Nintendo Switch, for all its glorious features and killer first-party titles, isn’t necessarily the shining example of a consumer-first product. The “Nintendo bump” or the “Nintendo tax” were not terms borne out of complete nonsense. Despite the broad appeal of Nintendo properties young and old, the platform has become something of a premium experience when it comes to games.
For starters, Nintendo’s beloved first-party titles hold onto their high price tags for a rather extended period of time within the gaming industry. Typically, one could expect to find a great deal on a one-year-old game. And I’m not just referring to third-party titles but also highly popular first-party titles on the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One. If Nintendo operated in the same manner, one could normally expect a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to be a $19.99 game at this point. But if you did expect that, then obviously you don’t know Nintendo. This semi-premium pricing structure that squeezes gamers on a budget doesn’t only sit with Nintendo’s first-party titles any longer. With the advent of the Nintendo Switch and its mobile popularity, third-party titles and ports from past generations tend to carry a steep price tag, as well.
Inferior or superior?
If we look at this conundrum through the lens of quality, what exactly deems quality? Mortal Kombat 11 on Nintendo Switch, for example, released side by side with other platforms. Graphically, the game doesn’t maintain the same visual fidelity as the PlayStation 4 version. This much is obvious due to the Switch’s lesser-powered hardware. Even moments such as the character select screen were altered with a different presentation in order to accommodate the Switch. Yet the Switch version of the game was released at $59.99 despite the higher-quality versions also carrying the same price tag. This then comes down to the question of what players value. Is mobility more important than visual detail, frame rates, and not cutting corners to satisfy lesser-powered hardware?
The answer might vary from person to person. As a gamer who owns both a Switch and PS4, I opted for the more visually impressive version as that represents higher quality (to me) than mobility. But then the question remains — do publishers consider the mobility of the Nintendo Switch the counterbalance to a step down in quality?
Doomed to pay top-dollar
If mobility is, in fact, the counterbalance to lower-quality playability and visuals, it’s easy to assume that matching the price of the other platforms is logical to a degree. But that isn’t what traditionally happens. Doom launched in 2016 for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Almost a year and a half later, the demon-slaying first-person shooter made its debut on the Nintendo Switch. At a time when Doom was $19.99 with superior playability and graphical quality on other platforms, the Switch version was launching at $59.99.
Again, make no mistake. I get that some consumers wanted the opportunity to take that game with them on the go. I also understand that the Nintendo Switch debut was the hard work of a separate developer and that version was brand new. But as of the time of this writing, none of that explains why Doom for the Nintendo Switch is still $60 on Amazon almost two years after its release.
Bethesda is hardly the first developer to offer a premium pricing for a game just because it’s on the Nintendo Switch. Think about the other ports of old and new games that we’re getting on the Switch like Dark Souls or Devil May Cry. Capcom’s 18-year-old game, Devil May Cry, can be yours for $19.99 on the Nintendo Switch. But if you have an Xbox One, players can snag the entire trilogy for just $17.29 on Amazon. The Witcher 3 is about to make its debut on the Nintendo Switch console. It doesn’t matter that we’re four years removed from the game’s original release and that the Switch will obviously see a decrease in quality.
A ballooning problem
While Nintendo has always held its properties in high regard with its Disney-esque pricing, third-parties only started taking part in the “Nintendo bump” with the Nintendo Switch. And clearly, this heightened popularity is a product of Nintendo Switch’s mobile and multiplayer functionality, features that have proven to not be a gimmicky one-time fad like the motion controls-centric Wii. Regardless, gamers who partake in an expensive hobby are left asking: why?
Despite opting for performance, I do value mobility and would easily buy Doom a second time on my Nintendo Switch if the price decreased with time like games naturally tend to do. It’s the simple rules of supply and demand. I’d buy multiple games twice just to have a mobile version alongside a home version on a more powerful console. Pricing is simply too high to justify having both for many. For that reason, fans on a budget will likely select third-party titles that will offer more bang for their hard-earned dollars.
I want to hear your thoughts regarding the high prices of video games. Do you think developers are heading in the wrong direction with their Nintendo Switch pricing structure? Or am I completely wrong about the value of mobility ultimately making such purchases worth it? Let me know in the comments below!