Why are Nintendo Switch game cases so big?

The large case for Nintendo Switch games gives publishers a bigger space to include attractive box art. Yes, people still definitely judge books (or in this case games) by their covers.

Read more about the size of Nintendo Switch game cases below.

Nintendo Switch game case size

Nintendo Switch game cases are 4.1” wide, 6.7” high, and 0.4” thick (105mm x 170mm x 11mm).

Nintendo Switch game cases weigh in at 1.64 ounces. That’s not including the weight of any inserts or the actual game cartridge itself which weighs around 0.12 ounces (3.5g).

Why are Nintendo Switch game cases so big?

Nintendo Switch game cases are big in order to provide sufficient space for eye-catching box art while also offering durable protection to the game card. 

There’s lots of research that shows how people’s buying choices are heavily influenced by their first impression of a product. 

In the video game industry specifically, studies have demonstrated that gamers can reliably form different impressions about games based on a brief viewing of the cover, and that consistency in design across series or franchises – such as soccer games and other sports sims – is important in attracting players. 

Image showing Nintendo Switch box art for Legend of Zelda breath of the wild, Metroid Dread and Bayonetta 1 and 2
A selection of my favorite Nintendo Switch box arts

Box art is also important for sales from online stores. The size and shape of home system game cases were pretty much standardized around the sixth generation of games consoles, where Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo used similar plastic packaging for Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube games respectively.

As a result of that move toward a standard size and shape for a console game case, players can easily differentiate a home system game from handheld console games or other formats in online stores, just like in a physical shop. 

The Nintendo Switch may not be very powerful compared to other home consoles, but the big game cases help to indicate that it’s primarily a home console rather than a handheld device. 

A more standard size and shape for the game cases also probably helps Nintendo keep a lid on the price of Switch games – which some would say is already too expensive.

Another benefit of the large cases and ample space for creative box art is the nostalgia and collector’s value.

From a collector’s perspective, the case size means Switch games fit well in any furniture or shelving designed with the standard DVD case in mind. The cases, with their characteristic red spines, look super clean when lined up next to other games.

Owning physical releases does protect you from some of the dangers of digital-only game purchases – like Nintendo shutting down legacy online stores – and also has a huge nostalgia value (though it doesn’t allow you to download a digital copy of the game).

Most of us have lots of great gaming memories from days gone. For me, it’s endless Halo: CE LAN parties at my friend’s house after school (he had a crystal translucent limited edition Xbox) and playing Lego Island with my sister. 

If you have fond gaming memories too, then that’s great news as studies have shown nostalgia to be associated with greater optimism. No wonder the second-hand game market is so hot at the moment. 

Drawbacks of big Nintendo Switch game cases

The biggest downside of the big Nintendo Switch game cases is that they use so much plastic. 

The video games industry in general needs to improve its sustainability credentials. Environmental damage from the production and distribution of physical games is one area where big improvements can be made.

Estimates for the amount of Polypropelene that is actually recycled range from between 1% and 30%. The rest gets the same treatment as any non-recyclable material – dumped in a landfill where it will take literally centuries to decompose.

From a less tangible perspective, one of the biggest irritations for me personally about the huge Switch game cases is that they allow so much space inside for the inclusion of great manuals, maps and other additional content – yet so few Switch games actually include this stuff!

I am perhaps showing my age with the above comment. After all, I did grow up in the halcyon days of PC game packaging where you’d be unlucky not to get a lore novella, a double-sided poster and more with your purchase (strategy games like Age of Empires II were particularly good for this).#

If the Switch game cases are too big for your liking, the Switch’s archive and delete functions make it easy to create space for new digitally downloaded games while also allowing for simple redownloads of purchased content.

How big are Nintendo Switch games?

Nintendo Switch game cards are approximately 1.2” x 0.8” x 0.1” (31mm x 21mm x 3mm). They weigh 0.12 ounces (3.5g), making them the smallest game cartridge that Nintendo has ever produced.

Bad luck if you ever dreamed of playing physical 3DS games on your Switch – that’ll never be possible (officially…).

Side by side comparison of nintendo n64, game boy advance, nintendo ds, nintendo 3ds, ps vita and nintendo switch game cartridges
Image credit: Polygon

Switch game cartridges can hold 32GB of data and a 64GB variant has reportedly been in the Nintendo pipeline for several years, which could pave the way for much larger Switch games (the biggest Switch game so far is NBA2K23 at 53.7GB).

Why are Nintendo switch games so small?

Small game cards are a must for the Switch because the console’s main USP is its portability.

Discs don’t work particularly well for portable consoles as they are easy to scratch when a console is moved around. The Switch game cards, in comparison, are far less prone to damage from scratches or being dropped. 

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