The story of Let’s Build a Zoo is one of confusion, surprise, and scammers. Something that reflects what it’s like to develop smaller games in this industry.
When Springloaded developers went to bed the night after the pre-order went live, I doubt they could have imagined what they would wake up to in the morning. The next day, its pre-sales skyrocketed, a momentous occasion for any indie game developer. But there was just one problem, 85% of Nintendo Switch pre-order sales were from Argentina. Sounds a little suspicious.
It was then that the developers realized they were in trouble. Turns out people were going to sites like ‘eShop Pricing’ and were checking out where to get the cheapest deals on Nintendo games and Let’s Build a Zoo featured heavily on all of them.
Mike Rose, the director of No More Robots that published Let’s Build a Zoo, tweeted, “only 1000 people buying the game, and us making less than $1 for every sale.” This could have been the end of a pretty disturbing story for everyone behind Let’s Build a Zoo, but as fate would have it, they were in for a win.
Despite losing a pile of money due to these scammers, “these super cheap sales in Argentina were getting us more in the eyes of US players,” Rose tweeted, explaining that pre-orders for Let’s Build a Zoo were seen as sales in the US. USA and thus he pushed the game up the US bestseller charts.
The US eShop is *not* the US eShop. It’s the “Americas” eShop. Any sales anywhere in the Americas were treated as region-wide sales. By getting a lot of sales in Argentina, we were climbing 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 enter the EU and Australian eShop charts as well. Fortunately, this exposure saved Let’s Build a Zoo a huge financial loss. But that kind of success cannot be guaranteed for everyone.
Region switching 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 is so 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 ignore their country’s prices in favor of cheaper options elsewhere. In this case, Argentia seems to have many of the best deals.
Region switching not only gave users a huge discount, but also helped Let’s Build a Zoo on its path to success. But you shouldn’t see region switching as a favor to developers.
It could very well have caused the developers of Let’s Build a Zoo to suffer a huge financial loss without getting any promotion. If Nintendo hadn’t had such a broad definition for the American market, Let’s Build a Zoo might not have gotten more recognition from Argentine sales.
In the case of independent developers, they need all the support they can get. So while this is a handy trick to do every now and then to get more expensive games for a cheaper price. I wouldn’t suggest this as an option to do all the time. Not if you want to support developers who are making amazing games that you want to play.