By: Jack Treese (Treesenhauser)
As a gamer and a Nintendo fan, I was very excited by the recent announcement of L.A. Noire coming to not only modern platforms and VR, but one of those platforms being the Nintendo Switch. The Rockstar detective adventure drama had been rumored for the Switch for quite some time now, so a confirmation from Rockstar themselves came out of left field and has me seriously looking forward to its release on November 14th.
The day after its official announcement, however, a news item popped up on my social media feeds that slightly dampered most Nintendo fans’ excitement for the port. Due to the higher storage space needed for a massive game like L.A. Noire, and due to the costs of publishing games on the Switch’s game card media compared to the disc-based media of the PS4 and Xbox One, the physical retail version of the game will cost $49.99, which is $10 more than the other versions which will retail for $39.99. However, if one chooses to go digital instead, it’ll still be $39.99 no matter which platform. This whole situation opened up a whole can of worms in evaluating how things are going for the Nintendo Switch right now, and it all has to do with storage.
During the Nintendo 64 era, the Kyoto-based company had a similar issue. Whereas both Sega and Sony were moving onto using discs for games on the Saturn and PlayStation, Nintendo decided to stick with cartridges. This piracy-cutting measure from Nintendo was effective for that reason, however, drove game costs higher due to the cartridge-based media being more expensive to produce and publish. Third-parties brought their games to Sony and Sega instead, the most notorious case of this being Square opting to bring Final Fantasy VII to the PlayStation.
Now during the Switch era, Nintendo must be feeling a wave of nostalgia from the N64 era, and not the good-feel kind of nostalgia either. Since the Switch has moved back to using carts, games are more expensive to produce for it, which drives the costs higher when they go to retail. Games such as Rime have seen a price hike of up to $10 more for its Switch version. The reason is because Nintendo has a couple of game card sizes for publishers to choose from when manufacturing the games. The lowest capacity is around 8GB, which is ideal for most publishers because they can still sell the game and make a profit without having to increase its price.
However, for games such as L.A. Noire, cards that are up to 32GB will be needed instead, which costs more to produce. Since the last-gen versions of L.A. Noire were pretty beefy in size–the Complete Edition on PS3 was ballpark 28 GB, for example–and the Switch iteration is closer to being like those versions in terms of graphical fidelity, a 32GB card is necessary which unfortunately means it’ll have to be $10 more at retail to make a profit. On the bright side, this means that Switch owners who opt for the physical iteration will have the whole game on one card without the need for extra downloads. However, it doesn’t seem like that will always be the case going forward.
It was recently revealed that some Switch games going forward will require an extra download and even the extra investment of a MicroSD card in order to enjoy the full game, and yes, even for physical retail game card versions. A September 4th article from Nintendo Life’s Damien McFerran points out that “while the game won’t be entirely unplayable, it is said that a ‘portion’ of each title will be available ‘out of the box’, even without a MicroSD card, it does mean that in order to get the full experience, you’re going to have to pony up even more cash”.
The first game that will require this is NBA 2K18. While it is nice that storage can be expanded via MicroSD card, this whole storage situation is making a giant mess that could have been totally avoided right out of the gate. The Wii U had similarly short storage as well, at only 32GB, and sometimes 8GB depending on which model we’re talking about. However, it wasn’t as big of a deal because external hard drives were beginning to go down in price and I had no issue getting a 500GB external drive hooked up to my Wii U. Unlike that console, the Switch has no support for external USB storage, not even through the dock.
The Switch’s 32GB of storage can only be expanded with MicroSD cards. While it doesn’t seem to be a problem on the surface because MicroSD cards are everywhere nowadays, it feels relatively hamfisted due to the flexible pricing for the storage medium. Smaller MicroSD cards, like 64GB, retail for around $23 which isn’t too bad. However if one is in need of more memory for their Switch, a 200GB card runs for about $78. A 400GB MicroSD card is on the way, which will retail for a whopping $250. Yours truly paid $45 for a 128GB card, and for his money it has proven to be worth it.
For those Switch owners that opt for going with full game downloads of titles like L.A. Noire, as opposed to shelling out extra cash for the physical game card, bigger MicroSD cards are really the only way to go about having extra storage for now. It comes off as kind of lame too, because despite the portability of the Switch, I know a lot of gamers that would still play the console mostly on their TVs. For those gamers, Nintendo really should make external USB storage a dock-only option. I understand that it could bring up problems if you wanted to play certain games on the go, but even if they made an application and save data management app for the system, that could work out just fine for players that wish to take certain games on the go.
The best solution for Nintendo, however, would be to release a Switch retail unit with extra storage. In this current generation of gaming, we need more than just 32GB of storage. Even when considering the Switch’s portability, the status quo just isn’t enough. When even smartphones and tablets outshine the Switch in terms of storage, you know there’s a problem. I would like to think though, that even Nintendo knows this is an issue, and I would hope that they’ll have a solution in the years to come.
Though Nintendo is usually a step behind, they’re not one to count out for bouncing back. They bounced back from poor GameCube sales and had a success with the Wii. And now, they’ve bounced back from lower-than-poor Wii U sales and are having such a success with the Switch that it’s nearly impossible to find nowadays… but that’s for another topic, another time.
So, what do you make of their storage situation? Did I hit the right notes here, or do you think the problem is bigger than that? Are you excited for L.A. Noire’s re-release, regardless of platform? Let us know in the comments!