Let's Build A Zoo Finds Hope In Nintendo Region Swapping Woes

Published: October 13, 2022 9:40 AM /


A bustling zoo scene full of park guests, attractions, and signs in Let's Build A Zoo, the No More Robots game that benefited from Argentinian region-swapping sales

Thanks to a quirk of digital storefront pricing, it's possible for consumers to buy games from digital stores at a fraction of their intended cost by simply swapping their region. No More Robots' Mike Rose saw this happening to his studio's indie hit Let's Build A Zoo and despaired, but things took a strange turn, and he's taken to Twitter to share his story.

Rose's Twitter thread is well worth a read-through, but here's a summary. Let's Build A Zoo went up for pre-order on the Nintendo eShop on September 22nd, and Rose quickly saw pre-orders skyrocket for the game. When he checked the region data, though, he found that 85% of pre-orders for LBAZ were coming from Argentina, which is a region famed for cheaper pricing thanks to currency exchange rates.

Naturally, Rose had what he calls "a bit of a freakout", realizing that many consumers were simply swapping their regions to Argentina and buying the game at the much cheaper price it's available for over there. However, before long, Rose realized that Let's Build A Zoo was rapidly climbing the US eShop charts, leaping hundreds of places in a single night. That, he says, is "when it twigged".

A top-down view of a zoo with lots of farm animals and other creatures in Let's Build A Zoo
Let's Build A Zoo is at the heart of a strange tale of hope amid region-swapping woes.

Rose points out that the "US eShop" doesn't exist; instead, it's the eShop for all of the Americas. This means that sales anywhere in the Americas are counted as belonging to the entire region, so you can see where this is going. Argentina sales were actually boosting Let's Build A Zoo's place in the "US eShop" as well, essentially handing the game free publicity and leading to more non-region-swapped sales.

This happened because the eShop doesn't base its charts on revenue, but rather on units sold. As such, the many, many cheap pre-orders being placed in Argentina were causing Let's Build A Zoo's sales numbers to skyrocket, thus launching it close to the top 100 eShop sellers in the Americas.

Several knock-on effects followed. First, the team for the European eShop noticed this success and featured the game on their storefront as well (as did the Australian eShop), thus leading to even more sales for Let's Build A Zoo. People were buying the game's DLC bundle (which adds Dinosaurs to the game, which we think is a great hook), too, meaning that the average price gamers were paying for Let's Build A Zoo on the eShop was $20.

Last week, Rose shared some very impressive stats for Let's Build A Zoo, including $1 million in revenue (since the official launch, not since the Early Access debut) and a best-ever Switch launch. Rose also revealed that Let's Build A Zoo had an 80% DLC attach rate, which means that 80% of players who played it also bought DLC for it. This region-swapping story might help to explain that somewhat; either players are buying the DLC bundle for the game, or they're buying the DLC using the same region-swapping "exploit" they're using to buy the game itself. Maybe some of them are even buying it at full price for the DLC to give the developer the money they had evaded in the initial sale.

Region-swapping remains an issue for digital storefronts

According to Rose, the takeaway from this experience is that digital platforms need to combat region-swapping exploitation better. He says that it's not just the eShop this is happening on; while the story he shared concerned the eShop, he also noticed these issues on Steam and Xbox, so it's a platform-agnostic problem.

For what it's worth, some digital distribution companies do acknowledge there's an issue and seem to be working to at least try to fix it. Last year, Steam introduced a limit on how often you can change your region within your account, so you can now only change your region every three months. 

It's a problem gamers have noticed with other publishers, too. Back in 2020, Death Stranding's regional pricing provoked anger among Steam users, with some paying far more for Hideo Kojima's Norman Reedus-starring open-world game than they arguably should have. Until digital distributors find an ingenious solution for the issue of region-swapping, it seems this problem will continue, but at least things ended well for Let's Build A Zoo in this instance.

Are you checking out Let's Build A Zoo? Need somewhere to start? Check out our Let's Build A Zoo guides to get you started with building the zoo of your dreams.


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More Info About This Game
Learn more about Let's Build a Zoo
Game Page Let's Build a Zoo
No More Robots
Release Date
November 5, 2021 (Calendar)
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