After initially struggling to attract wider support from third-party developers, the Switch library is now absolutely filled with ports of big-budget and indie games available on other platforms. However, some Switch players have started to notice that those ports often come at a pricing premium when purchased on Nintendo’s console.
The folks over at Switch blog Switcher decided to quantify how much that “Switch tax” costs while building their own database of Switch games. Their analysis found that, of 471 games being sold on both Steam and Switch, the downloadable Switch versions cost just over 10 percent more on average.
That average obscures a wide range of price discrepancies, of course, including some that end up in the Switch’s favor. In fact, a majority of titles listed on both platforms (55.8 percent) sell for the exact same price on both, and an additional 8.9 percent are cheaper on Nintendo’s eShop.
That said, the price discrepancy for the remainder of the Switch’s PC ports can be quite large. Payday 2, for example, costs $ 50 on the Switch compared to just $ 10 on Steam. The 2016 Doom reboot runs $ 60 on Switch and $ 20 on Steam. Steam’s frequent sales can exacerbate the differences, too: De Blob is currently $ 30 on Switch but just $ 6.59 on Steam—down from a PC list price of $ 20.
Why the difference?
Part of this pricing discrepancy seems to come down to the game’s relative age on each platform. Doom may be $ 20 on Steam now, but it launched there at $ 60 in 2016; the Switch version was priced at the higher level when it launched on that platform earlier this year. Of the 51 games that hit Switch and Steam on the same day, only one was more expensive on the Switch, suggesting Switch prices might similarly come down with time.
Another important part of the “Switch tax” is Nintendo’s insistence that the downloadable version of any Switch game be priced at parity with the retail version of the same game, if one exists. As we’ve discussed in the past, Switch’s flash-memory cartridges cost more to produce than competing optical discs, and that extra manufacturing cost ends up getting passed on to Switch users that download their games.
Switcher’s data supports this finding. Games with a physical Switch release averaged a 17.8-percent price premium over their Steam versions, compared to just a 7.2-percent premium for Switch games that are only offered as downloads. That said, the retail versions of Switch games are sometimes offered at clearance prices after launch, even as the downloadable price remains steady.
Paying a bit extra for the Switch version of a PC game might be worthwhile, of course, when you consider you’re getting a version that can be played portably as well as on the TV. But that benefit doesn’t apply to ports of mobile games, which are also often priced with a premium on the Nintendo’s console. A game like Oceanhorn runs $ 15 on the Switch and just $ 7.99 on iOS, for instance. World of Goo is $ 10 on Switch and $ 5 on iOS. Sheep-based solitaire game Shephy costs $ 5 on Switch but is free-to-play on iOS (with in-app purchases).
We’d love to see more data on this side of the “Switch tax” issue. For now, check out Switcher’s write-up for more numbers and comments from some of the publishers involved.