Why, for the love of Goombas, is there a Calculator app on the Nintendo Switch eShop that costs $10 / £8? A calculator app that is no different to the free one you’ll find on your phone or computer, but one that’s now available on Nintendo’s console for an inexplicable price. It just doesn’t add up.
The Nintendo Switch eShop has already become a frustrating experience for users. It may be a gateway to countless excellent indie games – as well as inventive Nintendo Switch Online titles like Tetris 99 – but it’s become a hot mess over the years due to Nintendo’s lax stewardship. The Calculator app (game?) is all the proof one could need that the bar is so low, that as long as a game works, it’ll be allowed to slither onto the eShop, even if it stinks up the joint in the process.
It’s been hard to watch Nintendo’s once pristine Switch eShop devolve into a disappointing storefront that’s now filled with questionable titles and generally crappy games. Sifting through the new downloadable titles used to be an exciting affair as the Switch’s fledgling library began to grow, and I was quietly optimistic that the Nintendo Switch eShop would grow into a portable paradise that was home to the best independent developers and retro titles. Perhaps it would finally bring back the Wii’s amazing Virtual Console selection?
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Even though the Nintendo Switch eShop had a fairly curated feel at the beginning, with titles such as Blaster Master Zero, ACA Neo Geo games, Snake Pass and Snipperclips offering a promising sign of things to come, it soon became a hotbed for shovelware, free-to-play mobile games that suddenly were no longer free-to-play, and aging third-party ports that were only noticeable for the fact they had a hefty ‘Switch Tax’ slapped on to the price tag. So how has this happened?
Here comes the pain
Well, the more popular the Nintendo Switch became, the more developers flocked to the store to try and flog their cash-grabbing titles like unwanted suitors to Princess Peach. And Nintendo, based on a cursory look at the store, didn’t seem to care who wanted to peddle their wares – it seemingly welcomed the droves of dire titles with open arms.
The knock-on effect of this has been twofold. Not only does it make the Switch eShop feel like some sort of wild west of console storefronts, but the once snappy experience of using the store has become a noticeably sluggish affair. It now takes longer to boot up, and isn’t as responsive as it used to be, something which is at odds with the Nintendo Switch’s silky-smooth OS.
Navigation, which was never the eShop’s strong suit in fairness, has become all the more troublesome too. The majority of games that hit the store are engulfed by the wave of weekly titles, and often make as much impact as a feather hitting the ground. Yes, the homepage can help guide you to the better games, such as the best sellers list, but there are so many games that go unseen.
The ‘Hot deals’ section suffers even more. It’s overloaded with games that either launch with an already heavily discounted price to suggest you’re getting some sort of value or have had their prices slashed in the hope of shifting a few more units. The section might as well be renamed to “The pantheon of pants titles” at this point.
And if you were hoping for the eShop to recommend stuff based on your personal buying habits, forget it. It’s probably got a lower IQ than a Thwomp, as I’ve never seen anything that I’d like based on my recent play history other than extremely generic recommendations or Nintendo’s own first-party offering which doesn’t really need any help when it comes to sales.
Bait and Switch
Nintendo works hard to preserve its reputation as a trust-worthy and quality-first company – it even has an official seal that signifies as much – so why doesn’t it apply the same stringent requirements to the Nintendo Switch eShop? With millions of younger gamers and those not as in the know playing on Switch, shouldn’t it take extra care to ensure people don’t spurn their cash on titles that are, objectively, garbage?
While it might feel like the Nintendo Switch eShop is beyond saving at this point, we’ve seen other storefronts undergo vigorous redesigns that have improved the user experience and helped spotlight quality games that are actually worth people’s time. Yes, there’s still plenty of questionable games on there, but they’re rightfully out of sight and out of mind.
The Microsoft Store on Xbox Series X is almost unrecognizable from its first iteration, and Sony’s PlayStation Store on PS5, while still relatively new, addressed the poor performance of the PS4’s store. It’s also extremely rare that I’m subjected to blatant shovelware when I’m perusing either storefront, unless I specifically search for it.
The wolf of Fortune Street
But hold on a second… isn’t having a free market a good thing? If people want to buy the Calculator app for $10, why shouldn’t they be allowed? The market will decide what succeeds and what fails, after all.
There’s definitely an argument to be made there, but this particular ‘game’ has probably got more coverage than some hard working developers’ games will ever get, simply because it has no right being anywhere near the Switch eShop. It costs $10 for something that is available on your phone or computer right now. It also shows that, ultimately, Nintendo is happy to take its cut from anyone daft enough to pay for it, and that isn’t a good look.
The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic console, make no question. But much like Nintendo’s lackluster online offering, which feels almost decades behind at this point, the Nintendo Switch eShop isn’t in line with the company’s values, and that’s a real shame.