Nintendo has closed a loophole on the Switch’s eShop, which allowed titles to appear on top of the store’s charts by gaming the system.
The Switch eShop ranks games by the number of sales over a 14-day period, regardless of how much that game costs. As such, this has incentivised deep discounts to boost a game’s rankings and get it on top of the store’s charts tab, increasing its exposure. Before then raising the price in order to capitalise on the high chart position.
A more extreme version of this was the ‘100 per cent discount’ loophole. The store allows sellers to apply discounts to games if a player owns another game from the same publisher – Last year this led to publisher QubicGames giving away 10 of its games for free in a chain reaction system. So long as a player already owned a QubicGames title, they were able to claim 10 of the publisher’s games for free – sending all these titles to the top of the eShop charts.
It seems they won’t be repeating that trick this Christmas though, because (as Simon Carless of the GameDiscoverCo newsletter just pointed out), games bought during a 100 per cent off scheme are no longer eligible to appear in the charts.
This won’t make the store any less of a discount-frenzy, though. Games can still sell for a 90 per cent discount and be eligible to appear in the list, and it has proved a successful enough strategy that it’s not likely to end unless Nintendo changes how its ranking system works.
We explored the topic back in August this year, when we took a look at the poor state of discoverability on the platform, creating a situation where deep discounts are the best way to get attention for a game.
“I mean, they’re not just gaming the system, they’re unfortunately using the system the best way they can,” No More Robot’s Mike Rose told MCV/DEVELOP. “Massive discounts are now the core way to sell on Nintendo Switch.” No More Robots themselves have proven the success of this strategy. And in another GameDiscoverCo newsletter, Carless demonstrated how a 90 per cent sale for the publisher’s title Not Tonight saw an explosion in revenue for the game – up to 6-10 times its usual revenue during the sale.
While successful, there’s a worry that this strategy undervalues games, and could see the eShop dominated by cheaply-made titles.
“I really hate it,” Rose told MCV/DEVELOP. “I try to scream at game devs all the time “don’t devalue your work! Don’t deep discount! I’m stuck in a situation where I may be forced to deep discount on Switch, otherwise I literally cannot sell units on Switch. It’s heartbreaking, and it makes me really sad for the eShop.
“The way it’s going now, I reckon in around a year’s time, the eShop is going to look like the App Store – tons of cheap-looking titles that were clearly thrown together in the space of a few months, all selling at a dollar each. And everyone trying to make an honest living on Switch, won’t be able to anymore. I can’t imagine how else it’s going to go”