As a modern portable-gaming device, Nintendo Switch has its share of quirks and missing features , but one thing it’s good at is serving easily downloaded patches and updates for games and apps. A major exception emerged on Thursday, however, with the bizarre introduction of a “new” game that actually serves as a patch and fix for an existing one.
NBA Playgrounds: Enhanced Edition launched on Nintendo’s eShop store on Thursday with a promotional price of $10, though owners of the original NBA Playgrounds , which launched last May, see a different price: $0. The game’s developers at Saber Interactive confirmed via their official Facebook page that this version of the game is effectively an “upgrade” of the original, complete with the new content and patches that already arrived for the game’s other platforms.
Should you not follow Saber Interactive or NBA Playgrounds on social media networks, however, you might never see a notification about this update. NBA Playgrounds‘ original Nintendo eShop listing has been completely shuttered as of press time. (A Google cache for the original is here .) Should a user delete or “archive” the original game, any attempts to redownload the game result in an error as opposed to automatically redirecting players to the new version. And since Saber doesn’t employ the Nintendo eShop’s “news feed” feature, owners of either SKU won’t see news about these changes. They must manually search the eShop to find the update.
Adding to the confusion, owners of the original version are instructed to not delete that version’s save file, but they are encouraged to delete the original game. The new version shaves nearly 2GB off the install size, at least.
Saber Interactive’s official forums currently don’t mention the update. Its “news” tab only mentions a months-old patch for other consoles, while the rest of its subforums consist mostly of unmoderated spam with ads for services such as fake passports.
Is paid DLC the culprit?
So what gives? Why doesn’t this work like a normal patch to an existing game, which the Switch can automatically apply when connected to the Internet? Figuring that out currently requires some guesswork and head-scratching, as nobody involved has yet confirmed the reason. (Neither Nintendo nor Saber Interactive immediately responded to Ars Technica’s questions.)
Saber’s last major update about the Switch version came on October 30 with an assurance that content fixes were “heading to certification within a week” and that the developer’s solution to the problem was “radical.” Before that, Saber representatives responded to frustrated fans in June via a Facebook community thread . When asked about receiving improved online play and features that had already reached other platforms, Saber replied, “certain elements of our patch are absolutely essential but are out of normal Nintendo guidelines. If Nintendo were to approve the patch, it would be released immediately, but we are in the midst of a long process of back-and-forth to get small matters waived.”
The “radical” nature of this update has not been disclosed to fans, however. With the patch out, one possible explanation for the holdup has emerged: the addition of paid DLC, which was not part of the original game. With this week’s Enhanced Edition comes the ability to pay $10 and immediately accelerate the unlock of the game’s NBA stars, which must otherwise be unlocked via loot boxes. An additional $10 DLC pack adds more courts and NBA players.
NBA Playgrounds‘ default loot-box-to-unlock system is one reason Ars Technica declined to recommend the game, which is otherwise a mostly solid facsimile of NBA Jam. The required grind to unlock a full roster of players, as opposed to NBA Jam ‘s immediate unlock of every NBA team, is frankly tortuous—and the original inability to consistently connect to other online players made the game’s unlocking grind that much more frustrating.