Despite how flexible video game pricing have been since the advent of the entertainment medium, there has always been a specific price that is considered as the "industry standard" in the majority of new game releases.
With the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, that price point was $60 USD for the previous three console generations. However, over the last two years that price point has changed—and it appears Nintendo is finally attempting to follow that trend.
Sony and other developers gradually increased the price tag for major releases to $70 after the release of the PlayStation 5 in late 2020. This is due to a number of factors, including general profit margins, as well as the cost of developing expensive games.
Regardless, when you consider when that initial pricing shift occurred, there is one main factor: it occurred at the start of a new console generation when the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S were on the market.
Even when considering the mid-generation improvements in PS4 Pro and Xbox Series X, both machines were leaps and bounds ahead of their predecessors. Because of their hardware, the PS5 and Series X/S simply allow developers to develop more games.
Nintendo did not have, and still does not, have this excuse. But it doesn't matter.
While the Switch continues to sell well, with the hybrid console recently becoming the third best-selling console ever with more than 122 million units, it is showing its age in more ways than one.
The Switch was already trailing behind other consoles on the market in terms of power and performance. No other model with upgraded internal hardware for the system has been released since, and the performance of some recent Nintendo titles, together with the lack of big third-party games, shows how old those specifications are.
The majority of AAA third-party titles that come to Switch today are either brought over as a port that performs worse on the system than other consoles or as a cloud title, which simply means purchasing it on Switch allows you to stream it over Wi-Fi—to mostly negative results. The best bet is smaller games or remasters that are released on every platform or Nintendo exclusives.
Bayonetta 3 and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are two examples of recent Nintendo-published games that have had performance issues that have forced Nintendo and The Pokémon Company to apologize and confirm a performance patch due to backlash. However, it hasn't prevented it from selling better than practically any game on the market.
TotK will not have any serious performance issues, yet Nintendo is rubbing some fans the wrong way.
Yes, many of the players who purchase the game will spend dozens or thousands of hours in the game, and it will likely earn the price tag, but it is the courage Nintendo is showing to raise the price without prior warning and on seven-year-old hardware with the potential for those issues where people are struggling. And even then, there is still a small number of people talking about the game.
Most people will shrug their shoulders at the suggestion of TotK or this price increase specifically on social media, rightfully acknowledging that this is a "value" decision rather than a tech-based one.
The price of a game is not determined by whether or not it is released, but rather by the value it is perceived by the creators and publishers when marketing picks up ahead of a release. This is why some games are still being priced at $20 or less, even if they have some visuals or mechanics that make better use of the technology than games priced at $70.
The whole decision may be broken down into these three sections:
- Breath of the Wild has sold more than 29 million copies since launching in March 2017
- BotW is widely considered one of the greatest games of all time and is the best-selling Zelda title ever—by a factor of more than 20 million based on the most recent sales figures
- Nintendo knows players are going to buy Tears of the Kingdom and have priced it according to the value it places on the Zelda franchise, the Switch, and BotW
Nintendo will not have to drastically alter its pricing structure in order to have all of its first-party published games be $70, as shown by Metroid Prime Remastered being $39.99 and Pikmin 4 being $59.99. It will still be a flexible pricing structure that is entirely dependent on the perceived value of the finished product, a fact that Nintendo has confirmed.
“On a case-by-case basis, we establish the suggested retail price for any Nintendo product,” according to a Nintendo spokesperson.
When Mario and Pokémon games are released, you can expect them to cost less, but don't use this as a starting point to discuss the Switch's hardware limitations, because this practice has nothing to do with that. And that doesn't even touch on the topic of enhanced or collector's editions.
Games take a lot of time to design, and they require a large team of engineers to execute them. If you don't like the price, you don't need to purchase the product and can wait to get it during—one of the rare—Nintendo publisher sales.