The Nintendo Switch costs $300, and includes all kinds of stuff in the box. Today is a good day to remember that it does not include a microSD card, which you are absolutely going to need if you want to take advantage of the luxuries of 2017 and buy your games digitally.
Nintendo Japan revealed the required storage space for the digital download versions of some of the console’s launch titles (and games coming out soon after) earlier today, and while you’ll be able to squeeze a few of the smaller ones in there, others are going to push your system to its limits. One in particular is going to go beyond them.
Disgaea 5 is 5.9GB. That’s fine. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will be just over 7GB. Again, manageable.
Breath of Wild is 13.4GB, which is over half the Switch’s available memory once you take the OS and other necessary files into account.
Dragon Quest Heroes, though, takes up 32GB. Or, more than the available memory of the entire console. So it will absolutely require a memory card at launch for Japanese buyers (the game hasn’t been announced for the West yet).
None of this is new, of course. When we spoke with Nintendo in January, they explained how the card and memory situation was going to work:
For those concerned about the 32GB of storage, how will that work for playing downloadable games? How will it work for DLC and patches?
The Nintendo Switch system has 32GB of internal NAND memory, a portion of which is reserved for use by the system. The system’s internal memory can be easily expanded as needed using microSDXC cards.
The SDXC standard supports up to 2TB of storage. (Note that 2TB cards are not yet on the market, but Nintendo Switch will support them when they are.) External USB hard drives are not supported at launch, but we are researching the possibility of supporting them in the future.
If no microSDXC card is used, everything is stored in internal NAND memory. If a microSDXC card is used, game save data is stored in internal NAND memory while data that can be redownloaded, such as digital games, game updates, and DLC, is stored on the microSDXC card. Nintendo Switch game cards are non-writable; game save data is stored in internal NAND memory.
But we didn’t know the size of some of the system’s launch games last month, so the idea of using an external card seemed like it might be a luxury, or something you’d need later on down the line once you’d amassed a decent library of games. Now that we do know the size of downloadable games, and we see that at best you can expect to be stashing 2-4 of them on the internal memory at any time (or at worst <1), buying a card seems less like a luxury and more like a necessity.
I’m not saying this to alarm you, or to point it out as some kind of scandal. The 3DS needed SD cards as well, and most of us are old enough to remember paying for memory cards for PlayStations and GameCubes.
Just remember that when you go to drop $300 next week, it might be a good idea to set some cash aside for a microSD card—and a decent one at that—as well.
UPDATE: Updated to make clearer that these are the downloadable versions of games, not the cartridge editions, and that the console supports other SD card formats as well.