Nintendo 3DS

How Nintendo’s Digital Expansion Will Help Retailers And Developers



Over the past few years, downloadable games have become more and more common across all platforms. Famitsu magazine gives us a close look at the growing trend of digital purchases, and how it affects the market for developers and retailers.


  • Would purchase a physical copy—74.4%
  • Would purchase a digital version—20.6%
  • Would purchase the cheaper one—2.6%
  • Depends on the situation—1.4%
  • Depends on the title—1.0%


The above is a look at a chart indicating the answers of those who were asked which one they’d purchase out of a physical or digital copy of a game. Of the 7,643 people asked, almost three-fourths felt they’d opt for a physical copy, and the majority of them said it’s due to the feeling that comes with actually having a physical item.


Other reasons include: “Because there are instruction manuals,” “Because I can get bonus items,” and “I don’t see the merit of downloading software.”


Out of the 20.6% who went with digital, people had reasons such as: “Because it’s simple,” “So I don’t have to go out and buy it,” “It’s cheap,” and “To save space.”


While the numbers for downloads may seem low, according to the Famitsu research, it actually isn’t bad, considering that digital downloads have been more of a recent way to purchase games, while physical copies have been around from the very beginning.


Most of those who didn’t go with either choices had reasons such as, “I want to buy the cheaper one,” and “It depends on the hardware and title.” Since digital copies are often cheaper, there’s a higher chance that those who prefer to pay less will eventually go with more downloads in the future, while the latter can be described as collectors, who’d prefer to have physical copies.


According to a manager at a Tokyo electronics department, Bic Camera, prepaid Nintendo eShop cards in particular have been selling quite well recently, especially when hit titles such as Monster Hunter 4 and Pokémon X and Y are released.


However, with online games such as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Rebron, and PlayStation Vita games that tend to have plenty of DLC, it has been noted that players of these games are starting to make online transactions from the comfort of their homes as well, which also means a decrease in customers who go to stores such as Bic Camera for their purchases.


With plenty of new games coming out next year, the manager would like to urge fans to visit the store, where they can try out some of the latest games for themselves. However, he realizes that digital sales won’t be slowing down anytime soon, so he hopes they’ll be able to make a better connection with the customers through the sales of prepaid cards.


While on the subject of downloadable cards and digital games, Famitsu spoke to senior analyst Eiji Maeda, who states that Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which was released in November of 2012 in Japan, was a crucial factor in helping Nintendo start selling downloadable games. (Note: At the start of 2013, the game had sold over 700,000 copies in the form of downloads in Japan alone.)


“By placing downloadable cards on the shelves of storefronts, and using a system that provides customers with a similar sense they get from packaged software, it would eliminate the risk of retail stores having excessive stock,” says Maeda. “It’s safe to say that it’s a risk-free system for the retailers.”


Furthermore, download cards will have great appeal to those who refuse to make online purchases, especially in Japan, where people tend to be more wary about where they share their personal info.


“Nintendo’s business style of expanding downloadable purchases, will in the long-term, prove to be a merit for the developers,” says Maeda, as Famitsu points out that thanks to social and browser games, more people have been making online transactions, which may lead to more purchases of digital games down the road.


With titles such as Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Mario Kart 8, and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes coming out, it will be interesting to see how it will affect the digital market next year.

Gamer, avid hockey fan, and firm believer in the heart of the cards.