Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo’s Stance On Download vs. Retail Prices For Games


As you may have heard in a report last week, Nintendo will begin offering the majority of their retail first-party Nintendo 3DS games in the form of both physical boxed goods as well as downloads via the Nintendo eShop this summer. This initiative will begin with New Super Mario Bros. 2, scheduled for release in August.


There are two things of importance to note about this initiative. Here’s the first:


Nintendo will not price physical and download versions of games differently. If you download a Nintendo game directly off the Nintendo eShop in the comfort of your own home, it will cost you the same as it would to buy the boxed version.


Explaining why this is to investors, Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, stated that Nintendo do not feel that downloadable versions of games are of lower value than physical copies. For instance, Iwata suggests, there are consumers who value the convenience of being able to take all your games with you at once, instead of having to carry multiple cartridges around to have access to your entire library.


Certain third-party publishers around the world feel similarly, too. “We have found that their opinions are completely divided on the topic of the price points of the digital distribution of packaged software,” Iwata reports. “Some publishers believe that the digital versions should be cheaper while others insist that both versions must be set at exactly the same price.”


Iwata didn’t take any names, but this isn’t an uncommon approach for certain publishers. For instance, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim both currently cost $59.99 on Valve’s Steam service—the same as their retail prices—and those are just two examples. That having been said…


…Retail stores will be selling the download versions of these games as well, in addition to the regular boxed versions. For the download versions, they will be allowed to set their own prices, perform sales, and so on. Effectively, they’ll be able to treat them like physical goods, so you could potentially find bargains on download titles at different retailers.


Why are retailers being allowed this option? To give consumers a choice while not throwing retailers under a bus, is about the gist of it. Furthermore, Iwata expects that the step will lead to individual retailers pricing their downloadable products competitively, in order to take advantage of their strengths, just like with physical games.


“There are several types of retailers,” Iwata said to investors. “A retailer that offers products at comparatively high price but provides good services and is in a convenient location, or a retailer that only focuses on offering products at lower prices than others do. I expect to see sound competition among retailers that takes advantage of their strengths as they have done so far.”


So far, we only know that all of above applies to Nintendo’s own first-party titles. What approach third-party publishers will take remains to be seen. The only third-party retail game that has been announced as a Nintendo 3DS download-only title so far is Unchained Blades, a dungeon-crawling RPG that will be published by Xseed.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.