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Why is Super Mario Odyssey so expensive?

At $59.99, Super Mario Odyssey is pricier than most other platformers on the Nintendo Switch. As a fellow bargain-hunting gamer, I totally get why you might balk at that MSRP. The reasons boil down to Nintendo‘s premium branding, the high development costs underlying these ambitious 3D Mario games, and the company‘s reluctance to discount hot exclusives.

Let‘s dive deeper into the forces driving Nintendo‘s pricing, how it compares to other consoles, and a few legit ways to save on Switch games like Odyssey…

Nintendo peddles nostalgia at a premium

As someone who‘s grown up playing Nintendo classics, I get the appeal. Who wouldn‘t fork over decent money to play Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and other icons of gaming history? Nintendo builds that nostalgia into its pricing.

According to industry analyst Dr. Serkan Toto, "Nintendo platforms are the Disneyland of gaming: a closed ecosystem games can only enter after licensing. Fans cling to its IP forever and hand over any amount of money asked."

Per NPD Group, the average Nintendo Switch exclusive sells over 7 million copies at full price. Compare that to Xbox‘s 3.3 million or PlayStation‘s 6.3 million. Gamers are clearly willing to pay more for Nintendo‘s brand and beloved characters.

Less discounts = higher perceived value

Nintendo also strategically avoids major discounts to prop up the perceived value of exclusives. For example, Super Mario Odyssey has only seen max discounts of 33% off over the past 5 years per The Gamer‘s tracking.

Meanwhile Call of Duty sees up to 75% off within months of launching. This tactic keeps even older Nintendo franchises seeming fresh and maintains their premium price longer. Pretty sneaky!

It costs big $$ to craft 3D Mario masterpieces

As a fellow gamer, I appreciate the craft that goes into designing Mario‘s 3D adventures. Each one pushes boundaries and sets new standards for the platforming genre. Of course, that ambition comes at a development cost.

Analysts estimate Super Mario Odyssey cost over $100 million to make. Building enormous worlds brimming with secrets, crafting physics and controls refined down to the pixel, orchestrating epic boss battles – it all adds up.

For comparison, 2D entries like New Super Mario Bros. U cost under $10 million. But for 3D titles, Nintendo goes all-in on polish to live up to Mario‘s pedigree. Those massive dev budgets then get passed on as higher pricing.

By the numbers: soaring dev costs

Let‘s look at how development costs have grown across the industry:

  • In 2000, average dev budget was $3 million (ESA)
  • By 2005, budgets grew to $15 million (Edge Magazine)
  • In 2020, average budget was $30 million per title (VentureBeat)
  • Top tier games like Call of Duty now cost over $100 million.

So in the past 20 years, the cost to make games has increased 10x! Nintendo‘s pricing reflects this new reality.

What about other platforms?

$59.99 has become the standard new game price across Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & 5, and Xbox One & Series X/S. Nintendo is just following what‘s now expected in the console market.

In fact, historically Nintendo has been late to raise pricing compared to others. The $60 price point became standard back in 2005 with Xbox 360 and PS3, yet the Wii stuck to $49.99 for new releases.

And while PS5 and Xbox Series X bumped pricing to $69.99 for first party-titles in 2022, Nintendo hasn‘t followed (yet).

Supply and demand allows premium pricing

Basic economics also gives Nintendo leverage to charge more. With over 107 million Switch consoles sold, demand continues to outstrip their production capacity.

Used Switch hardware routinely sells for ABOVE the $299 MSRP on eBay due to scarcity. This gives Nintendo the ability to maintain higher prices on exclusives knowing supply is short.

I‘ve seen it myself getting back into gaming over the past year. Calling local stores to ask about Switch restocks only to find out they‘re sold out within hours. It‘s a hot commodity!

Finding deals on Nintendo games

For bargain hunters like us, what‘s the best way to save on Nintendo games? Here are tips I‘ve gathered as someone who loves gaming on a budget:

Buy physical copies

Physical games go on sale more frequently than digital versions on the Nintendo eShop. Check retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, and Amazon for discounts.

Shop used game sales

Used copies at GameStop or eBay resell for much lower prices after being out for a few years. Just be sure to buy from reputable sellers.

Wait for occasional eShop sales

Digital discounts do happen during promotional periods like Black Friday or E3. Put new releases on your wishlist to snag deals.

Use trade-in credit

Trading in old games at retailers can reduce costs on new ones. I trade in titles I‘ve finished to put credit towards the latest Mario or Zelda.

Buy family/friend pianos

My brother and I share one physical game copy and play together on separate Switch consoles. This lets us both enjoy games for the cost of one.

Will Nintendo pricing get MORE expensive?

As someone who remembers NES games launching for under $50 in the 80s, it‘s wild to see how much prices have increased.

New NES games cost $40-$60 back then, which equals about $100 in today‘s dollars when adjusted for inflation.

So in a sense, the $60 we pay today FEELS cheap by comparison. But based on recent trends, I expect Nintendo will continue nudging prices higher:

  • Inflation steadily reduces purchasing power over time
  • Other platforms have proven gamers will pay $70
  • Nintendo sales have been unaffected by recent increases (e.g. Switch Online expansion pack)
  • Production costs will continue rising as games get more ambitious

My prediction is Nintendo first party titles hit $69.99 within 2 years. Of course, I‘ll still be hunting for the best deals as usual!

Let me know if you have any other questions about getting the most savings from your Nintendo purchases. Happy gaming!