The Nintendo Switch comes with about 26GB of free storage space, and Lego City Undercover could use at least half of that — even if you buy it on a cartridge.
Lego City Undercover, which comes out next month for the Nintendo Switch, will require the internet in order to download a mandatory 13GB patch. This open-world adventure originally debuted on the Wii U, and now publisher Warner Bros. Interactive is bringing it back on the Switch as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. But while you will likely have plenty of space to install the game on the PS4 or Xbox hard drives (as you do with all games on those systems), you may quickly run out of space on the Switch.
What’s especially noteworthy here is that the Switch does not install carts on its flash memory, so Warner Bros. could’ve included the entire game on the game card without forcing you to use the space on your system. But instead, it only included 7.1GB. you’ll have to download the rest and keep it on the included storage or on an SD card.
I’ve asked Warner Bros. if this means the game card won’t work if you don’t connect to the internet, and I’ll update this story if the company returns my request for a comment. But for now, I’d make sure you have plenty of space on your Switch if you’re planning to get this game.
Based on the fine print on the box for Lego City Undercover, it seems possible that it won’t work without first downloading that data. The game’s box says “internet required” right on the front. And on the back of the box, a warning reads, “Up to 13GB storage required for game download.”
For WB, this could be a response to the manufacturing cost of Nintendo Switch game cards.
“Basically, the issue is that the disc fee and platform fee on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is cheaper than the 32GB cart fee that Nintendo charges for the Switch,” Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad told GamesBeat. “It’s why you’ll never see Nintendo Switch retail games under $40 with a 32GB cart.”
The metal that goes into making Switch game cards is generally affordable, but larger games need a lot more of it. So a 32GB game is a lot more expensive to make than an 8GB game. This means that a publisher can save money by selling you a piece of the game on the physical format and then force you to download the rest on your own. While Lego City Undercover is the first time a company has tried this, Switch owners have already noticed pricing oddities for certain other releases before. The puzzle adventure Rime sells for $40 on Switch while it goes for $30 on other systems. And because of Nintendo’s rules regarding digital and physical price parity, it also goes for $40 on the Nintendo eShop. A Eurogamer report found that the costs go up for larger Switch games, and that’s likely causing most of the problems.
I’ve reached out to Nintendo for a comment on this story, but absent a statement from the publisher, publishers likely have a four options when it comes to publishing games on Switch:
- Publishers could eat the cost of releasing a game on the Switch at the same price as other platforms with all the data included on the card.
- They could release their games only on the eShop and avoid the costs of manufacturing while also missing out on the wider audience that purchases physical games.
- They could raise the price of their games and release the game on Switch at the same price as other platforms.
- Or they could keep their price the same as other platforms but only included a fiscally reasonable amount of data on the game cards.
Triple-A publishers that expect to sell a lot of games are happy to go with the first option because their business model can survive slightly more expensive manufacturing costs. Smaller game companies, however, are often going with one of the other strategies. And if this ends up hurting sales on the Switch, it could turn into a problem that Nintendo has to address — maybe by letting developers sell digital games at a different price than their physical counterparts.