Video game systems and the games themselves have never been entirely affordable since their inception in the 1980s.
Originally made to entertain children and teenagers, video games have evolved to include every age group in their demographic, greatly widening their consumer market.
Switch games start in the $20 range and can reach more than $100 for some dual-pack games, with an average of around $50–60 per game.
Xbox Series X games average around $30–$40, while PS5 games range between $20 and $60 on average.
However, there are a number of reasons that Nintendo Switch games cost as much as they do.
Why Are Nintendo Switch Games So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
1. High Demand
The Nintendo Switch console is one of the highest-selling video game consoles of all time, currently having sold more than 109 million units as of July 2022.
This puts it way above the sales of its competitors, the Xbox Series X and PS5.
Because Switch consoles are so popular and most Switch games can only be played on a Switch console, the demand for those games continues to go up.
Like with other video game companies, Nintendo uses smart sales tactics to drive the demand for a game up well in advance of its release date.
By using press releases and other teasers in the same vein as movies and television shows do to draw attention, Nintendo Switch games gain attention and get people talking well in advance.
Once word of a new great game comes out and spread through social media and other forms, the demand for the game skyrockets, allowing Nintendo to price it accordingly.
The demand then continues to increase up until its release date.
Nintendo understands how to properly market their games, gaining loads of attention, and then pricing the product based on the demand.
When there’s a lot of interest in a game, they will price their games higher than games with low interest.
Video game player community discussion forums, like Reddit and Twitch, help those at Nintendo gauge the demand for upcoming new releases in order to price them accordingly.
The more people are talking about a game, the higher the retail price will be because Nintendo knows its consumers will pay out.
2. Games Are Collectible
Video games are more than just toys and child entertainment products these days.
There are entire communities of video game collectors made up of people continually on the hunt for those rare gems.
This happens more with vintage video games that are harder to find, as most of the older copies have been damaged or destroyed throughout the years.
By understanding the trends of past video game collector items, modern-day collectors know to keep their new Switch games unopened and in mint condition, holding them as collector items only.
Many die-hard collectors never even play their games, keeping them wrapped in plastic and used for trading or selling down the line.
Typically, the rarer and more expensive a game is, the more likely a collector will hold on to the game in its original packaging, keeping it for collecting purposes only.
Years from now, they’ll be able to sell it for much more than they paid for it or exchange it for something even more desirable.
With the advent of video game digital copies, the rarity of hard copies has become even more sacred to collectors.
This isn’t to say digital copies sell for less, but that hard copies will hold their value longer.
Much like vinyl collectors, a physical object holds more value than a digital copy in the eye of the collector.
3. Wide Age Range Of Players
As was already stated, Nintendo Switch games are not just for children anymore.
Nintendo Switch produces games for every age and demographic, ensuring they reach the widest audience possible.
The Nintendo Wii’s success helped build Nintendo’s reputation as a family-friendly, yet adult-inclusive video game system.
Now, learning and educational games are released for those just learning the alphabet, while interactive party games appeal to those of all ages.
However, Nintendo Switch’s largest player base consists of young adults and teens.
By creating more teen and young adult games, Nintendo Switch has made a smart marketing move.
After all, teens and young adults have little responsibility and free cash to spend.
Therefore, they’re more likely to spend their money on luxury items like video games.
Plus, unlike adults in their 20s or 30s, younger adults have more free time and enjoy their social interactions via social media, making them the perfect candidates for video game consumerism.
By marketing their games to teens and young adults, Nintendo Switch doesn’t have to rely on children and those without a source of income themselves to ask their parents for games.
Young adults are much more susceptible to entertainment marketing as well.
4. Many Switch Games Can Only Be Played On A Nintendo Switch
As with most video game consoles, the games the company releases can only be physically played on that console.
To play the same game on another console, you’ll need to purchase another copy of the game that’s made specifically for that console.
This means Nintendo Switch games can only be played on the Switch console, making them that much more exclusive.
This type of production drives up the cost of the console and the games, as Nintendo knows their worth.
Judging by the number of console sales, Nintendo knows how many users they have at their fingertips and take full advantage of their popularity.
For instance, if they know they have sold 109 million Switch consoles, they can assume they have more than 109 million players to entertain.
Knowing the number of users they have, they can judge the number of games they need to release and the types of games they release.
Those 109 million players are reliant on Nintendo alone to produce the games they need since other console games will not work with the Switch and vice versa.
In addition to the actual mechanics of releasing different formats of the same game for different consoles, Nintendo also releases an abundance of games that are not made for other consoles at all.
For instance, you’ll never see a Mario game on an Xbox or PS5.
Nintendo exclusively owns the rights to Mario and many other Nintendo characters, ensuring players who want to play these hugely popular games must do so by buying a Switch and the game.
There’s already a built-in fan base for Nintendo-exclusive games allowing the company to raise the cost.
5. Pre-Sale Purchases Raise Prices
Similarly to how Nintendo researches the demands of their products and bases prices on those demands, they are able to use strategic marketing ploys to generate those demands, making them even higher.
One such way is through pre-sales.
Depending on the game and popularity, pre-sales for a particular game can start months in advance of the release date.
Some pre-sale prices might be lower than the actual cost, luring in consumers with the incentive of early discounts and more.
However, with the success of Switch games, many video game retailers have little incentive to do so, as they know the game will sell regardless.
Pre-sales are not only used to give customers assurance that they’ll receive their game, but also generates interest and talk before the game is released.
Pre-sale numbers allow Nintendo to see the demand and popularity of the game, without having to do much research or guesswork.
Based on the popularity, they’ll raise pre-sale prices comfortably knowing they have the consumer base for them.
Although most ethical retailers won’t raise the price after it’s already set, it gives Nintendo the freedom to raise the wholesale cost of their games the next time around.
6. Limited Supplies
Supply and demand always work together, and Nintendo Switch games are no exception.
Using basic economics, manufacturers and companies typically will adjust their supply distribution based on consumer demand.
If the demand for the supply increases, so will the creation of the supply, and if the demand decreases, the supply will decrease as well, in theory.
If those basic needs are not met, inflation will cause the average prices to change.
However, a lot of external factors can affect how much actual supply can be distributed around the world.
Nintendo Switch games are mainly researched and developed in Japan and manufactured around the world, mostly in Japan, China, and the US.
Because the company is spread out, it relies on raw source materials from all over the world, affecting the number of units available at any given time.
If supplies run low or are held up in shipping, as with many products during the height of the pandemic, companies will not be able to reach their demand, thus driving up the cost of the supplies they do have available.
For instance, if a game like Animal Crossing sells out during pre-sales or soon after, there’s no telling when the next shipment will arrive, and the scarcity scares consumers into paying exorbitant amounts of money to get their hands on a copy.
7. Elite Status Of Nintendo Games And Systems
Nintendo has easily been at the forefront of video games and video game consoles since the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in 1983.
Because of its long history and reputation of designing and creating imaginative and original video games, the Nintendo brand has become synonymous with quality.
Their systems and games have never been cheap, pushing their elite status even higher.
In the 1980s and 1990s especially, Nintendo systems were the stuff of dreams, highly desired by every kid on the block, but out of the price range of many working-class households.
Therefore, their presence established an idea of wealth and longing.
Nintendo has always played into this reputation, keeping the costs of their games high, sometimes seemingly to keep out the riff-raff.
After all, if everyone could afford their consoles and games, they wouldn’t be as special.
By staying just above the line of average affordability, Nintendo keeps their elite status, yet manages to make huge sums of money, by playing into this social status.
8. The Console Itself Is More Affordable Than Others
Even though Nintendo Switches are expensive, they are not as expensive as some of their competitors.
Nintendo Switches sell for around $250, while the Xbox Series X costs between $300–$550, and the PS5 sells for around $400–$550.
Many of their competitors, like the Xbox Series X and PS5, act as entire entertainment centers, offering a variety of different services, including streaming platforms and higher quality graphics and sound, raising the cost.
Since the Nintendo Switch only really allows video game play, they don’t need to charge as much for the console.
However, they can then charge more for their games, making back their profit and maintaining credibility with their competitors.
By streamlining their focus on one entertainment source, they’re able to invest more time and energy into their products.
It’s also easier to justify spending more on a Switch game knowing you didn’t shell out $550 already just for the console.
This gives its players freedom and exclusive gameplay.
9. Popularity Of Games
Nintendo Switch games are extremely popular.
By offering bundle packs for some of their older games, they can sell those for cheaper and instead focus on their current releases, charging more for them.
It’s like giving out the appetizers for free before charging an arm and a leg for the main course.
Nintendo knows their games are popular, especially those featuring their exclusive Mario and friends, allowing them complete freedom to charge as much as they want within reason.
There’s an abundance of Mario games available on the Switch, such as Mario Party Superstars, Super Mario Maker 2, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, and Luigi’s Mansion 3.
Because Mario games remain timeless and always popular, Nintendo can raise the purchase cost of these games.
Though there are many young and new players who indulge in Nintendo Switch games, a huge part of their fan base remains the original players of the NES system back in the 1980s and 1990s.
This is another reason Nintendo creates so many Mario games, as they will always remain nostalgic to those original players and a throwback to the arcades and gaming of Nintendo’s origins.
Using nostalgia to their advantage, Nintendo Switch also releases modern renditions of classic favorites like Zelda, such as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD.
Not only are older players purchasing these beloved classics to relive their past, but they are now sharing this renewed enthusiasm with their children and the next generation of gamers.
There also seems to be an original authenticity incorporated with many Nintendo games, using an “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality.
This type of marketing seems to work for them, as they keep attracting new players and old to their classic games.
Another example of this is the renewed interest in incredibly basic games like Tetris.
With a little sprucing up, Nintendo has successfully managed to sell much of the same product, marginally new and improved, for decades now at contemporary pricing.
Also with renewed interest in retro style and clothing, Nintendo has been able to jump on board and keep their products highly relevant and costly.