There Are No “Hidden Costs” to the Nintendo Switch

Having been a writer and podcaster for over a decade, I can say with certainty that I am open to criticism. That doesn’t just apply to criticism of my own work, but of things I personally appreciate and support. If you come at me with a list of well-reasoned arguments why “Hello From the Magic Tavern” is NOT the best comedy podcast on iTunes, I will quell my rage, hear you out and engage in an exchange of well-reasoned arguments.

But what I have little to no patience for are misleading statements, flimsy reasoning and logical fallacies. While these are all ubiquitous on the internet, sometimes I find them in such concentration that I just can’t idly watch the misinformation spread. And right now, a great abundance of this misinformation is being spread about the Nintendo Switch. So much so, that I feel compelled to write a series of articles rebutting as much of it as I can – starting right here.

EXTRAS AREN’T HIDDEN COSTS

Forbes in particular has posted some especially slanted pieces against Nintendo’s unreleased console, including “The Hidden Costs of the Switch Keep Adding Up.” As the headline implies, this one attacks the price of the console’s extra purchases and peripherals, calling them all “hidden costs” rather than what most of them actually are: unnecessary options.

If you were to take everything in the article at its word, the actual cost of owning a Nintendo Switch more than doubles from its $300 price tag. But, like that optional sunroof on your new car, these costs are almost always superfluous and not likely to affect the vast majority of consumers. So let’s go over everything they list, one by one.

THE CHARGING GRIP

nintendo-switch-charging-grip

Shocking, isn’t it, to know that the Joy-Con Grip included with the system doesn’t charge your controllers while playing? Well, consider for a moment that the Joy-Con controllers have a battery life of about 20 hours. Meanwhile the system itself has a reported battery life of about 2.5 to 6 hours.

The only time you would need this is if you plan to play with the Joy-Cons detached from the system (since the system charges them while it’s attached) for that 20 hour duration. But that would also mean that you’re either playing at home for 20 hours, or are on the road for a long time. In the latter case, you would still need to charge your console four or times before the Joy-Cons required a charge. So while this peripheral is probably handy for the most trail-worn gamers, I would not consider it a hidden cost of the system.

THE PRO CONTROLLER

switch-pro-controller

The Forbes article claims that the Pro Controller, “has been promoted up front as being pretty core to the experience.” Let’s consider for a moment that in the October Switch trailer (which was about 3.5 minutes long) showed people engaged with Joy-Con controllers for over 80 seconds. The Pro Controller was shown for about 30 seconds in total, and most of that time it was in the hands of people clearly being portrayed as professional gamers. I would be a lot more inclined to say Nintendo has promoted the Pro Controller to be core only to professional (or at least very serious) gamers. The Pro Controller was also barely mentioned or even shown during the January Switch presentation.

Having spent time playing with the Joy-Cons in their myriad transformations, I can say that they feel like solid, fully-functional controllers that leave me in no way wanting for the more traditional style of the Pro Controller. Thus, I will not be needing a Pro Controller and I would not label it a hidden cost.

EXTRA JOY-CON CONTROLLERS

nintendo-switch-joycon-2I find this item on the list particularly ironic, because most consoles come pre-packaged with just one controller. But the difference here is, every other controller on the market is good for one, and only ever one player to use at a time. Joy-Cons are uniquely designed to be split up for “Sharing the Joy,” in which each half of the Joy-Con can serve as a fully-functional controller, allowing two player fun right out of the box!

I tried the controllers out in this split-up mode, and while they do feel a little small at first, it still packs an analog stick, four face buttons, and even shoulder buttons. And if you do feel compelled to buy an extra pair of Joy-Cons, you’re not just adding the ability to play with one friend who can use a full Joy-Con – you’re unlocking the ability to play 4-player games. For that kind of experience on another console, you’d need to buy three more controllers, easily adding an extra $200 to their price tags. But I would never deign to call that a hidden cost of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.

EXTRA SWITCH DOCKS

nintendo-switch-dock
Now we’re in the territory of the just plain obscene.

For those unfamiliar, a Nintendo Switch Dock is what connects to your TV. Dropping your switch inside the dock charges the system and instantly moves the fun from the Switch tablet screen to your big, beautiful TV. One dock comes with your console, but you can buy an extra dock or two to make it easy to pick up your Switch and move your game from one TV to another, be it another room of your house, or perhaps a summer home in the Hamptons.

Now let me ask: Do you consider buying a second Xbox One a hidden cost of buying an Xbox One? Is a PlayStation Vita a hidden cost of the PlayStation 4? Because that’s what you’d have to buy if you wanted to play one of those consoles in different rooms or on the go. So why it’s considered a hidden cost here is beyond me. The Switch docks are a unique option that, if you really like, costs $90. Granted, I did hope the docks would cost much less than that.

ONLINE SERVICE
nintendoswitchonlineThis one is hard to address, since so little is known about what Nintendo’s paid online service plan will be. All that was announced is that everyone will get a free trial subscription when the system releases, and thereafter it will require a paid subscription.

PC gamers and anyone else who has enjoyed eons of free online gaming will likely find this more upsetting than others, and I am certainly one of them. I also worry about those who only occasionally play games online, who might find a monthly fee not worth the two or three hours they spend online per month. Not knowing what this will cost and what it will provide is probably the biggest cause for consumers to take pause before pre-ordering their Switch.

Since most people do want their consoles to play games online, I believe it is fair to call this an additional cost for almost everyone. But, it’s also fair to note that charging for online services is common among all the other major gaming consoles.

MICRO SD STORAGE
sd-card

The Switch comes with a 32 GB of memory. This memory is often used for saved game data, wallpapers, apps, and for some, downloading full games.

32 GB is a good amount of data for a tablet-sized device like this, but when you compare it to the terabyte of memory an Xbox One can pack out of the box, that certainly feels insignificant. Of course, the Xbox One wasn’t designed to be carried around and played on your commute like the Switch, so we’re not comparing apples to apples here. Yet the Forbes article implies that more memory is a must, citing that downloading Zelda: Breath of the Wild will take up half of that 32 GB.

Anyone who’s used an iPad, Kindle or even a 3DS knows, downloading games onto them tends to take up the lion’s share of your memory. If only there was some form of lightweight physical media we could use to load a variety of games into our devices rapidly as needed…

Oh right, the Nintendo Switch sells games on tiny little game cards! In fact, physical media is still how games are delivered to most Nintendo players on the Wii U and the 3DS family of systems. I don’t think that’s going to change much on the Switch.

Granted, downloading games is growing in popularity as an alternative to storing (and potentially losing) game cards and tracking down those hard-to-find titles. But if you’re really dead-set on downloading games, then you can definitely grab a micro SD memory card that will triple your total memory for less than $30 with a little digging. Or, if you’re like me, you can just delete games you’re done playing and download them again when the mood to play strikes you. However you choose to handle it, memory cards are not a necessity or a hidden cost.

NO INCLUDED GAMES

nintendo-switch-arms

This, I will concede, is a bit disappointing. Since the system is literally unplayable without a game, it is fair to consider $20 to $60 as an additional price to the Switch. But, at the same time, let’s not pretend that bundled games aren’t factored into a system’s price. I’d rather the system cost me $300 and I buy a game I want, than it cost me $350 but it was bundled with a game I had no interest in playing.

And with the top contender for a bundled game probably being 1-2 Switch, I’m personally happy to put that money towards The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild instead.

CONCLUSION

I respect the Forbes article for pointing out all of these purchases that consumers will have to consider when buying a Nintendo Switch. But other than a game and possibly the online service, none of these are necessary purchases. So to call them “hidden costs” is to imply that you’ll be buying an unplayable $300 brick if you don’t shell out the extra money. At what point do they add a television as a hidden cost of the Switch (which would be particularly funny, since it’s the one home console that does NOT require one).

Let’s not admonish Nintendo for developing cool extras and peripherals. We should instead acknowledge this system for succeeding at its core thesis: adaptability and flexibility. These extras are designed to enhance the experience for specific types of players, be they pro gamers, heavy travelers, or people with seven TVs in their house. Nobody has to buy one, or any of these items. But I’m willing to bet most of us will be happy to grab at least one of these items as we customize the Switch gaming experience to our own playstyle.

24 thoughts on “There Are No “Hidden Costs” to the Nintendo Switch

  1. Well written. I have to agree that there are a lot of haters out there. I do wish they add some sample downloadable games that people can get a taste of what is coming out or came out at launch. I think one of the Playstation systems did that back in the day with a sample disc. It may help sell some more games that most of us have no real interest in, aka 1-2 Switch.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice write up, KC. Glad I have something to share when someone references the Forbes nonsense.

    As for the two most viable considerations – bundled software with SKUs is not a standard inclusion. I didn’t receive a free game with my launch PS4, nor my 3DS. Nintendo does have the biggest track record for bundling software, but it’s not standard practice by any means.

    The paid online service is also a standard in the industry now. PC and mobile are the exceptions. And the service has been confirmed to provide users with access to a free game each month that includes online functionality. So, you’re at least guaranteed to have software to take advantage of the online functionality after you pay for the service. The fine print on this is a little weird compared to the competitions, I must admit.

    Anyways, keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pretty much the only thing here I can agree with. Who knows how much 64GB or 128G might have costs? Though cell phone manufacturers typically charge around $100 for doubling capacity these are hyper inflated MSRPs for profit. Flash memory is expensive though. From what I saw, around 7.50/16GB.

      While it was wrong to portray the accessories as necessary, it’s difficult to deny that there seems to be a switch tax. The two controllers for the price of one argument is mute for many people who don’t have any desire to play on small controllers without the full input experience or who feel that won’t be suitable for all game types (which it very likely won’t be). Why should people be forced to play their games in a way that offers fewer way to interact and might be far more uncomfortable? Because Nintendo says it’s good enough? That’s not an acceptable answer. A switch pro controller will run you a whopping $20 more than a DS4 that offers a touchpad, speaker, headphone jack, and gyro controls when bought new from Amazon. For what HD rumble? A feature almost destined to fade into the background of most developers minds.

      The accessories are priced ridiculously. Justifying that by simply saying they superfluous is utterly ridiculous when the large majority of people will inevitably be purchasing them at some point in the life of the system.

      The amount of denial regarding Nintendo’s mishandling of the Switch so far is crazy. Its saving grace is that it is already viewed by some as a 3DS successor and that it will eventually fall into that place when the price comes down.

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  3. The Switch doesn’t have a 32 GB “Hard drive,” it’s certainly flash memory. No hard drive today would be 32 GB or ever be used in a portable device, in fact it has such seemingly small storage because it absolutely has to use expensive flash storage instead of a spinning drive as a device that will be moved around while used.

    Small wording difference but important distinction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To add to that, the fact that it’s flash storage is why it’s so small. If even low-end flash storage were as cheap as a hard drive, then the storage size would be bigger.

      Reggie Fils-Aime addressed the internal storage question back in the Wii U days, in extremely simple terms that people seem to refuse to believe: additional storage means the price goes up for everyone. Keeping storage on the lower end keeps the price down, and people who want more storage can buy it in the form an SD card (Switch) or external USB drive (Wii U, possibly Switch in the future).

      It’s not 1:1 since we pay more for equivalent storage media than Nintendo would in bulk, but the point absolutely still stands.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Agreed that paid online is the most disappointing and most “hidden cost”-like feature (except for the fact that Nintendo has so far been up-front about it, so “hidden cost” remains more of a Forbes clickbait phrase than reality).

    Everything else is definitely extra. Forbes citing the lack of a bundled game as a “hidden cost” is probably the worst claim of all. Most game systems don’t come bundled with a game at launch (even with Nintendo’s most recent example, only the premium Wii U SKU did), and surely “you have to buy games to play games” isn’t a HIDDEN cost…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There are good and fair critiques of the Switch but so so many are either completely unfair or completely ridiculous. It’s funny how Nintendo seem to be subjected to such harsh criticism where other console manufacturers are completely brushed over for doing the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Paul Tassi is really boneheadedly stubborn when it comes to Nintendo and its products. His articles and especially his headlines almost always seem specifically tailored to create controversy (see: clicks) amongst Nintendo fans. His articles are part of a growing annoyance with Forbes in general. Seriously, Forbes forces full page pop up adds upon trying to view an article and checks for adblock. It’s increasingly clear that ad revenue is their main goal, so controversial articles and the authors that write them probably see a bit of a career bump. Unbiased news is rarely a thing anymore thanks to internet ads. Forbes just seems to be leading the way.

    Wonder if it will stay that way with Google docking search points for full page pop up ads this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I must respectfully disagree. The lack of a d-pad on the standard joy cons is a huge issue for me, as I plan to download many 2D indie games, and there is no substitute for a Nintendo d-pad. It is not a deal-breaker (I will buy a pro controller), but I wish dearly that they offered a joy-con with a SNES-style d-pad, which I would purchase instantly.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. >Forbes in particular has slung some especially slanted pieces against Nintendo’s unreleased console, including “The Hidden Costs of the Switch Keep Adding Up.”

    Actually, you’re referring to a personal blog hosted on Forbes.

    Like

  9. I’m one of those guys who did somewhat frequently take my Wii and Wii U around to family events or friends’ houses for multiplayer. Since it was a bother to unplug everything each time, I kept a second copy of necessary cables in a bag. Nintendo currently sells Wii U AC adapter for $40, GamePad AC adapter for $20, and HDMI cables for $10 or AV cables for older TVs for $16. The dock is not a very big step.

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  10. 2 issues. The cost of internet is very much hidden, as it’s a cost a consumer can’t factor into their purchase before they buy it. Because we don’t know if it will be $10, $60, or anywhere in between, it’s basically the definition of a hidden cost.

    Secondly, why would you assume that including 1 2 Switch would force the console to cost $50 more? The frustration about the game comes from the fact that it looks like a glorified tech demo, and cost no where near enough to develop to substantiate a $50 price tag. Including it pre-installed or as a download code would be dirt cheap for Nintendo but would make the initial 299 price tag much more palatable since the device could be used right out of the box.

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  11. Very well written. I happen to agree that Forbes really does skew the truth in many cases regarding the Nintendo Switch. But finally there is somebody who is stating some facts rather than biased opinions or further confusing the masses. Personally I didn’t like the $300 price tag but did I still pre order a Switch? yeah I did xD Did I pre order legend of Zelda? Yeah…and still paid less for what I would have if they were bundled in if you factor in Tax.

    There’s no need for the pro controller right away, especially if you haven’t had a chance to give the Joy Con’s a fair shot. I’m sure they’ll feel just fine for the legend of Zelda or Super bomberman R.

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    1. “if 50 bucks can bump the memory up to something more reasonable that would probably be much better than requiring me to buy an sdxc card.”
      not really.

      looking at iphone prices, you’d get 32GB extra for $50.
      96GB extra costs $100.
      and 224GB extra costs $200.

      now let’s look at retail prices for microSD cards:
      32GB costs you… $9.99! that’s $40.01 you’ve just saved.
      64GB at $19.99, still not at that “extra $50”, and actually about $50 below what apple would ask for.
      128GB at $40.99 coming close, and we are already at 4 times as much extra storage for your money.
      200GB at $69.99 finally past $50, but this price wouldn’t be enough to even get 100GB extra in your new iphone.

      i’m from europe so i don’t know where to get the best prices in the US, so these where all picked from one of the few US stores i know.
      iPhone memory prices calculated from off-contract prices listed by verizon.

      Like

      1. You are talking as if other consoles have the ability to charge your controller while you are on the road. As far as I could tell, all controllers requires connecting to a power outlet of some sort, so as far as “help you charge more while on the road” goes, no controllers on the market allows you to do that. That is, unless you replace the battery. Xbox One controllers costs about $60 each, and they require you to buy either their charger kit or charging stand to even have the ability to charge them. If you buy the stand, which is also more expensive, you completely are unable to play until the controllers are charged. In this case, Switch sounds better.

        The entire point of Nintendo is that they make fun, family friendly games. They are meant to be geared towards people who don’t play games as often as regular “gamers” do. (Technically everyone who plays games are gamers) For those people, the Joy Con would be more than enough and sharing the Joy Con isn’t that big of a deal. For the market Nintendo is geared towards, a pro controller is a luxury item. If you are trying to say that you need to buy more controllers to play with more friends, isn’t that the same thing for basically every console? Nintendo is just saying that the Joy Con could be split into two controllers if people are willing to, which is already much better for those types of people as they want to be able to play with their family and friends, but they aren’t willing to pay that much for a system they wouldn’t be spending 4 hours a day on.

        The thing is that most Nintendo games comes in game cards, and so if you bump up the price by adding more storage space more people will start complaining about the 1TB storage space they will never fill because they will be buying game cards for the game. It’s actually better that the memory and the console are sold separately, so that people who wants more memory space can just buy a SD card and pop it in. Nintendo hardware has always been able to use the usual standard SD cards, so I don’t see any problems with this at all. Especially if you compare it to say, the Sony PS Vita, which comes with a measly 1GB and for more storage options, you are forced to buy their incredibly overpriced SD cards because ONLY those manufactured by them are compatible with the system (A quick search brings up about $70 for just 32GB)

        I’m actually really sad to see that everyone is so quick to react so negatively on the new Switch. Nintendo has always tried to come up with new ideas for their consoles, which is good for gamers like us because it brings more interesting games to the table. Although sometimes it hasn’t been working out, for example the Wii U, there are times where it helped kick start a whole new trend of gaming, with the best example being the Wii. The Wii remote’s motion controls led people to a new sense of realism when playing games, and caused motion controls to be rather widely use right now, mostly in the virtual reality area. Switch sounds like it could potentially be the start of something new, from the two in one console, to the Joy Cons that comes with (hopefully not forgotten) HD Rumble and motion sensor (everyone forgot about these) it feels like it could allow for more innovative game play, and as Nintendo is more or less on its last legs I sincerely hope Switch is a success. We need Nintendo and its creativity to stay around.

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  12. Some of this article is a little bit apologist. While sharing joycons between two people is cool for the novelty and when playing with non gamers might pass, we all know if you are gonna play for a decent amount of time or actually compete in whatever game you are playing it is a bad way to play games. Way too small. So in that we either would have to buy 3 more sets of joycons or (much more likely) 3 pro controllers which are overpriced compared to their competitors controllers. And if you play mario kart or smash bros with any gamer friends you know that NOBODY is gonna play on a single joycon. We need real controllers for those titles if you want to be even remotely competitive with your friends.

    You are also completely mistaken on what the joycon charge grip does… It has no battery… It doesn’t help you charge more when on the road. It simply is a grip with a charging port on the back so you can charge the joycons while using them. If you use joycons as your controller at home you can’t charge and play the switch on your tv or in tabletop mode while playing. What this means is if you forget to charge the controllers (leaving them on the normal grip that comes with the system) or simply forget to slide them onto the switch when its docked, you might go to play your switch on the TV to find your controllers are dead and the only way to charge them is to dock them to the switch and not play in TV or tabletop mode… This means you would be forced to play in handheld mode while the controllers charge up. Including the charge grip would mean you can plug a USB in and keep playing on your TV while the controllers charge.

    As far as SD cards go, I’m not complaining much about this considering micro SDXC cards really aren’t that expensive so it isn’t a huge deal. But my phone has 128gb’s of internal memory and you can get as much as 256gb’s on iphones. So lets not pretend the memory can’t fit. I understand this would mean an increased cost of the system, but if 50 bucks can bump the memory up to something more reasonable that would probably be much better than requiring me to buy an sdxc card.

    All that being said I preordered the switch and can’t wait for mine. I think the retail price is solid for what you are getting and I hope the software can keep up with the awesome hardware. None of these complaints I have prevent me from getting the system or paying to solve these issues I have. It is okay to be critical of it even if you like it. You should be critical of it because that is how things improve over time.

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  13. One thing the article fails to mention is that you can charge the joycon’s while they are attached to the switch itself. Hell it even comes with two; count them, two separate cables to charge them. One that is attached to the dock and another for when you are away from the dock.

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    1. Thank you for highlighting this point! I thought I had made this fact apparent, but perhaps my wording wasn’t straightforward enough. I have updated the line:
      “The only time you would need this is if you plan to play with the Joy-Cons detached from the system (since the system charges them while attached).”

      Like

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