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I've mostly migrated over to a digital game library but still enjoy having a small collection of physical games, such as first-party Nintendo. But these days even having a physical edition feels unsatisfying if the game on the cartridge isn't the most up-to-date version, which means you sometimes need to wait a year or two for the best (and hopefully "complete") physical version of a game.

...or at least that's how it should work right?

And yet, for reasons I still don't understand there are new "prints" of games like AC: New Horizons being sold at retail with old versions of the game (on the cartridge) even though it's been at 2.0.6 since Nov 2022.

With no updates for the past six months, it's beginning to seem like v2.0.6 is going to be the final version of the game and that's the one I'd like to have in my physical collection ...not one with v1.8 which I bought at the end of 2022.

I feel like this is something people do care about, that probably I'm not the only one and maybe publishers should voluntarily (or be required) to state the version of the game somewhere on the case ~ so you know exactly what you're getting. But until that becomes common practice the dilemma is how do you know or even guess what version is on the game cartridge?

Have heard there might be something to do with serial numbers and some folks have tried to track this with a community database but the one I had bookmarked now gives a 404 and I can't find any others. Besides, if I understand correctly you have to actually unwrap open the case to look at the back of the cartridge and that's a bit like going into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory in a futile search for a golden ticket ...only there are sirens, and handcuffs, and people putting you up on YouTube.

Does anyone remember during the Wii era they would have those special "Nintendo Selects" editions, with the fancy border (and didn't they also have the iconic Seal of Quality)? How great would it be if they brought that back...

So I guess here's the main question,

Is there ever a way to get the latest, or let's say if you give it enough time like a year or so with no updates, the "final" version of a game on a physical cartridge, where somehow you are able to know that it's the final version with just the information on the case? Or if not, what kind of system would make this better?


Initial investigation and background information

I know at least one person tried to get a community list going and the initial discovery relates to a six-digit code on the cartridge. My AC:NH cart has HAC-008 (ACBAA09S009) and contains version 1.8 of the game. They discovered that the 008 is what correlates with the version. HAC-000 would supposedly indicate v1.0. Couldn't say about the alpha-numeric printed underneath. But this only gets us halfway. There is discussion on this thread concerning information printed on the case. For example, my case shows HAC P ACBAA USA, 110817A printed above the UPC 045496596439. There is some conjecture that even with newer versions (such as HAC-008) the "product codes" on the box do not change or give any indication...but I can't help thinking this hasn't been fully explored, which brings us to the question at hand.

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  • Additional background information appended to end of post Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 0:34
  • I'm using Animal Crossing as an example since this is one that I'm able to reference. For me though this question is much more about Tears of the Kingdom. When I'm ready to play it I'll be getting the digital version. But somewhere down the road, when they've stopped patching/updating it, I'd like to add the physical edition to my collection. It may not even get opened. It would sure be great to know, if only there were some way to know, that the version on that (future) cartridge is the full and complete game, never needing a single update. Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 18:36
  • May I propose that someone with the requisite privilege create a "collecting" tag? Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 18:41
  • I wonder how many cartridges are getting produced with the newest versions preloaded at all. At some point there's a sunk cost to producing/shipping more copies, it seems like the sort of thing that would taper off well before the 'final' updated version.
    – Robotnik
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 22:10
  • I feel like there are two ways to consider the question. On one hand, would people be more eager to get hold of the latest, most complete version of a physical (say for collecting purposes) and thereby increase (or at least keep) sales going? This is assuming a requirement to disclose the version number on the case, thus making it easy to know what you're getting. On the other hand, there may even be a legal argument that unless publishers at least make the effort (to keep physicals current) people aren't in fact getting what the product claims to even give them, which is "the game" itself. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 3:37

1 Answer 1

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As soon as you launch the game, if you are connected to the internet, your Switch will prompt you to inform you that there is an update for the game which will be downloaded before you play. If you do this, you will always be on the most recent patch of the game regardless of the version that is on the cartridge. This does not require a Nintendo Switch Online enabled account, just internet access.

If you want to have a specific version of the game, you have to keep wifi off (in airplane mode or just keep your switch unconnected to the internet) when inserting the cartridge for the first time, and never turn it on when selecting the game to play. However, as you alluded to, there is no way of determining what version of the game a cartridge comes with, so it has to be tested by loading it into a Switch first. It sounds like you want to play the most recent version of the game though, so just connect your Switch to the internet and download the update.

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  • Updating a game to the latest version is the easy part. The quest objective is figuring out how to identify a physical edition that contains the final version of the game, in its entirety, on the cartridge itself. Take AC:NH for example. If we say that v2.0.6 is the complete game then how can a person (is there a way to) walk into a store and examine the case to somehow decipher that the enclosed cartridge has this particular version. If someone has figured this out then they have cracked the code and hold the secret key. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 19:06
  • No, this is not possible at the moment. A cartridge has to be inserted into a Switch in order to determine the version on it. There is nothing on a box or cartridge itself discerning the version contained on the cart. Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 20:30
  • Hi Chase. I believe there has been identified a way to decipher the version with a code on the cartridge (see background information added to the original post). As for the "product codes" on the case, or maybe some other clue like copyright date, I am thinking there still may be a way to interpret clues, they just haven't been discovered or shared yet? Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 0:36
  • That may be so, but you are still required to open the box in order to read the identifying code on the cartridge. A sealed case would prevent this Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 19:34

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