In Defense of the Nintendo Switch Pricing

While watching Nintendo’s Switch presentation, one of the pieces of information that I was looking forward to was it’s launch price. Prior to the event, it was heavily rumored that a basic bundle of the Switch would be sold at $250, so I was a little disappointed when Nintendo finally revealed that the Switch would be sold for $299.99. Just a little though, and it quickly faded away once I had seen what the JoyCons, Nintendo’s new controllers, were truly capable of.

switch-bundle

$299.99 will get you the Switch tablet, a pair of Joy-Cons, the plastic Joy-Con grip, a dock, an HDMI cable, and an AC adapter.

People shared my disappointment but unlike myself, theirs never really faded. Quite a few have been comparing the price of the Nintendo Switch to current gen consoles; the PlayStation 4 Slim Uncharted bundle, for instance, costs $299 but comes with Uncharted 4 and has 500 GB of internal memory. Microsoft has a similarly priced X-Box One S bundle, also with 500 GB of memory and Battlefield 1. Essentially, the Switch at launch would cost the same but be a less powerful console and it won’t a pack in game. Why would anyone want to buy a Switch over what looks like better deals?

I can certainly understand the disappointment, but I think it’s a little unfair. First of all, we’re comparing the Switch’s launch price versus consoles that have launched over three years ago. Sony and Microsoft have already made profits over PlayStation 4 and X-Box One sales; they can already afford price cuts and have done so.

launch-price-comparison

The Switch is $100 cheaper than the PlayStation 4 and X-Box One when they first came out.

Back when Sony and Microsoft launched their new consoles, the launch model PlayStation 4 was being sold for $399. The X-Box One launch model was even more expensive at $499, but that was bundled with the Kinect sensor; Microsoft soon sold Kinect-free X-Box Ones for $399. This isn’t enough justification for Nintendo’s Switch launch price, but I think we should at least adjust our perspective that this is the “launch” price and future price cuts are likely.

Before going into what you get for $299 with the Switch, let me also say that a direct comparison between the Switch and its competitor consoles isn’t easy. Both the PlayStation 4 and X-Box One have multimedia features that have nothing to do with video games, such as the ability to play Blu-rays and standard DVDs. It’s true that you’re getting that feature with the $299 cost and that you won’t have to buy a separate Blu-ray player, but I could argue that you won’t need to purchase an HD TV with the Switch. Some may see the Blu-ray feature as a big value add, others may see the merits of not being TV-dependent in a similar fashion.

Going back to the $299.99 price of the Switch – we can dissect what we’re buying with all those dollars, thanks to Nintendo selling most of the parts of the Switch separately. First, let’s look at the dock bundle:

dock-set

Ninety bucks of your purchase goes toward the Switch dock, an HDMI cable, and an AC adapter. The cable and adapter should be relatively cheap; combined, they should cost somewhere between $20-$25. So that means the dock costs between $65-$70. That dock isn’t a mere plastic shell though; it’s a charging dock and it converts the Switch’s video output into HD. It also “improves” performance of the Switch, allowing it to have up to 1080p resolution.

Next up are the Joy-Cons:

joycons

Eighty bucks goes to the pair of Joy-Cons. That may seem expensive for controllers, but let’s look at the tech inside of them – first, the Joy-Cons have a combination of gyroscopes and accelerometers that make motion controls without external sensors possible. They also feature a special IR camera that can detect both shapes and distance, and they have the special HD Rumble feature that allows for more precise force feedback. The closest comparison that I can make in terms of pricing is Nintendo’s own Wiimote Plus controllers and Sony’s PS Move controller. First, the Wiimote Plus:

wii-mote-plus

The Wiimote Plus is Nintendo’s most advanced version of the Wiimote which captured motion more accurately than the first version of Wiimotes that came with the Wii. When it came out, it was sold for $39.99 – buying two of them would cost around $80, which is exactly what a pair of Joy-Cons would cost you. Meanwhile, Sony’s PS Move 2 Pack is being sold for $99.99:

ps-move-2-pack

Isn’t Nintendo’s $79.99 pricing for a pair of Joy-Cons reasonable enough, based on this comparison?

Nintendo isn’t selling the non-charging version of the Joy-Con grip but it’s just a plastic shell, so I didn’t bother looking for a good comparison. The best I could come up with is their Wheel accessory:

wheel

Fifteen bucks is a little too steep for a plastic grip, so I’ll just use the estimate of $5 for the Joy-Con grip to make the math simple. Currently, we have:

  • $90 for the dock, AC adapter and HDMI cable
  • $80 for a pair of Joy-Cons
  • $5 for the non-charging Joy-Con grip

That’s $175, with only the Switch tablet itself unaccounted for. I want to compare the Switch tablet to current gen iPads but I think it’s safer to compare it to an existing tablet with similar technology, and what I found is Google’s Pixel C tablet which also uses Nvidia’s Tegra chip:

google-pixel-c

Again, a direct comparison isn’t ideal since the features and functions of the Switch and the Pixel C are quite different, but the tech is similar: Nvidia’s Tegra chip (Tegra X1 for the Pixel C, custom for the Switch) and 32 GB of storage. The Pixel C has a bigger screen, but it’s also more expensive – the 32 GB model is no longer available on Google Store when I checked, but the last price I could dig up was $499.

The Switch tablet, minus the costs of the Joy-Cons and everything else, is roughly around $175. I’m sure there are flaws in my math as I didn’t factor in profitability, the retailer’s share of the market price, and I don’t think my research on pricing is thorough enough. But it should be a good enough estimate to put Nintendo’s original launch pricing into a better perspective; definitely better than simply comparing it to what Sony and Microsoft is currently offering its consoles for.

With all that said, you ARE getting something for your $299.99. Is the tech that you’re paying for worth the cash? That’s a totally different question, and the answer not only varies on the consumer but is also highly dependent on the games that will actually make use of the tech. But the pricing is, at least from my perspective, a fair price given what you’re getting.

How do you feel about Nintendo’s launch price for the Switch? Still too expensive? Or just right? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment or two below!

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