Earlier this week, I was writing about a game that I have been following fairly closely, RiME. If you aren’t aware of RiME, it was a PS4 exclusive announced about 4 years ago that seemingly dropped off the map and then resurfaced earlier this year with a new developer and a multi-platform release. The press release I had gotten for that game was a fairly standard announcement of a release date and pricing; nothing too ground breaking. However, while giving the press release a once over something definitely interesting had caught my eye.
The developer, Tequila Works, and publishers, Six Foot and Grey Box, listed in their official press release that the game would launch digitally and physically on May 26th for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows PC at the price of $29.99USD. While this is fairly standard it was also announced that the Nintendo Switch version was delayed into the summer of 2017 and set at the price of $39.99USD.
While at first I thought this had meant that the Switch version would receive some form of bonus content or functionality, the price hike still didn’t sit right. Even games with versions that were very much separate entities were launched at the same price point. For example, Shadow of Mordor on PS4/Xbox One had features that were essential to the game stripped away for the PS3/360 version, but the costs were the same at launch.
Colin Campbell at Polygon reached out to the companies as to why the Switch version was receiving the odd price bump and delay. A representative from Grey Box got back to him and stated that “We set prices for our products based on the costs of development and costs of manufacturing for each specific platform.”
Now obviously, there is a lot to unpack in this comment. The cost of development getting higher than the other versions of the game could imply that Tequila Works had to configure a much larger portion of their code to optimize for the Switch hardware. This could be telling that the Switch infrastructure is something that companies with little to no ties to Nintendo could be in way over their heads when it comes to Switch ports, which is not a good sign for 3rd party support. In addition to that, fitting a multiplat game on a Switch cart or getting the download size small enough to be convenient on the system’s SD based memory is another unforeseen challenge layered on top
In a likely scenario, the Switch could face the same problems developers had with the PS3 in the last console generation; meaning the system was just harder to develop on. This lead to the PS3 version of 3rd party games being fairly inferior to the Xbox 360 version, which set Sony back a decent amount in the early goings of the generation. For a system like the Switch with an already sparse lineup, this is something that will hamstring the console until Nintendo can fill in the catalogue with their gold standard of first party exclusives.
Best case scenario, this is a one-off case for Tequila Works. We already know that RiME has been in development limbo while Tequila was trying to buy the rights of RiME away from Sony. This is possibly just a holdover problem of the game being developed so early in the console generation, that a curveball like the Switch being a hybrid console/handheld gave them a larger challenge than anticipated.
It goes without saying, I want the Switch to succeed. I want Nintendo to succeed. I love games and I love games made by Nintendo. However, this early bit of 3rd party support is some cause for early speculation on the long term effects on the 3rd party support for the Switch.