We now know a whole lot more about Nintendo’s upcoming console — it’s called the Switch, it’s a home-portable hybrid, it has weird modular controllers that can be used in three million different ways — but there are still a number of major questions that have to be answered ahead of its March release.
One of the most important of those is how much the Switch will cost. Pricing is always critical for games consoles, which are typically sold at low profit margins or losses in an attempt to attract enough users to make money back on software in the long run. Nintendo has often bucked that trend in the past to pursue profitability for the hardware itself, but the company may not have that luxury with the Switch: after the Wii U, it needs a hit.
Until the Wii, every Nintendo home console launched at the same price in the US: $199.99. When the Wii’s launch price of $249.99 was revealed, it actually felt a little high considering the tech inside was comparable to that of its predecessor, the GameCube. But it worked out fine for Nintendo — $249.99 was still cheaper than the Xbox 360 and *much* cheaper than Sony’s infamous $599 PlayStation 3, so Nintendo was still able to capitalize as the disruptive, low-end challenger.
But Nintendo succumbed to hubris with its next system, pricing the 3DS at $249.99 — a ridiculous decision in 2011 with the smartphone onslaught underway, and $100 more than the original DS launched at in 2004. Less than four months after the 3DS’ North American release, and in the face of slow sales, Nintendo announced that the system would get a major price cut to $169.99. The company offered 20 downloadable games to existing 3DS owners by way of apology, and sales increased dramatically over the next year.
The Wii U was Nintendo’s most expensive console yet, launching at $299.99 for an 8GB model and $349.99 for 32GB, yet still hasn’t seen a price cut beyond the 32GB unit replacing the 8GB at $299.99 in 2013. The system’s relative complexity and high manufacturing cost is likely behind this, along with Nintendo’s realization that the platform wasn’t likely to last very long.
So what about the Switch? It uses mobile hardware, and nothing about its design seems especially cutting edge from a cost perspective, so Nintendo should be able to keep the pricing reasonable. On the other hand, there are a lot of parts that need to be manufactured and put into each box, and Nintendo is unlikely to enjoy the economies of scale that tech giants making similar hardware achieve.
All of this makes the final price difficult to predict. But what’s the most you’d pay for the Switch?
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