Since its release in 2017, the Nintendo Switch console has been in high demand.
Priced at $299, the Switch was Nintendo’s second most expensive console at release (surpassed only by the Wii-U in 2012, at $349).
One might expect the price of a Nintendo Switch to have dropped in the four years since its release date. Both the X-Box One and PS4 consoles were reduced in price no more than two years after their release.
Further, the newer generation of consoles has been released.
Generally, this leads to lower prices for existing console models.
Regardless, the Nintendo Switch has remained locked in at $299 after four years on the market.
This is a fairly unorthodox approach to console sales.
Based on market history surrounding console sales strategies, it’s a fair question.
Why is the Nintendo Switch still so expensive?
Why hasn’t it dropped in price?
Here are 10 leading reasons for the Switch’s seemingly immovable price point.
Why Is Nintendo Switch So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Sales Haven’t Slowed (…At All)
If you’ve been on the hunt for a Nintendo Switch at any time in the last two years, a certain trend has probably become evident: stores are selling out Nintendo Switch consoles faster than they can stock them.
The Nintendo Switch’s 2017 release coincided with the midpoint of the previous console generation.
The X-Box One and PS4 were released in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
By the time the Switch entered the market, install bases for the X-Box and PlayStation were stabilized, and the X-Box Series S and PS5 would not be released until late 2020.
Nintendo’s release strategy meant there would be no initial sales competition for the Switch.
Consumers would not have to rush to choose between console models.
Moreover, with the next generation three years away, buyers wouldn’t feel pressured to hold out for new technology.
As a result, the first week’s launch sales quickly surpassed the Wii (Nintendo’s current highest selling console).
In the four years since its release, the Nintendo Switch has sold in excess of 84 million units, approaching the Wii’s 101 million nine-year sales count in half the time.
By 2020, the Switch boasted a position as the top-selling console for 23 straight months.
In 2021, Switch console sales continued to increase—as high as 37% over 2020.
From a purely demand-oriented perspective, there hasn’t been a strong incentive for Nintendo to lower the price of the Switch.
Consumers have been buying out retailers year after year.
At a certain level of demand, a company might actually begin to lose potential profit by being unable to rise to the market conditions.
There are more buyers than there are consoles, meaning the longer it takes Nintendo to release adequate stock, the more likely they will be to lose out on projected sales.
There are a number of reasons Nintendo has been so limited in meeting market demand that will be covered shortly.
2. Diverse Video Game Franchises And Fanbases
Nintendo is widely known and cherished for its longstanding game franchises.
From Legend of Zelda, Mario, and Donkey Kong, to Animal Crossing, Super Smash Bros, and Pokémon, there are few people in the gaming community who are not well acquainted with one or more of these series.
The variety of gaming experiences offered by the Nintendo Switch attracts a broad audience.
There are franchises and one-off titles for every age group and content type: children, teens, adults, adventure, RPGs, puzzles, platformers, and more.
The longstanding reputation of Nintendo’s exclusive franchises means there is a strong nostalgic component to their consumer base.
In order to access these titles, gamers have to own a Nintendo Switch.
Hence, Nintendo can keep interest in the Switch console alive by strategically releasing franchise entries over the lifecycle of the system.
3. Versatile Playability (Console And Mobile)
The Nintendo Switch offers utilities unlike other consoles on the market, namely, its portability.
The Switch merges the mobility of the Gameboy with the entertainment system functions of traditional consoles.
Big screen or small, at home or on the move, the Switch offers a full-fledged gaming experience.
As a mobile console, gamers are able to engage in the classic handheld, Gameboy experience.
As an entertainment system, the Nintendo Switch enables a full-bodied console experience in the same category as the X-Box or PlayStation.
The dual functionality and mobility of the Switch appeals to a large consumer base that would otherwise be split between console and handheld platforms.
4. Second-Hand Sellers And Re-Sellers
If the Nintendo Switch console isn’t available at retailers due to high demand, where does a buyer go?
Secondary and third-party outlets such as Amazon, E-Bay, Craigslist, and others often list the Nintendo Switch at hugely inflated prices.
It might come as a surprise that these price points—often 50% higher than retail—still sell at a rapid pace.
Compounding the problem, opportunistic entrepreneurs and second-hand retailers have taken note of the demand.
These interested parties have been known to buy up bulk stocks of Nintendo Switch consoles to be listed for re-sale, often employing bots to automate the process.
These automated buying systems work by scraping data from a wide array of websites at regular intervals, then purchasing as soon as a product becomes available.
There is no feasible way for an average buyer to front-run these algorithmic systems.
Not only do Nintendo Switch units get bought up in bulk at physical locations—limiting supply—but they are also priced well out of normal buyers’ wallets via price gouging practices.
Visiting a site like Amazon at any time in the last two years would show clear signs of these issues.
During supply shortages, a Nintendo Switch could be sold via a secondary digital platform for as much as $600.
5. The Nintendo Switch Lite Alternative
In 2019, Nintendo released a designated handheld edition of the Switch: the Nintendo Switch Lite.
The Switch Lite was priced at $199, a full $100 under the original Nintendo Switch.
The release of the Switch Lite represented a relatively unorthodox industry move by Nintendo.
Commonly, other gaming platforms release smaller, better optimized versions of their flagship console.
Examples of that practice would be the X-Box One S and the Playstation 4 Slim.
The Lite model follows the tradition of downsizing a front-runner console, but to the extreme.
While the Switch Lite can play all Nintendo Switch titles, it is exclusively handheld.
Despite the limitations in functionality, the Nintendo Switch Lite offers a significantly lower priced option for consumers.
The low price point alternative of the Switch Lite further dis-incentivizes Nintendo from reducing the price of the original Switch console.
6. Improvements To The Nintendo Switch Hardware
A lesser known aspect to console lifecycle development is that the platforms are regularly updated and optimized with more efficient hardware.
In certain cases, these hardware updates involve higher-cost parts or design elements to improve the performance of the console.
These hardware improvements and design changes also encompass the development of model alternatives, such as the Nintendo Switch Lite.
Every product released by Nintendo points to some kind of development cost.
In order to release a lower priced option, Nintendo had to spend money on different manufacturing, production, release, and marketing protocols.
7. Nintendo’s Hardware Sales Commitment
Prior to the Switch’s launch, Nintendo released a statement that they would not be selling the console “at a loss.”
Often, gaming hardware will be sold at a loss in order to maximize a consumer install-base.
The initial loss can be accounted for provided that enough games are sold to compensate for the deficit.
In conjunction with continuous improvement of their console hardware, Nintendo’s business intent to generate a profit with each Switch unit sold limits their flexibility in lowering the $299 price point.
Whereas other consoles find revenue through subscription services and digital products, the Nintendo Switch relies on a more classic performance model which revolves around consistent product releases.
In order to fund a consistent release schedule of its beloved franchises, Nintendo leverages the stable pricing of the Switch.
This dynamic contributes to keeping the console’s price stable over time.
8. Supply Has Been Limited
While demand for the Switch has been high since its release, the 2020–2021 fiscal year introduced an unprecedented impact on product manufacturing: COVID-19.
With the advent of the COVID-19 global pandemic, demand for at-home entertainment systems skyrocketed.
Everything from fitness equipment, art supplies, TVs, and of course, gaming consoles, flew off the shelves of physical and digital retailers worldwide.
The onset of these rapid buying trends conflicted with Nintendo’s manufacturing challenges in China and Vietnam.
Much of China’s exporting industry—where Nintendo bases their manufacturing exports to Vietnam—was shut down or limited by COVID-19 restrictions.
Nintendo representatives have noted that, despite impressive sales figures, the lack of supply has actually restricted profits.
It isn’t that Nintendo hasn’t tried to meet the demand for the Switch, but they simply haven’t been able to.
Financially speaking, Nintendo is already experiencing an opportunity cost in being unable to meet customer demand.
Lowering the price of the Nintendo Switch would only exacerbate the imbalance of supply and demand.
9. Market Psychology—Newer Generation Consoles Are Priced Higher With Smaller Game Libraries
The newest generation of consoles, including the PS5 and X-Box Series X, was released in 2020.
Each of those consoles is priced at $499 for the standard package, which is $200 higher than the original Nintendo Switch model.
Traditionally, there would be no need to compare older and newer generation gaming platforms.
With the demand for Nintendo Switch consoles still so high, it poses heavy competition for other gaming platforms in the current generation (at a lower price point).
Buyers have been lined up to buy Nintendo Switch units for years.
Many gamers have been waiting to play specific titles for months on end.
Comparatively, there are fewer new titles to be played on the X-Box Series X and the PS5.
The gaming libraries for alternative consoles are effectively “under construction,” whereas the Nintendo Switch already has a stable arrangement of franchises.
Players simply haven’t been able to access them.
The consumer motivation to purchase a Switch shows no sign of changing, and this is potentially reinforced by alternative gaming systems being over 60% more expensive.
The Nintendo Switch remains competitively priced relative to its main competitors.
Lowering the price would serve little advantage in this regard.
10. Summing It All Up: Business Model And Production Logistics
The primary reason for the Nintendo Switch remaining so expensive over the years lies in Nintendo’s business strategy.
Manufacturing, hardware updates, distribution channels, franchise release strategies—the list of contributing factors is endless.
However, the essential reason is this: there is no incentive to reduce the price.
The Nintendo Switch has been in critically high demand for the entirety of its four-year lifespan to date.
Nintendo has stated that they do not intend to sell the Nintendo Switch at a loss.
This limits the price variability of the Switch console as costly hardware updates and newer builds are introduced into production.
The global pandemic of 2021 and resulting manufacturing restrictions confounded Nintendo’s efforts to meet customer demand, bottle-necking sales momentum.
Second- and third-party sellers have been capitalizing on Switch supply shortages by bulk-buying retail stocks of the console.
This artificial consumption not only restricts supply to consumers further, but it also inflates the price of Switch consoles by large amounts through bidding systems (like E-Bay), or secondary distributors (like Amazon).
In terms of consumer interest, Nintendo has access to a wide array of exclusive franchises and unique titles appealing to an extremely varied install-base.
People are likely to purchase a Switch at various times in its lifecycle specifically to play one or two franchise releases, such as Legend of Zelda or Mario entries.
Further, there is no price-related competition for the Nintendo Switch in the current market.
The X-Box Series X and PS5 were released at price points well above the Switch console.
Even if its primary competition was priced lower, the Switch offers a Lite model which is less than half the price of X-Box and PS5 units.
While it is very unusual for a console to remain at its highest, original price for so long, the Nintendo Switch has been uniquely positioned in the market to justify its cost compared to its competitors.
Outlook For The Nintendo Switch Price
The price of the Nintendo Switch appears locked in.
However, what’s Nintendo’s next move?
Will there be a generational update to meet the technical competition posed by the X-Box Series X and PS5?
Could an original edition Nintendo Switch price reduction coincide with the release of an improved model?
Various rumors have circulated about a Nintendo Switch “Pro” edition, with improved 4K display capabilities, increased screen size, and various other functionalities.
So far, descriptions of the proposed system update appear similar in nature and purpose to the X-Box One X or PS4 Pro model updates.
However, it is unclear if the upgraded model would lead to a lowering of the original Nintendo Switch price.
It is possible the Nintendo Switch Pro could simply be released at a higher price than its hardware predecessor.
Another question posed by the past year is how changes to manufacturing infrastructure will impact the production of current Nintendo Switch models and Switch Pro models.
Production and distribution networks have experienced an overhaul during the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to maximize efficiency and solve supply shortages.
As the pandemic comes to a close, many of those revised manufacturing systems will remain in place.
Nintendo remains committed to producing as many Switch consoles as they are able to meet consumer demands.
If they plan to introduce an upgraded platform, those efforts will likely need to be re-doubled.
Optimizing distribution channels and resolving logistical challenges might allow Nintendo to reduce the flagship Nintendo Switch price point, especially if their business goal transitions into moving Nintendo Switch Pro units off shelves at an attractive price.
While the Nintendo Switch console price holds strong in the current market, the current generation of gaming platforms is changing.
Alternative platforms will become more competitive as more exclusive titles are announced and released.
As the expected Switch Pro takes the center of Nintendo’s business focus, and Switch demand evens out, the incentive to lower the $299 price point might grow.
Prospective buyers may not have to wait much longer to access the original Nintendo Switch console at a lower buy-in.