Why games cost more for the Nintendo Switch than other platforms

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/08/25/why-games-cost-more-for-the-ni.html


Guessing there is multiple reasons. If the average is only 10% I am wondering if Nintendo charges a licensing fee to be on the platform. Then there is the cost of converting your game to run on new hardware.

But anyway, throw away all your other games, and just get Enter the Gungeon. Where everything is a gun. Or mimic. They added like two new mimic types that I have found so far. The new Advanced Gungeons and Draguns update has a ton of new weapons, enemies, and most importantly synergies with gear.


I have a different theory. Switch customers are paying more because they will pay more.

ETA: Mind you, I don’t have one for the same reason I don’t have any console I can take with me…the last vestiges of my productivity, which will be screwed once Fortnite overcomes their Android hurdles.


It seems weird to do the comparison to Steam, and not the Xbox or Playstation. Except for brand new titles, PC has pretty much always been cheaper than any console.


So Duncan Hunter did tax payers a favor by choosing Steam games over Switch. Hopefully the judge takes that into consideration at sentencing.


Everybody does this - revenues from licensing for hardware and software is the long tail in the console industry.

I would guess part of it is it’s more expensive to manufacture the game cards, it has an ARM vs the x86 processor that the PC, Xbox, and PS4 use making porting more challenging, and “because they can”.


I don’t know that i’ts always been this way but at least since the advent of Steam? yes.

Isn’t the switch essentially two consoles in one? do they have to make accomodation in the code for the two different modes, screen resolutions, and code for maintaining progress between the two? thus seems like it would be a reasonable explanation for some amount of premium.

Honestly the big deal here is that most of the games that cost more on the switch didn’t release at the same time on both; they’ve been out on PC for a long time and just NOW have come to the switch.


The only thing that really changes is the resolution when connected to the TV and the hardware handles this.

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My gut agrees with this. Especially when you compare it to the Steam ecosystem.

When a game first launches on Steam, it’s usually for the highest price it will ever be, excluding pre-order savings. The people that want it most pay that price.

As sales drop off, the price gets lower, enticing the holdouts to buy.

Then saturation becomes more and more of a problem; the people really interested have it, the people on the fence have started buying it, leaving fewer potential customers. It may also make it’s way into a bundle or a sale, and even more people that were holding out pick it up.

Finally, they lower the price to the minimum they can to still make a profit and aim for global saturation. Before you know it, you’re finding Steam codes for Diablo III in your Pop Tarts.

But with Switch, it doesn’t have that level of market reach. So they can’t drop the price as fast.

I would be curious if there was someone willing to track how long it took for prices of games on Steam to go through their journeys; maybe just the few big games that are now on the Switch. How long before the 2016 reboot of Doom dropped in price on Steam? How many drops took place before it landed at $20? Did it ever go back up before dropping again? That might give you a better idea than just comparing the prices as they stand now.

The footing isn’t equal, the data is skewed.

What gets me is how long it takes for first-party Nintendo games to drop in price. I just got a 3DS, and apart from the few titles in the “Nintendo Selects” category, the prices are still mostly $40+; especially if it involves Mario.

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The only thing that really changes is the resolution when connected to the TV and the hardware handles this.

That is not true. The hardware tells you you’re connected, but it’s up to you to make any resolution changes or other accommodations. There’s really no other good way to do it, as you could end up with a different aspect ratio or something so your UI would need to adjust, or your UI might care about resolution, and so on.

Making an existing well-behaved title shippable on the Switch, in my experience, takes maybe 4-6 man-weeks, not including the time that’s required for the approval process. The real pain in the ass is the controllers, which can easily eat up 2-3 weeks on their own if you’re making a well behaved title. There are several different controller configurations plus the Pro controller, and players (reasonably) expect to be able to switch these out at any time. Depending on which JoyCon you’re using they don’t even have consistent button labels, so any in-game prompts and stuff need to tolerate this. Any diagrams need to accurately reflect the setup the player’s using correctly. This can actually get quite invasive depending on the project, because on other platforms you can often make assumptions that there’s a single set of prompts.

The controller stuff is unusual to the Switch, but all of the console platforms require significant work beyond what you’d typically do for a Steam release. Steam is definitely the easiest platform to ship on.


Also, at least traditionally, console hardware was sold at or below cost, subsidized by game sales, to lower the barrier to entry. It’s still subsidizing hardware R&D costs at the very least.

So yeah, it’s silly to even compare PC and console game prices. Especially games that are new to the console (and old on the PC), given that the dynamic of prices lowering over time is fairly common now.

Yeah it has always been that way, because of A) console licensing fees, and B) cartridge hardware costs (which have always been more expensive to produce than the comparable PC floppy disks or CDs/DVDs). Steam certainly has been contributing to the lowering of prices for PC games, which, along with low mobile game prices has put pressure on console game prices, but it’s digital distribution on the consoles that allowed them to cave in to that pricing pressure.

It’s not as bad as varying PC resolutions and varying graphics cards. The pricing is entirely down to the fact that these games are only now being released on Switch. Games new to PC see the phenomenon as well. A few older console games were recently released on PC - at full price - but that doesn’t happen very often given that multiplatform development is the norm. (Or the game never comes out on PC.)

Yeah, the strategy is so entrenched in the PC world, I’m not sure why they had any question this was what was going on when they compared older PC games to their newer ports on Switch. I tend to think of PC games as tending towards being worthless over time, now. (Literally - I have dozens of games that were being given away when their sequels came out.) These games just got released on the Switch, so everything is skewed. On console, digital distribution and the cost savings related to that (fabricating, shipping and retailing disks is a significant part of the price) also allow them to drop prices over time to compete with used game sales. (Whereas digital distribution long ago destroyed PC used game sales.)

Only in the sense that “early adopters” are willing to pay more. Games are now like books that come out in multiple formats - the early hardcovers are more expensive, not (just) because of production costs, but because they can charge more for people who want the book now. Games are into the same dynamic - you usually pay “full” price only in a relatively small window just after the game comes out. (Mobile has a different pricing structure because it never gets sold for “full” price.)


Nintendo traditionally doesn’t sell at a loss but they are also far more conservative with their hardware as a result.


Understood - I was grossly oversimplifying things.

Nintendo use to tick me off because I thought they were trying to generate artificial scarcity. When I realized they were just being extremely conservative, it didn’t bother me any more. Granted the results are the same, but the reasons do influence my opinion of them.

Also, it turned me off to consoles for the most part. Yes, PC games are frequently behind the 8-ball, but I’d rather have more control over yesterday’s titles than less over today’s.

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I switch between assuming conservatism and incompetence.


It certainly costs money to port games – from “quite a lot” for a game written in C++ for DirectX, to “not much” for something built on a full-service framework like Unity that supports Switch – and that might decide whether a title gets ported at all, but I doubt it has much to do with the selling price.

Once your title shows up in the Nintendo eShop, you’ve already spent all the money to put it there. It’s not costing you any more for each copy you sell (unless Nintendo are taking a cut, IDK). You do have to recover the development cost through individual sales, but there’s no particular reason why you wouldn’t spread it over all sales on all platforms. In fact, for some multiplayer games it could make sense to treat the new port as a loss leader.

I think the main thing is there aren’t many competitors on Switch. If your game sold well at $20 on Steam, competing against a trillion other titles, folx won’t balk at paying $30 on Switch, when the alternative is to sit and stare at a blank screen.

If anything, my question with the eShop is more often “why aren’t there more ports for me to buy at inflated prices?”. In particular, I would pay for historic Nintendo titles, despite having paid for the same thing in the past, and it’s annoying that they so rarely make it possible. OK, I get that they have mini toy Famicoms to sell atm, and N64 titles are problematic, but why is it so hard to just press the button marked “sell all post-Gamecube Mario and Zelda games for millions of dollars in pure profit”?

Nintendo is exactly like one of those small cute independent shops where you really like what they do and want to give them your money, except they keep closing on weekends and holidays, yelling at customers and refusing to restock that thing you liked because it’s not their esthetic.

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Has the N64 been problematic for ports? I’ve not read or heard about any of this, and would like to know more. That’s my second-favorite of their consoles.

Maybe because the Switch is an entirely new platform—which only came out last year—which creates a break in compatibility with the GameCube/Wii/Wii U iterations.

Ports also may go more slowly for first person titles for the reasons mentioned above for accommodating the Joy-Cons (I do not think Nintendo uses Unity for developing those titles). You’d think they’d just include nominal support for button-controllers like the “pro” controllers, but has this ever been the way Nintendo worked? New platforms seem to get the best support for the new controllers (like the Wii U port of Wind Waker, which included tight integration with the Wii U Game Pad).

And since the Wii U supported the Wii’s controllers and was 100% backwards compatible with the Wii, other ports weren’t needed, so if you really wanted to play those games, why not just get the older system and buy them on disc? Right now, used Wii Us are less costly than a new Switch.

I’ve also read speculation somewhere that Nintendo doesn’t want to distract from more novel titles. Which would be interesting if true.

I don’t get this. They seem to have the exact opposite problem: namely, they underestimate the number of people who are into their aesthetic, and don’t or can’t make enough to meet that demand. Gradually, this problem addresses itself as they finally start making more. (They took a bath on the Wii U, and I guess that made them skittish? I don’t know. I skipped the Wii/Wii U consoles myself when they were relevant for reasons unrelated to Nintendo.)

It’s not like these things are tools or lifesaving medical devices, necessary for human survival—they’re just toys. A little patience solves 100% of their stocking problem.