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Nintendo Switch games are too expensive but it makes total sense

Commentary: Skyward Sword costs $10 more a decade after release. What gives?

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When The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword launched for the Nintendo Wii back in 2011, the motion-controlled adventure was priced at $49.99. This week, Nintendo announced a remastered version of the game for the Switch: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, priced at $59.99, adding a dollar to the price tag for every year that's passed since the original game's release

Nintendo fans everywhere let out a quiet sigh of resignation. Skyward Sword, a 10-year-old Wii game, is more expensive than it was when it first came out a decade ago -- and it's going to stay expensive, because first-party Nintendo Switch games almost never get price drops. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a port of a Nintendo Wii U game that launched in 2017, still sells for full price almost four years later. Super Mario Odyssey does too, as well as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Party, and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe.

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Everyone dislikes this. In fact, it feels wrong. Nintendo's competitors, like Sony, routinely and permanently drop prices for big-budget AAA games. God of War for PS4 launched in April 2018 for $59.99, but by October the price was permanently lowered to just $39.99. Today, it costs under $20. Marvel's Spider-Man was released that same year and was given a similar $20 price drop in February 2019. Xbox, PlayStation and PC game releases often see big price drops within the first year, or not long after. It feels like an industry standard practice. As buyers, we've come to expect it, and that expectation makes Nintendo's consistently high prices feel jarring. Like Nintendo is being unfair.

But Nintendo isn't being unfair. It's just following our lead -- because as much as we'd like to pay less for the Nintendo Switch versions of reissued Wii U games, we don't. We pay full price, and continue to pay full price, no matter how old the games are.

As usual, math and economics ruin everything. According to Nintendo's latest fiscal earnings report, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has sold over 33 million copies since launch -- earning Nintendo a potentially staggering windfall. And the game is still a top seller: It's still the fifth-best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch eShop and to this day is Amazon's ninth-best-selling Nintendo Switch game. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Who doesn't love Mario Kart? 

Nintendo

To put that in perspective, one of the PlayStation 4's best-selling games, God of War, had sold an estimated 12 million copies by June 2019, and is Amazon's 23rd best-selling PS4 game. PlayStation had to cut its price to keep buyers interested in Kratos; meanwhile, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been selling in record numbers at full price since launch. 

Nintendo games are expensive. Everyone Hates it. And yet Nintendo has no reason to drop prices -- it's selling more copies of its games than its competitors and making more money on each copy sold. 

And, for better or worse, Nintendo fans have gotten used to expensive games. On social media we bitterly joke about the "Switch tax" that prices modern ports of older games at a premium. We often try to rationalize those higher prices -- sure, Doom (2016) and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt cost more on Switch, but developers had to rebuild and optimize those games to work on Nintendo's lower-powered hardware. Sometimes, we have to rationalize harder: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster costs less than $30 on Steam and PS4. The $20 price hike to $49.99 is the devil's deal we make to play it on a portable platform. 

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Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Nintendo has cultivated an expectation of expensive games, and even though we don't like it, we've come to accept it. Consumers have spoken with their wallets, and Nintendo has heard us loud and clear: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is worth $59.99, despite being a port of a decade-old Wii game that originally sold for $10 less.

It feels wrong, like Nintendo is being unfair -- but the data doesn't lie. We're going to buy it anyway and, once again, Nintendo will print money

See also: Best Nintendo Switch controllers for 2021