Skip to main content

Game Builder Garage turns Nintendo’s greatest weakness into a strength

Last weekend may have been loaded with all the latest info on exciting new games, but it was also one of the busiest launch periods of the year so far. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade both launched on PlayStation 5, while indie title Chicory: A Colorful Tale became a surprise critical darling. Nintendo put its own stamp on the weekend, too, with the delightful Game Builder Garage.

Game Builder Garage - Overview Trailer - Nintendo Switch

The new Switch release is less of a game and more of a design tool. It allows players to create their own games, while learning the basics of programming. It’s all represented through “nodons,” colorful creatures who put a literal face to tricky concepts like physics and button mapping.

As far as game design projects go, Game Builder Garage is one of the most accessible and easy to understand programs out there. That’s thanks to something that’s long been one of Nintendo’s weakest design strengths: iIs tendency to overexplain things to players.


When a new first-party Nintendo game comes out, there’s usually a common criticism from fans. The company tends to lean heavy on tutorials in its games. Play an RPG like Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and you’ll spend what feels like hours getting told how to perform the most basic actions imaginable.

There’s a good reason for that, though. Nintendo games appeal to players of all ages, which includes kids. While adults may not need a tutorial on how to make Mario jump, the company’s youngest players do. That’s always created a tricky tension where older players can end up feeling exhausted by overbearing explainers. Nintendo doesn’t always do a great job of finding a middle ground between all of its players, which can spark frustration in its aging fan base.

Nodons form a game in Game Builder Garage.

Game Builder Garage, on the other hand, makes perfect use of Nintendo’s tendency toward hand-holding. The game is essentially a series of tutorials. Players learn how to build a handful of microgames from scratch. Each game is split up into simple steps that introduce new concepts gradually. Players will start by learning how to make a character move, but within a few hours, they’ll know how to create an end goal that only activates when blowing up the right number of enemies in a level.

Game design is incredibly tricky, but Nintendo makes it somewhat foolproof here. That’s because it overexplains every single concept until it becomes second nature. By the time I got to the third set of tutorials, I had no confusion about how to make sure an enemy could be turned into a destructible object that ticked a score counter up. It’s hard to forget when the game shows you exactly what settings to check every step of the way.

Nintendo’s curse becomes a gift here. Other programming games can often feel next to impossible to parse due to complicated systems that aren’t explained clearly. PlayStation 4 title Dreams is an incredibly powerful tool that lets players create incredible art. It’s also as complicated as an actual game design program. Why spend time learning a program so complex when you could just spend that time learning something like Unity?

A checkpoint screen in Game Builder Garage.

Teaching the fundamentals

Game Builder Garage doesn’t run into that problem. It’s strictly an educational tool that’s designed to teach players the fundamentals of game design. It teaches concepts and gives players an easy way to explore them with tactile controls and cute visuals. It’s unlikely someone is going to make the next great video game in Game Builder Garage, but it offers the kind of thorough lessons that might inspire confidence in someone who wants to get into programming.

As far as left-field Nintendo projects go, Game Builder Garage is a lovely tool for kids and adults alike. It takes a daunting profession and makes it approachable with the playfulness of a Mario game. If even one person feels inspired to create the next great indie game after toying around with it, Nintendo has effectively accomplished its job here.

Game Builder Garage is available now on the Nintendo Switch.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
This mobile fitness game will turn your daily walk into an RPG
Run Legends key art shows runners running towards monsters.

If you have a hard time finding the motivation to exercise, you might want to keep your eye on upcoming mobile game Run Legends. The project turns your daily walk into a series of RPG battles that you can play without even looking at your phone screen.

Run Legends Open Beta Trailer | iOS and Android Fitness Battle Game

Read more
The perfect date night game just launched in time for Valentine’s Day
A wolf and a fawn stare at each other in Blanc.

If you're a couple that games together, a good co-op experience might be part of your regular date night plans. Games like It Takes Two are excellent choices for couples, though great local multiplayer games like that aren't exactly common. Fortunately, a good option just landed on Nintendo Switch and PC in the form of Blanc.

Blanc - Announcement Trailer - Nintendo Switch

Read more
Don’t expect Zelda’s $70 price to become the new Switch standard, says Nintendo
Link looks at his hand in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be Nintendo's first Switch game to be priced at $70. News that Tears of the Kingdom, a sequel to one of the bestselling and most critically acclaimed titles on the system, will have an increased price compared to its predecessor came as a surprise over three-and-a-half years after its announcement. It also raised questions about what the future of pricing for Nintendo games will be, especially as Sony, Microsoft, and third-party publishers all upped the cost of their new games in recent years. 
While Nintendo will release Tears of Kingdom at $70, a spokesperson for the company tells Digital Trends that this will not always be the case for its first-party games going forward. 
"No," the spokesperson said when Digital Trends asked if this is a new standard. "We determine the suggested retail price for any Nintendo product on a case-by-case basis." 
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Official Trailer #2
To get more insight into the price shift, I spoke to Omdia Principal Analyst George Jijiashvili, who explains what has caused the price of games to go up in recent years and how Tears of the Kingdom demonstrates that Nintendo will "remain flexible about first-party title pricing." Ultimately, Nintendo fans are finally starting to feel the impact of inflation that's been sweeping across the game industry, even if it's only "on a case-by-case basis" for now.
The price is right
Nintendo claims that not every one of its significant first-party game will be $70, and we can actually already see that in action. Preorders just went live for Pikmin 4, which launches on July 21, after Tears of the Kingdom, and it only costs $60. Still, Zelda's price tag indicates that going forward, Nintendo will at least consider raising the price of its most anticipated games to $70. But why start with Tears of the Kingdom?  
When asked why it chose Tears of the Kingdom as its first $70 Nintendo Switch game, a Nintendo spokesperson simply reiterated that the company will "determine the suggested retail price for any Nintendo product on a case-by-case basis." Still, it's a surprising choice for Nintendo to make that pricing change to just one exclusive game almost six years into the Switch's life span. Jijiashvili thinks the choice to do this with Tears of the Kingdom was a pretty apparent one for Nintendo, although it won't apply to everything going forward.
"If you are going to make a game $70, it's going to be the follow-up to one of your most critically acclaimed and bestselling games ever," Jijiashvili tells Digital Trends. "I don’t think that this means that $70 will become the standard price for all major Nintendo releases. It's worth noting that Metroid Prime Remastered is priced at $40. It's clear that Nintendo will remain flexible about first-party title pricing."

It makes basic financial sense for Nintendo to ask for a little bit more for a game it knows will be one of the biggest releases of 2023. But what factors in the game industry and world's economy at large caused Nintendo to make this decision? 
Priced Out
For more than a decade, people got comfortable with AAA video games being priced at $60. Of course, there were occasional exceptions to this rule, but it was seen as an industry standard until the dawn of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Publisher 2K was one of the first to announce a price increase, and companies like EA, Sony, and Microsoft have all followed suit. Jijiashvili chalks this up to inflation-related pressure on game publishers.
"The games industry has already been experiencing a lot of inflationary pressure," he explains. "AAA games are much more expensive to make now than they used to be, but prices have actually been declining in inflation-adjusted terms -- if prices had risen with inflation since 1990, they would now be over $90. On top of that, we’ve had a big burst of general inflation, meaning that publishers are looking at big increases in everything from salaries to tools. It’s going to be really hard for most publishers to avoid passing on all those extra costs at some point."
Jijiashvili provided us with a graphic created by Omdia that "shows what the typical price points for each generation would look like if you adjusted for inflation." As you can see, the inflation-adjusted prices are only exponentially growing, and the big game pricing shifts the graph highlights were all technically not even enough to keep up with inflation when they happened. 

Read more