Nintendo Switch Tax

The So-called “Switch Tax”: What Is It, and Why Should You Pay It?

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Ever notice how certain third-party Switch games cost about $10 more than they do on the Xbox One or PS4? Minecraft, Rime, and The Binding of Isaac are several titles plagued by this so-called “Switch tax,” which spawns from the cost of manufacturing Switch game cartridges.

The cost of a physical release for any platform is comprised of a few things, including platform fee, packaging cost, and the cost of the cartridge itself, and it turns out that Switch cartridges can be a bit pricey to make. For one thing, they come in different sizes—ranging from 1GB to 32GB—and the size of the cartridge affects its cost to make. Plus, larger Switch cartridges tend to cost a good deal more than a comparable Blu-Ray disc. For example, a Switch game featuring a 32 GB cartridge is said to cost up to 60% more than a competitor’s game on a 50 GB Blu-Ray disc. (That bitter-tasting childproofing spray ain’t free, ya know!) All things considered, it’s really only worth publishing a third-party physical release on Switch if the game will be 8 GB or less in size; otherwise, the physical copy will end up costing customers and publishers much more than it should.

This issue of cartridge cost is nothing new for Nintendo, as the cartridge has been a persistent staple of theirs for many years. In fact, their first system to not feature a cartridge-based approach was the GameCube, released in 2001. This was a very late adoption of the more modern disc format—and after just two more disc-using consoles (Wii and WiiU), Nintendo is now back to cartridges with Switch. And Nintendo never stopped using cartridges for their portable systems, so it really looks like cartridges are here to stay for Nintendo consoles. This means that third parties will have to keep paying a bit more to publish their games with Nintendo, just as they always have.


Nintendo Switch Game Card Size
Nintendo Switch game card size compared to the Nintendo 3DS

So what do you think? Is it reasonable for games to cost more on the Switch than on other platforms? When you ask yourself this question, keep in mind that the Switch—unlike the Xbox One and PS4—is completely portable; thanks to its cartridge-based system, you can take it wherever you want. So perhaps a better question might be this: are you willing to pay more for certain titles on Switch for the portability factor? Is portability worth an extra $10?

Let us know in the comments below!

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