to get more games (especially 3rd party and indies) on the system. If they can make the same game on another platform with a bigger install base for cheaper, it's hard to see the incentive to make their game on Switch.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #3 Roto13 5 months ago
    That parity rule for prices on eShop and at retail needs to be gone. Stop screwing consumers for the sake of retailers that do their best to cannibalize sales of new games in the first place.
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  • Avatar for jimgamer #4 jimgamer 5 months ago
    The only downside I see to this is that developers will need to think carefully about whether to go to a physical release. It is worth bearing in mind that Nintendo carts have held their prices pretty well over time - assuming the game was well received/in demand - hence a pre-owned DS cart can fetch 60-70% of its original retail price 10 years later. Switch games will likely do the same. While we don't want to get to the SFII level of insanity ($75+ for the SNES cart), nor do we want the explosion of shovelware afforded by the Wii's cheap-to-make DVD model. On top of that is the convenience, speed and easy storage of these tiny carts - Vita fans i am sure would agree.
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  • Avatar for TernBird #5 TernBird 5 months ago
    I see this as more of an unfortunate side-effect of being an indie-developer than any poor mistake on Nintendo's behalf; it's a matter of production, not policy.

    That said, Nintendo really ought to make things easier for indie-devs. If Nintendo really wants to change how people play games, they need to change how games are made. Part of that would ideally include a few production facilitations for smaller devs that can't afford larger print runs. What better way to invite new indies, show your support for the industry, and show consumers you're not buffing around when you trot out your alleged support of indies?
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #6 SIGGYZtar 5 months ago
    Surely indie developers can team up to make a mult-game cart release? It has happened for Xbox and PS2.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #7 secularsage 5 months ago
    First of all, you should never believe anything Nintendo says in response to these sorts of situations. They are notoriously opaque and extremely controlling of the home console market, habits they developed long ago and are unlikely to change.

    Second, Nintendo has every ability to control the cart prices because they act as a middleman to manufacture the carts. The Game Cards are likely pretty inexpensive to make, due to Nintendo's philosophy of using established tech rather than the bleeding edge, and that they're non-writable is likely to make them cheaper, not more expensive, to manufacture.

    Third, the parity rule is stupid, but it also reflects a broader problem of Nintendo expecting to command premium prices for its content when every other platform treats physical releases as a premium ceiling for pricing and digital as the floor. Nintendo refuses to understand that physical products have a higher value because of the secondhand market, and Nintendo further complicates things by making its digital products a pain and a gamble to own.

    Fourth, and this is most important of all, Nintendo has proven with its actions time and time again it really doesn't care that much about indies, which is a mistake, since indies have proven to be a valuable source of content during the early adoption phase or lean release times of a console. Nintendo tried to court indie developers back at the Wii U launch and quickly found themselves getting the cold shoulder from most because of their low playerbase and their restrictive policies. Even those who believed in Nintendo enough to launch an exclusive title on the platform generally launched elsewhere eventually.

    I have nothing against Nintendo. They're a tremendous company with a powerfully creative culture amidst all that stuffy traditionalism. I just recognize their bad business practices for being what they are and wish they'd stop trying to do things their own way and start listening to their developers and end users' concerns.
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #8 himuradrew 5 months ago
    Well proprietary media will always be expensive - remember the Vita memory cards?

    One thing Nintendo did right however was to use readily available mSD cards which makes it easy for me to go all digital.
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  • Avatar for Natabuu #9 Natabuu 5 months ago
    Do Sony and MS have the same physical/digital price parity rule?
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  • Avatar for NightingaleXP #10 NightingaleXP 5 months ago
    That price parity rule is seriously absurd and backwards, however common it is. If retailers pushed for that, they did so at the expense of consumers; and regardless of what motivates it, it just shouldn't be the case.

    I'll continue shopping digitally for most anything; I don't really know how else to respond to it.
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  • Avatar for RoninChaos #11 RoninChaos 5 months ago
    Way to pass the buck, Reggie.

    I love Nintendo but it always frustrates the hell out of me that they make these weird ass decisions, and then pass the blame to someone else. Look, Nintendo has always charged money for carts, that's where they've always made extra money, so why they're doing this isn't in question. What is in question is what this gains them besides having a developer or indie developer go "It's not worth putting my game on Nintendo's console when I can put it on the PS4 or xbone, both of which have much higher install bases and do it cheaper". Nintendo HAS to realize this is an issue, bu t they just don't care. Which is frustrating because Nintendo has always had a third party problem with their home consoles. Considering the position they're in you'd think they'd take the hit to help fill in the release calendar. Especially if the Switch is like Nintendo's past 3 systems in that you're only going to start getting Nintendo games midway through it's life cycle because every other developer jumps ship.

    Bottom line, if you want developers, especially indie developers, to flock to your console, you have to treat them as indie developers and not like they're swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck. Take the hit, get the price point the same as the Xbone or PS4 versions. It's a lot easier to sell the portability of these games if they're the same price as they would be on other systems.

    I know personally I'm not going to pay 10 bucks more for a game, even if it is portable. Nintendo has lost their damn minds.Edited March 2017 by RoninChaos
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #12 benjaminlu86 5 months ago
    Reminds me of the N64 days when cartridges were much more expensive to produce compared to PS1 discs.
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