Limited Edition Physical Copies on the Nintendo Switch – Who Will Step Up to the Plate?

I’ve talked a lot on here about LimitedRunGames, and a little about IndieBox, and how I think companies like these are helping save the physical release. While they have some light competition, for the most part, they represent somewhat of a monopoly on limited print physical releases for the Playstation 4 and Vita. Buyers of these physical releases, which typically are far cheaper digitally, are generally a tiny niche market of gamers who prefer physical copies, collect games, or are simply big fans of the games who want to show monetary support towards the developer and “double dip” by picking up a physical copy to complement their digital one.

It’s hard to ignore the glaring lack of retail releases for the Nintendo Switch, and as a player who rarely buys anything digitally aside from the occasional 75%+ off Steam sale, it’s something that concerns me a fair bit. To be clear, it’s not that I’m even looking for games right now, it’s that I’m looking far into the future and all I’ve got planned for purchase is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Xenoblade 2, and Super Mario Odyssey. And I am Setsuna which will be a Japanese import because why would they release it in the west, I don’t know.

The region unlocking in the Switch may end up being its savior, and as soon as used copies of Japanese copies start showing up on eBay, I will have to part with a few dollars to add to my collection and grab some cool games. But still, waiting to buy games from outside the country is not a great selling point for a system. They need physical copies, because there is a huge part of the market that still wants physical games, and there will be for a long time.

And that’s a great segway into what prompted me to write this article: this interview with LimitedRun that was released yesterday [as of this writing]. Essentially, it confirmed that the two-man operation will continue their journey to put out Vita releases indefinitely:

We’re going to support the Vita until Sony tells us not to, so you don’t ever have to worry about Limited Run saying “We’re done with Vita.”  If we say that, that means that Sony told us.  We’ll be here for the Vita until it’s absolutely dead.

It’s comforting to hear those words, speaking as someone who loves his Vita and his collection, a good portion of which are LimitedRun copies. However, from a purely economic standpoint, one can’t ignore the fact that the Vita is being propped up by a few small indie operations, including LRG themselves, who are still giving the Vita the love it deserved. But of they ceased operations, it would be taken as a huge middle-finger to fans of the Vita. While representatives for LRG have been quoted themselves as saying that the Switch would be “a nice place for Vita fans to re-locate,” at the current time, there is admittedly not much of a draw for them to do so, especially in light of the fact that very few physical releases are planned, and that there are still a ton of physical buyers out there.

Given the portability and the familiar form factor, I’m on board with the idea that the Vita is superseded with the Switch. In fact, every time I hear about a new indie being developed for the Vita, I subconsciously hope it also comes to Switch, or that the developer changes direction to the up-and-coming console rather than the one that’s on it’s way out. Let’s be honest – new crisp hardware with a bigger screen and engine? Who wouldn’t prefer to play on it? But then it always comes full circle when I realize: there’s no one making physical copies for indies on the Switch. So I ask again – who will step up to the plate?

I’ve had tons of fun with my digital copies of Fast RMX, Blaster Master Zero, and more recently, Human Resource Machine, but I’m holding off on purchasing anything more, what with my physical Vita collection looking sexy but needing some attention. While the price for producing Switch cartridges has been reported as being rather high, there are still people with money to spend on these games who will gladly pay a higher cost to get their hands on a piece of history, rather than letting it fade in non-existence.

Earlier this year, Josh Fairhurst from LimitedRun was quoted in an interview: “I think we [as an industry] are actually quite reckless with preservation. The vast majority of games released now are digital only and when the servers they’re stored on get shut down, they’ll all be gone forever,” he said. “Sure, many of these games may not be super popular or even that great, but each game is still a part of the history of our medium. We need to be more vigilant about getting these games preserved in physical formats so future generations can enjoy them.” His company does a tremendous job of preservation of games on the Vita – I only hope they or someone else can do the same for the Switch.

limited-run-vita-games

9 thoughts on “Limited Edition Physical Copies on the Nintendo Switch – Who Will Step Up to the Plate?

  1. I love physical games to the point where I considered importing the Japanese I Am Setsuna (though in the end, I didn’t). I’m enjoying the Switch’s digital library, but it’s not as satisfying without the displayable box sometimes. Plus, those digital games are slowly filling the system’s criminally low storage space. This is why I was so excited to get Puyo Puyo Tetris this week. Not only is it a physical copy, but it also comes with a big box and exclusive keychains. It’s crazy that a puzzle game ended up being the first one (besides Zelda) to do this limited edition special box with goods!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny timing, I just finished reading your Setsuna review, and I’m waiting to import it from Japan (once the price drops below $60 which is too much of a markup for a physical game in my opinion – waiting for a used copy to drop to $45 or so).

      Definitely a physical guy and will always be – there just isn’t certainty in digital, but physical’s always there! Plus it’s beautiful to look at.

      I just packed my entire collection into boxes (moving next week) and boy, was it nice to look through all my stuff. I love my collection, wouldn’t trade it for anything!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am staunchly on Team Physical Copy, not only for my personal display, but for longevity. The point about digital games disappearing when the servers go down is a very good and relevant one, and I think, like so many other entertainment/art media, we need to be more cognizant of how we preserve video games, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think of video games as art and can’t imagine someone arguing that a painting, for example, should be thrown away and instead you should be handed a USB key with a jpg on it “for convenience.” Really rubs me the wrong way!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Imtiaz Ahmed

    Although I’m almost 100% digital for the convenience, I do understand the need for physical for those who not only appreciate it, but take the time to keep it nearly displayed and preserve it.

    I just don’t see it happening in for the Switch because as you said, costs for game carts are pretty high.

    Let’s take Rime for example. If everything is true about that game being priced higher due to the needing to account for the costly physical cartridges, most Indies will opt out of doing this. It puts your game at a disadvantage on that platform if it costs more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Imtiaz Ahmed

      To add to this I feel like Nintendo is trying to get people more on the digital band wagon anyways. It seems that way to me at least, following their reward programs over the years, they had a limited time where they heard I’ll rewarded digital purchases through something called the Nintendo deluxe club. Even taking BOTE recently. For Wii U, the digital version gets you points, where as the physical version, much to my dismay does not earn you any points

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think this is purely because the price of the digital copy is set by Nintendo, while the physical copy price is determined by the retailer. Which means no one would buy digital if they could always get cheaper physicals. Or something like that!

        If you go on Amazon and try to buy a book, you can almost always buy the Kindle edition (as opposed to a physical book), and it’s always significantly less money. It will always bother me that the price can stay the same but the right of ownership is revoked. It’s because of this reason I don’t mind buying some games digitally (ie. the cheaper ones!) when the price to print would be far more than the copy would sell for.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Robert Ian Shepard

    You know, I never thought of it that way, but he makes a really solid point. If we don’t create physical copies of games, those games could literally disappear. Just thinking of what it would be like if those of us who weren’t born right when video games started knew literally nothing about Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros…it’s good that some folks are preserving the legacy of games. Not to mention, the indie designers who are helped by projects like this worked so hard on their product – it’d be awful for it to be erased.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a lot of reasons I’m staunchly against DRM-protected digital games, especially when they’re exclusively distributed that way, but this is one of the more important ones “for the art form”, if that makes any sense. Imagine if the Mona Lisa only existed as a PSD file that wasn’t able to be printed! That’s how I see it, any way.

      Liked by 1 person

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