Why Nintendo Switch games come on tiny little cards
Nintendo is ditching discs and going all in on game cards for the Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo revealed what the Nintendo Switch game cards look like in a Nintendo Treehouse Live stream Friday, showing a Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild card roughly the same size as a Nintendo DS or 3DS game card. Although it seems like a technological downgrade, this is the best option for the Switch.
Discs are bad for mobile
Discs have been the standard physical medium for console games for more than a decade, but discs just don’t make sense for the Switch. Including a disc drive on the hybrid home/mobile console would completely kill its mobile capabilities.
At their smallest-possible size, disc drives take up a lot of space and would force Nintendo to make the Switch’s standalone mobile screen much bulkier — not a positive trait on a mobile system.
The Nintendo Switch needs to stay small to be a viable mobile system.
The discs themselves are not mobile-friendly either. Have you ever moved a console from standing position to laying position while a game is running? That noise is unforgettable as your game disc goes from pristine to unplayable.
Speaking of ruining discs, discs in general are much more susceptible to damage than cards. If you get a bad enough scratch on a disc, it’s as good as done, whereas data on cards are protected by a plastic case. You only have to worry about wrecking the connecting pins, which aren’t effected by scratches nearly as much as discs.
The back of the Nintendo Switch game cards.
Discs are outdated
Even though discs are physically larger than the Nintendo Switch cards, cards can hold a lot more data than they used to while disc storage has remained mostly stagnant. The cards are little solid state drives, a storage technology that has been improving at exponential rates in recent years.
Samsung revealed a 512GB solid state drive the size of a postage stamp in June, which could feasibly fit inside a Nintendo Switch game card. Most modern games don’t even require one-tenth of that capacity. In fact, some of the largest games available right now don’t even surpass 80GB.
Meanwhile, the capacity of a PlayStation 4 Blu Ray disc is capped out at 50GB. That’s not big enough for some current games and definitely won’t hold up as games continue to get bigger and better and require more space.
So after over 20 years of disc-fed consoles, Nintendo is ringing the death knell of discs and looking back to its cartridge roots. Although this time there’s no slot for dust to get caught in so, so no blowing necessary.