The new Nintendo Switch cartridges have a nasty, bitter taste to them — and Nintendo has confirmed that this is 100 percent intentional.
In a response to Kotaku’s inquiry about previous taste tests, Nintendo confirmed that cartridges for its new gaming system have been laced with a non-toxic “bittering agent” as a deterrent against ingestion — particularly by children:
“To avoid the possibility of accidental ingestion, keep the game card away from young children. A bittering agent (Denatonium Benzoate) has also been applied to the game card. This bittering agent is non-toxic.”
The chemical compound can be found under luxurious trade names like BITTER+PLUS and Aversion, and according to denatonium-benzoate.com (the self-proclaimed “bitterest place on the web,” by the way), Denatonium Benzoate “is one of the most bitter substances known.” It’s actually a fairly common additive present in all sorts of household materials you wouldn’t want a child getting a hold of, including pesticides, various cleaners, and animal repellants. Fun fact: It’s also known to be effective in the prevention of cannibalism in pigs.
In late February, gaming journalist Jeff Gerstmann sampled the taste of a Nintendo Switch cartridge — for science — and since then the growing consensus has been that the things taste absolutely horrible.
In more recent generations, as cartridges have become smaller and smaller, the growing concern is ingestion. Nintendo systems have always had a large following with younger children after all. With dimensions of 3.50 cm × 3.30 cm × 0.38 cm, it might be a very good thing that Nintendo went this route. But the main takeaway? Do not put these things anywhere near your mouth.