The Nintendo Switch community is currently at a crossroads: we want solid third party support on a Nintendo console, yet we complain about additional downloads for physical releases. This is made worse by the fact that major AAA third party publishers are ramping up support for the red hot new console on the block. This means that we are seeing games coming to the console from developers who may not have as much hands-on experience with the dev kit as the first-party developers, which leads to poorly optimized file sizes of these game. This has led to a handful of physically released games requiring a substantially sized additional download before they are playable, which has caused an uproar throughout the community. The game that has recently spiked this again was Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
There are several main factors I believe to this, one of which being the fact that the Nintendo Switch has brought in a lot of casual gamers. This includes a hodgepodge of people who may not have owned a Nintendo home consoles since the N64, people who may not have owned a home console in general, people who have only owned handheld consoles like the DS/3DS or PSP/Vita lines, and/or those who have only played mobile games. These people did not go through the shock of huge patches (day one or not) at the beginning of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 lifespan. In general, they are used to more pick up and play games with maybe a couple small patches periodically. They are now going through the same trial by fire that gamers went through with the other current gen consoles and will soon just come to accept that this is a part of their gaming life now. This is only one leg in the tripod that stabilizes the uproar.
The second leg falls onto Nintendo making the same mistake as Microsoft and Sony by not including nearly enough built-in storage space. The hard drive is listed at 32 GB, but after factoring in the OS it has roughly 26 GB of stock space for digital games, patches, DLC, etc. So, even if someone went all physical games, there is not nearly enough space to hold all the files you need to download if you purchase a few of the AAA games requiring an additional download. While the Nintendo Switch does offer expandable storage, you are looking at adding 128 GB for around $40 USD while adding 256 GB hits the wallet for over $100 USD. Therefore, you must pay the price of one or two games to add the amount of storage that the console should have come shipped with to begin with. Yet this is an easily fixed, if not a slightly annoying and what some may feel as short-sighted, problem.
It becomes the huge issue at large when publishers are more worried about their bottom line and puts their game on a cartridge that is too small to hold the entire game. This then forces them to add the rest of the game as a forced additional download. Publishers have the options to place the games on 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB cartridges with Nintendo still working on getting out a 64 GB version. The bigger the cartridge; however, the more expensive it is to purchase for large runs. Thus, most publishers seem to be sticking with 8 and sometimes 16 GB cartridges even though they could avoid the added download by using the bigger options. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place as they have to make a profit in an industry that has not seen an increase in the base price of games for thirteen years while also not charging more for the Switch version than the others.
In a perfect world, the publishers would accept lower profit margins and Nintendo’s midlife refresh would have at least 256 GB of built-in storage space. We, however, live in a highly imperfect world and publishers will not accept lower profits and Nintendo most likely will only increase the storage space to 64 GB when the midlife refresh is released. That leaves the community one on option: just accepting the additional downloads if we want to keep seeing third-party AAA support. We can only hope that as developers get more hands-on with the dev kit that games, and their files sizes, will continue seeing better optimization. In fact, most games last gen were on average 7 GB, so it is not like they have not done it before. Or maybe we just get lucky and publishers will find a way to keep the same price point and make the same profit margin by using bigger cartridges. Well one can dream. (Ryan Williford)