Nintendo eShop scammers helped this indie game reach number one
Let’s Build a Zoo’s story is one of confusion, surprise, and scammers. Something that reflects what it’s like to develop smaller games in this industry.
When the developers at Springloaded went to bed the night after pre-orders went live, I doubt they could imagine what they would wake up to in the morning. Come the next day, their pre-order sale has skyrocketed, a momentous occasion for any indie game developer. But there was just one catch, 85% of Nintendo Switch pre-order sales were from Argentina. Sounds slightly suspicious.
It was then that the developers realized they were in trouble. It turns out that people were going to sites like ‘eShop Prices’ and were checking out where to get the cheapest deals for Nintendo games and Let’s Build a Zoo featured heavily on all of them.
Mike Rose, the director at No More Robots who published Let’s Build a Zoo, tweeted, “just 1000s of people buying the game, and us earning less than $1 for each sale”. This could have been the end to quite an upsetting story for everyone behind Let’s Build a Zoo, but as fate would have it, they were in for a win.
Despite losing out on a stack of money due to these scammers, “these super cheap sales in Argentina were putting us in more US player eyeballs’, Rose tweeted, explaining that the Let’s Build a Zoo pre-orders were seen as US sales and so it pushed the game up the US best-sellers charts.
The US eShop is *not* the US eShop.It’s the “Americas” eShop. Any sales anywhere in the Americas, were treated as sales across the whole of the region.By getting shitloads of sales in Argentina, we were being boosted up the charts for people in the US!October 13, 2022
After the US eShop store was conquered, Let’s build a Zoo went on to get onto the charts of the EU and Australian eShop boards as well. Luckily this exposure saved Let’s Build a Zoo from a big financial loss. But this kind of success can’t be guaranteed for everyone.
Region swapping is surprisingly easy to do if you want to see what prices are available in other regions. All you have to do is go to the official Nintendo website, log in and change your region in the settings menu. It’s that easy. As it stands, Nintendo doesn’t seem to have any barriers or penalties for doing this either.
This means it’s incredibly simple for users to bypass their countries’ pricing in favor of cheaper options elsewhere. In this case, Argentia seems to have many of the best deals.
Region swapping not only got users a steep discount, it also helped Let’s Build a Zoo on its road to success. But you shouldn’t see region-swapping as doing devs a favor.
It could well have led to Let’s Build a Zoo’s developers suffering a massive financial loss without getting any promotion from it. If Nintendo didn’t have such a broad definition for the US market, Let’s Build a Zoo may not have gotten wider recognition from Argentinian sales.
In the case of indie developers, they need all the support they can get. So while this is a helpful hack to do once and a while to get more expensive games for cheaper. I wouldn’t suggest this as an option to do all the time. Not if you want to support developers that are making fantastic games that you want to play.