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Gameverse | August 25, 2019

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Nintendo Switch Game Vouchers a waste of money (unless you play the system right)

Robert Endyo

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Just after the Super Mario Maker 2 Nintendo Direct, two deals were presented to the audience.  The first was a decent deal that allowed you to bundle a year of Nintendo Switch Online to your Super Mario Maker 2 preorder for an extra $10.  Nintendo hasn’t been shy about their efforts to try to get Nintendo Online on as many Switches as possible after it’s lackluster launch and subsequent poor performance in many games, so wasn’t much of a surprise.  What ended up catching many people off guard was the introduction of the Nintendo Switch Game Voucher system, which seemed uncharacteristic for a company that rarely lowers prices on first party games.  However, when you start digging into it, the deal really isn’t as good as they make it sound.

$20 in, $20 out

The first problem here is that the vouchers are only available if you have Nintendo Switch Online.  That, at its cheapest overall price for an individual, is $20 a year.  So, the $20 savings from the vouchers is already lost on that.  There is value, however, in that original $20 investment for online play, especially if you want to partake in the fun of Tetris 99 or some classic NES games (or play some laggy Smash online).  Even if you already have Nintendo Switch Online and have gotten value from that cost, that’s not the only issue with the price of this “deal.”

The Price is Wrong

On paper, the idea of spending $100 and getting $120 worth of games is great.  It’s the fulcrum upon which this entire scheme hinges. But, when you look at the details things start to seem much more unsteady.

First of all, the games that are currently eligible are limited to a certain pool.  Some of the games on this list are already $49.99 (Bayonetta and 1-2-Switch, as examples) which immediately strip away part of the discount.  The limitation of the list also allows them to exclude games where you might bundle season passes and doesn’t allow you to use any other deals or discounts in the process.  Then, of course, there’s the elephant in the room, the fact that many of these games have either had or currently have a discount on their physical version.

Digital Killed the Physical Star

Digital games have become the cornerstone of the gaming industry.  They dominate the PC market almost entirely.  Physical media drives are disappearing from PCs every day.  Yet on consoles, the market has stayed strong for a variety of reasons.  The strongest reason is that console gamers love to have the flexibility of trading in and selling their games.  This is a negative aspect for game publishers as every game sold from one player to another is a game for which they can’t sell another new copy.  Nintendo Switch Vouchers only allow you to purchase digital versions of these games.  With this, you’re not only losing your ability to sell or trade games, but you’re relegating yourself to filling up the system’s extremely limited storage space.  In fact, if you were to just get Breath of the Wild and Hyrule Warriors with these two vouchers (both of which are currently under $50 each from Walmart), you’ve already filled up 27 GB of your 32 GB internal storage.  When you stack an additional $20+ for another SD card on top of the $100 vouchers, you’re back to not getting much of a deal.

How to Make This a Deal

There are a couple of key things you need to do in order to make the Nintendo Switch Voucher system worthwhile.  The first is to have two games you want to preorder or buy release within the next year.  The vouchers expire in one year, so it’s important that they either be available to purchase or preorder (and on the list) within that time frame.  This will ensure you, at the very least, get $120 worth of games for that $100.  The second most important thing to do is to buy discounted Nintendo gift cards.  There are plenty of places online where these gift cards are 10% or even 20% off.  By taking advantage of that, you can essentially get two full price games (potentially) for $80.  At that price, the many problems with the system become less… problematic.

Sure, you’re still going to have to make sure you have your Nintendo Switch Online subscription going both when you purchase the vouchers and when you use them, but for a certain subset of people who are willing to put in a little bit more effort and have the available storage, this can work out well.  Considering I personally have sold two first party games I preordered for my switch (ARMS and Mario Tennis), I don’t think I’ll commit to many digital game preorders.  However, I may find myself working this system to my advantage if I find two games I know, for certain, I will want to keep in the near future.