The upcoming re-release of L.A. Noire was a surprise to many, especially since it's also coming to the Nintendo Switch. Rockstar Games rarely supports Nintendo platforms, so the announcement increased hopes that Nintendo's new hybrid system will get more third-party support in the long run.
Except there's one problem. Switch games are much more expensive than those for other consoles, particularly Xbox One and PlayStation 4. As with some multiplatform titles that have been released on the Switch, the cartridge-based L.A. Noire will cost $10 more than its disc-based counterparts.
Nintendo Switch Tax
This $10 increase is being unofficially hailed as the "Switch tax," or the added cost of putting games on a flash-based storage instead of a disc. Polygon notes that manufacturing proprietary Switch game cards brings added cost, so as a result, L.A. Noire for the Switch costs $49.99
How Some Developers Are Trying To Solve The Switch Tax Problem
With RiME, out November, publisher Grey Box will offset the upsetting disparity by offering incentives on physical releases. On the eShop, RiME costs just as much as on other platforms, but users who buy the physical version will get the original soundtrack. This method helps to account for the physical version's price hike.
This is perhaps an unfortunate scenario for the Switch's third-party support. L.A. Noire might be one of the most significant third-party releases on the Switch, but it marks yet another instance where Switch owners will get a flat-out disadvantage because their version costs more.
Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad went into detail via Twitter about why there's a Switch tax:
"If a publisher wants to put a game on a 32 GB cart on Switch it costs 60 percent more for them then it would for a 50 GB Blu-Ray on PS4/XB1. Your game needs to be less than 8 GB (because 8 GB carts are cheaper) if you want to make the same margin as PS4/XB1 Blu-Ray disc," he explained.
L.A. Noire is obviously a huge game, so it won't fit into an 8 GB cartridge. The solution here is obvious. Publishers could require customers to download a part of the game once they buy the cartridge. This way, developers won't have to buy bigger, more expensive game cards, but this will take a toll on the users since the Switch doesn't have that much onboard memory. They'd have to buy expansion cards, and that could cost a lot.
The above solution, however plausible, violates the "portability" aspect of the Switch and the hassle-free benefit of game cards. Generally, the download-before-playing practice is frowned upon by many, and part of the appeal of the Switch is that it can be taken anywhere, anytime. Handicapping players with download requirements doesn't seem to be a pleasant route to take.
The L.A. Noire release launches Nov. 14.