News Article

Reaction: Nintendo's Steady Start in Retail Downloads

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

It’s only half of the picture

Earlier today we reported that Satoru Iwata had given loose figures for retail downloads in Japan, which started alongside the launch of 3DS XL on 28th July. Speaking to Wall Street Journal, Iwata-san stated that New Super Mario Bros. 2 retail downloads account for 5% of sales in Nintendo’s homeland, but provided the interesting comparison that the figure for Demon Training was 20%. As we hinted in the news article, however, there are plenty of factors to consider that influence these figures, and could result in the worldwide results painting a rather different picture.

To start with the core figures, it’s difficult to pin down precise numbers for the simple reason that Enterbrain sales records in Japan don’t account for downloads, but there’s currently a lack of clarity about whether download code cards available from Japanese retailers are included. The availability of the download codes also dilutes the figures in Japan, as the percentages provided appear to reflect an overall download picture. The question of how many gamers will realistically buy a premium-priced version from the 3DS eShop remains, as a result.

Still, let’s take the figures provided and crudely apply them to the Enterbrain chart figures for both games, as these numbers will at least provide a general impression. If we take 5% of the confirmed New Super Mario Bros. 2 sales in Japan of 790,732, that comes to just over 39,500 copies, while 20% of Demon Training’s 98,088 sales amounts to a little over 19,500 downloads. They may not be massive figures, but they’re not exactly disastrous.

As we’ve already said, though, there’s a question mark over how many of these sales are made directly from Nintendo’s eShop. Nintendo may not actually care too much, arguably, as its efforts to drive gamers onto the eShop are achieved whether a consumer browses and downloads directly or logs in to redeem a code: either way they’re being exposed to the platform. It’s a bigger issue outside of Japan, however, as the only widespread download option available is direct from the eShop, with that offering being priced at the recommended retail rate. Although isolated comments within the NL community suggest that it has been possible to buy a download code from GameStop, for example, it’s certainly not an option on the retailer’s website. The official Nintendo of America game page does say “select retailers” will sell download codes, but at launch this option appears to have been relatively rare. In the UK, meanwhile, an announcement for the game mentions physical copies and eShop downloads, but no codes via retailers.

Why do retail download codes matter? While we’re waiting to hear of potential download figures for North America and Europe in the coming weeks, it’s worth noting that, in this launch period at least, the download offering has been an expensive option. While download codes in Japan were still relatively pricey, retailers were offering deals a little below the recommended retail rate. With equivalent opportunities either rare in North America or non-existent elsewhere, gamers have had to pay more for the privilege of a download version from the eShop. There are wider issues for why that is the case, even if it reflects poorly on Nintendo: primarily it wants to provide a digital alternative without alienating and upsetting its vital retail partners. It’s a silly state of affairs, but as it stands those are the cards that Nintendo has been dealt. The question is, will the pricier and limited download options translate to weaker figures than in Japan? We’re at the mercy of Nintendo to reveal details in the coming weeks.

One more interesting talking point from the Japanese figures is how different kinds of games will evidently perform better as downloads. While New Super Mario Bros. 2 is a full fat Mario platformer, Demon Training is a mental exercise title that requires daily usage in short bursts. It’s understandable that a game that needs regular attention is more convenient as an icon on the system, rather than worrying about carrying and swapping out the relevant game cart. Perhaps this provides a real clue to where retail downloads could be a success for Nintendo, and we’d suggest that future titles demanding daily interaction, such as Animal Crossing: Jump Out perhaps, may be a success on the digital route.

If that turns out to be the case, we wouldn’t rule out future titles from Nintendo, and potentially third-parties, that target that sort of audience. These games would be bigger and more expensive than eShop-exclusive titles, but would be plainly more suitable as a download purchase. Will this create a subset of $25/£20 downloads touted on the eShop, with only a limited stock of physical copies available? It’s a possibility in the coming years.

With all of that in mind, today’s figures provide food for thought. We don’t think the results for Japan can easily be dismissed as an early flop for Nintendo, nor can they be held up as a demonstration of success. Perhaps they’re in the middle, but the coming weeks and months will give us a broader picture for worldwide sales, and we’d suggest that Nintendo will continue to tweak and adjust its digital strategies as the figures emerge.

From the web

User Comments (58)



DeMoN-13ruce said:

DUH digital never will be better then the boxes>.>


same price
going to the store to buy an wanted game has a great feeling(sort of nostalgic)
nice box with cool art sometimes manual(not digital)

oh forget also cheaper then digital lol yes(check some game stores or actions)

digital is only better for me when the games are out of the shelves forever or they are sold out for too long.



Tsuchiya said:

Keep them the same price as retail and I'm in. £40 is ridiculous for Mario. Oh, and add an incentive to download games that can be bought elsewhere, cheaper.



Nazz said:

The digital download of nsmb.2 would have probably sold better if the digital download was cheaper than the actual boxed game.



Geonjaha said:

"we’d suggest that future titles demanding daily interaction, such as Animal Crossing: Jump Out perhaps, may be a success on the digital route."

Please dont make me make the list on why physical is better again...please no. D:



Tsuchiya said:

Paying more for less isn't much of an incentive in my eyes. Make them cheaper or on par with retail please Nintendo.



SkywardLink98 said:

I much prefer physical, but I still have to admit there are some benefits of buying digital, such as not having to bring game cards with you wherever you go. Some games will benefit from this, such as Brain Age and Animal Crossing whereas games like Xenoblade Chronicles and other huge RPGs wouldn't benefit much because they're based on you playing for hours, not 15 minutes.



originaljohn said:

Nintendo need to look at STEAM if they want a successful digital store not to mention incorporate cross system accounts. I hope that's the way they're going because this is all just a waste of time if not.
For me I would much rather digital copies of games for my handheld device. It just seems to work better if they want to offer special edition games with a sound track, added game content or developer info.



Hyperstar96 said:

@DeMoN-13ruce Almost every single one of those points is wrong:

  • Significantly cheaper to produce and, by extention, sell
  • Opinion
  • Correct
  • Are you new to buying games? Compare retail prices to Steam or even Playstation Plus.

Try harder next time.



Kyloctopus said:

Digital everything is good, I don't see why people are so stubborn. As long as you have a 32G SD Card, it should be great.



Barbiegurl777 said:

I bought the digital version of New Super Mario Bros 2.

Over here in the US doesn't matter which version you bought it's still the same price.

If I lived in the UK I'd probably have more incentive to go & get the actual cartridge because of it being cheaper but I live in the US so it just doesn't matter which version I'd bought because it'd still would have cost me the same.

I think in the earlier articles you guy's said about freakyform's & new art academy being 29 & 26 dollars for the two titles for the UK all I can say is if they don't have same price over here. I'll think twice about buying either of them. No matter how badly I want them.

Happy Gaming! (^_^)



ThumperUK said:

While digital has such a premium over cartridges it will never be successful. It is hardly a problem carrying 5-10 cartridges around with your 3DS, so convenience is limited. What would be successful is re-releasing games on digital which have been overlooked when launched as a retail release, such as Dr Lautrec or Cave Story....even the Pac-man game which was released (allegedly!).



Wheels2050 said:

@Klyo: I'd agree if Nintendo had an account-based system for digital purchases. Until they can implement one, retail is the far better option in my opinion.

I keep saying this, but I think the main point of convenience of digital games is that you can enjoy them when- and wherever you wish. If your game is locked to a single console with no easy way to transfer to another one (let's hope you don't lose it or have it stolen or break) then the most attractive part, at least for me, of having a digital copy is gone.

If Nintendo seriously wants to push digital distribution (DD) they need to make it attractive - currently, with more expensive games and arguably worse convenience, they're not doing enough. I think once they implement an account-based system then that will push many people over the edge to DD but speaking as someone who has been buying retail games for many years, I'm not willing to give up owning a physical copy (I enjoy the artwork etc.) in order to buy a more expensive, more limited version of a game.



TrueWiiMaster said:

I thought about buying Animal Crossing digitally, but I don't feel comfortable with putting hundreds of hours into something that's not really there. If something happened to my 3DS, I could lose all that time, all the limited-time DLC too. Even if I got a new 3DS and could re-download the game, my save would be lost. That's too depressing to consider. I probably will be getting Demon Training digitally though.



Hejiru said:

The only game I'm planning on buying digitally is Animal Crossing, because that's the sort of game you play a little every day. My other AC games went to weeds because I got tired of switching cartridges all the time. If they announce a 3DS WarioWare or something similar I might get that digital too. But other games I'd rather have the physical copy.



grumblegrumble said:

I'm sure alot of Mario fanatics, like myself, wanted the PHYSICAL cartridge/box combo (for the same price, who wouldn't?) over the downloaded copy. You get the box art, and a physical cartridge you can access at any time, that won't hog up half your SD cart. You can always let a friend borrow your cartridge or you can trade it in for cash later, something a downloaded copy can't do. So that's why downloads for NSMB2 aren't staggering, and also, wasnt Demon Training out before NSMB2?



MeloMan said:

One, it's real early on in Nintendo's retail download life, so it will take time and more games to really see how it's going. Two, retail downloads are still not a common way of life for all forms of media gaming; In other words, consumers right now still weight the options of time vs. money vs. tradability vs. physical vs. the digital vs. value vs. etc and all points in between, so retail downloads in this day and age will not be a 100% success. For now Nintendo (or any game company) should worry about simply "providing the options" first and foremost for digital and physical and less about how much profit can be made from one or the other.

I do believe one day, whether late in my lifetime or well after, we will get to straight downloads of everything, but for now, physical copies of games are still the "main" way of life for "major" games at least.



Tsuchiya said:

It's not a case of being stubborn. It's more a case of people not willing to pay silly prices for a game you can buy elsewhere for less AND with a lovely nice box, box art and a nice, crisp manual. You've been spoilt by the digital monster.

Yes, some say it may be more convenient (not me) but at what cost? £40?!Give it a few weeks and it'll be pushing £20 in shops.



BestBuck15 said:

I can only speak for myself, I won't be downloading any Full price games, now or ever



Chris720 said:

It would've done better if it wasn't so expensive, full price for a game with no cartridge, no box, no artwork and no manual. Really?! I can buy all that for £25.

Downloads need to be on par (or lower) than physical copies. I mean seriously, there is no middle man and no transport needed for the download option, only the development costs.

Oh and I get charged for the middle man, transport and development at £25... yeah... Nintendo, you need to find a new plan and quickly.



Nevergreen said:

Pricing might be a problem outside of the States, but with the download being the same price as retail west of the Atlantic, I took download.

Honestly, I don't know why having a cartridge a case and a manual matters (it's not like I'm ever going to need to read a Mario manual). Just wasted space and material in my eyes.

And with a decent SD card, say 4 GB and up (which are dirt cheap nowadays) a space issue is nonexistent.



TeeJay said:

For those presenting the argument that paying for a download is a ripoff because of no box and manual: I throw my boxes and manuals out anyway, so digital is a great option for me!



Tsuchiya said:

So you've decided to pay full price for a game because it comes without things you'd throw out anyway?

You have literally wasted money



Csaw said:

@MrWalkieTalkie I usually just use cases that hold multiple games instead of the boxes. I agree with Teejay I used to love collecting boxes but I have so many that they've started cluttering up my room and I've had to throw away a few. Also since I keep my 3ds in my pocket I don't have space to carry around extra cartridges so I usually end up only taking one game with me (which is annoying when I end up not wanting to play the game and instead want to play a game I don't have with me at the time). Overall retail and digital have their pros and their cons, but I plan on embracing digital.



SilentHunter382 said:

I thought about buying some games digital but when I read TrueWiiMaster comment about losing your save data that is the thing that will bother me. Unless someone can tell us that buying a digital copy of a game makes a save file on the sd card and on in the game folder itself.



LeTr011 said:

Why not just keep download price the same as retail but listen closely Nintendo...give a free vc game that has not been release yet.



sinalefa said:

For a reason I cannot understand, most people who prefer digital seem to want to get rid of physical for everyone and viceversa.

Let us have both options and pick the one we want depending on the game and the circumstances. As paper books have proven time and time again, physical will always be there.

As for me, I vastly prefer physical, but if you want to download the game, then more power to you. I do agree that there should be an account link and not a system link to the copies you buy.

About saves, games like Pokémon save in the card itself and not the system, so even if your copy is stolen or corrupted, you will still lose the save file, even if you still have the system. So that problem appeals to both options.



XCWarrior said:

Happy to see retail continue to do well when its the same price as digital. Why wouldn't you want a physical copy if it costs the same amount or within $5.



Tsuchiya said:

We just want the same (or lower) prices as retail. But on the subject of a free VC game, I agree that they should of added justification for the price because I'm failing to see any. As has been pointed out, no box, no artwork, no manual and no middle man should mean less to the consumer. Why exactly is it more to download Nintendo when we have Freaky Forms DX and New Art Academy at pretty reasonable prices? (For UK at least)

I have 14 3DS friends who own NSMB2 and not a single one of them has downloaded it. Why? The price put them off. Pure and simple.

I spent roughly £40 on Skyrim (and the guide). I wouldn't dream of spending that on a Mario game in a million years. Downloading to an SD card just isn't enough of a justification for it's high price.



mamp said:

I just hope retail downloads mean that we'll be able to get more games from Japan that would in most cases never be localized. It should be easier since less money is used into localizing a digital game . crosses fingers for Senran Kagura Burst



kobe1724 said:

@grumblegrumble agreed. I don't plan on buying any major first party games digitally anytime in the near future. There's 3 files on my copy of NSMB2, so I can let 2 people borrow it, and better yet, they can play it on THEIR 3DS, and not have to borrow mine. And in a few years when I want a new game, I might consider trading it in for some cash, which is also something a digital copy can't do. Bottom line, physical is better.



iroxursox said:

i am pretty happy both ways because i can get digital for games that are better digital and vice versa



LeTr011 said:

Again, my statement about the vc games, I truly think they should give a game like ninja turtles(nes). Or some collector's item game like Pokemon Yellow 2(renewed, because the sprites were horrible.)

Think about it Nintendo, give a game that the people who get it boxed can't get in the eshop.



c1pher_c0mplet said:

Hmmm... I like digital downloads and am really glad that Nintendo is giving users an option to boxed games. All the 3DS games I've bought thus far and plan to buy in the (forseeable) future will be boxed but at the same time, I'm also not adverse to going digital either. In fact, I like digital. Seeing as there's not too many benefits (especially considering the prices for both being the same) to going digital with 3DS games, I'll gladly stick with the boxes for now. (Plus, how would you play with the AR cards for Dream Drop Distance if KH3D was digital?)



Ashflow said:

I just got my copy today, due to my having preordered it, but I actually only payed $30 for it. Granted, it was a special deal/offer, but I still got the retail game for $10 less than the digital version. Long live physical! (Though I don't oppose others going digital, it's very unappealing to me personally.)



GreenDream said:

Charging the "full" price tag on digital downloads is a trend that needs to stop. Games typically sell for "full price" in physical stores because the salaries of shipping drivers, warehouse packers, bankers, and middleman managers have to be accounted for in the price tag. If you are reducing the salaries accounted for (in product delivery) to just data sorters and bankers... then a digital download of NSMB2 should be closer to $30, not $40. Keeping the price high for a digital download is just giving an unfair deal to the customers, whilst not promising fairer wages and compensation to the developers.

This is definitely a "mixed feelings" situation. I want Nintendo's digital strategy to succeed, but I hope people don't digitally download "full price" retail games under any circumstances...



Marioman64 said:

where's the statistic's for the usa % of retail digital downloads? sure it's 5% in Japan, but what about here? I've googled all over the place and can't find it



WaxxyOne said:

@DeMoN-13ruce "DUH digital never will be better then the boxes>.>"
I beg to differ.

"same price"
If the price is really the same, you can't really use this as a comparison of one of the other. Next.

"going to the store to buy an wanted game has a great feeling(sort of nostalgic)"
Yeah, going to Gamestop and being forced to tell the salesman I do NOT want the strategy guide, do NOT want the "extended warranty", do NOT want to preorder any more games, and having them repeatedly try to upsell is such a fun experience.</sarcasm> Plus it takes extra time I'd rather use for things other than driving to the store, and it's not something I can usually do whilst in my underwear.

"nice box with cool art sometimes manual(not digital)"
I can look at the nice art online, and I might occassionally glance at the box a few times before forgetting about it and then it will just become clutter. As for the manual, all they are these days is 3 pages telling you nothing that is not in the game itself, and then 18 more pages of the same information in 6 languages you don't speak. No thanks.

"oh forget also cheaper then digital lol yes(check some game stores or actions)"
Not where I am. The digital is slightly cheaper because I don't have to pay tax on it. Maybe when the game is in the used bin you'll have a point, but since Nintendo chose to release it digitally at the same time / before it hit retail, the price is basically the same either way.

"digital is only better for me when the games are out of the shelves forever or they are sold out for too long."
Other advantages of digital purchase:

  • No chance of losing the cart.
  • Game is always available on the system with a permanently-installed icon.
  • Available before retail in most areas.
  • No going to the store and dealing with pushy salespeople.
  • Bonus coins for Club Nintendo.
  • Nintendo gets more of my money since there's no middle-man.

Yeah, I realize Nintendo could have "passed the savings on" to me, but it makes sense not to want to upset their retail base and the price to me is the same either way. If I'm going to pay $39.99 anyway, I'd rather have it all go to Nintendo.



SirSmugleaf said:

Well NSMB2 is $70 in Australia so that's waaaaaayyyyy too much
you spoilt brats in America, only having to pay $40!!!!



Bugpy said:

I've never seen a Nintendo handheld game for more than £30 (except that Spyro game) so paying £40 for something I can get elsewhere for £25 is not worth getting. Plus if I get bored, I can sell the cartridge on..



Hokori said:

@c1pher_c0mplet Umm the 3DS camera is still the the AR Cards would still read kinda like how the AR app is digital but still reads, and pokedex 3D/Pro, and freaky forms, even though they at also digital, physical doesn't mean the cards will read better



Chunky_Droid said:

@Hyperstar96: Perhaps you should do some homework, the Australian dollar is worth more than the American dollar, there's currently a government investigation going on in Australia as to why software costs so much.

Since the Global Financial Crisis, the American economy has gone almost down the toilet compared to how well the Australian government handled it.



Hyperstar96 said:

@ChunkyDroid Sorry I don't have the time or patience to study the economy of a country that isn't mine... <_<
My point still stands: just because we have cheaper software doesn't mean we're spoiled.



Tsuchiya said:

God bless America O_O

You could argue you are spoilt as many Americans tend to gloat that they pay far, far less than the rest of the world for the same exact things others have to. America pay less, most of rest of us pay more. NSMB2 in the UK is far cheaper to physically buy even in a dodgy financial climate than its digital brother but to download it is almost double. Why exactly is a boxless, paperless and digital game so much more than its physical counterpart? Nintendo? You are very, very naughty.

FreakyForms & Art Academy are priced reasonably in the eShop as they are in shops so what's with the inflated price of NSMB2?

NSMB2 is £40 in the UK which is roughly the same price as a AAA 360/PS3 game. £40 is just over $60 (I believe) which quite frankly, is ridiculous. Especially for a handheld game and I won't be buying any digital game that costs more than a physical copy.

I honestly don't understand why anyone outside America downloaded it :/



Pokefanmum82 said:

the reason why they are charging 40 bux for a download is just because there's no box art, manuals or anything else, doesn't mean that they don't have things to pay for. like the pay the people who designed the game, pay for advertising, and pay for the server that they are putting their downloads on (not sure about this one). Nintendo can't afford to piss of their retail partners. Also all of their first party games are expensive, just look at Mario Kart Wii, it's been out for a long time but stores still charge 60 bux for it new. While I haven't bought a digital copy yet (i have a physical for my son) I am still buying the digital version so we each have a copy. the PSN store is no different so I don't understand why everyone is so surprised that Nintendo went this route for their first download title. Nintendo has to make their money back somehow. Most people seem to forget how much work and money goes into making a game and selling it to the consumer.



TonLoco said:

Wow i didn't know that other countries had to pay more for a digital copy. The benefits of digital format are not worth extra money in my opinion. I downloaded NSMB2 and it cost me the same amount as the boxed copy would have. I didn't even have to use any gas ( which is $3.75 a gallon near me.) and my girlfriend doesn't know that i spent money on a video game lol. Love this new Mario game btw.



Geonjaha said:

@WaxxyOne - So basically digital is only better in the short-term?

You dont need to deal with 'pushy' salesmen because you can just order the physical copy online to arrive a day after launch. That means you lose one day (wow, how horrible?). The bonus coins for Club Nintendo are worth around is that worth it? You can resell the game later for £20+ realistically as long as its in good condition assuming you buy physical. You can also use the game on multiple systems, and lend it to people. You get a box and manual while you're still paying less for the game (Yes - you can always find it for less than the digital game because sellers always go below the RRP). If the physical game ever becomes rare and collectable then you just got a load more money...

I'd go on but if anyone gives up all this because "Changing mah game card ish too hard" then there is no reasoning with them. Just in case you do take me seriously on that though - you can buy game cases for about £5 online to keep 30+ games in, so transporting physical games isnt a problem.



TimboBaggins said:

It is a FACT , not a RUMOR, that a code for NSMB 2 can be purchased in North America from Gamestop. This is a well known fact because Gamestop features lots of codes for downloadable content, such as the NES Kid Icarus. Sounds like to me the issue mainly effects Europe.



Prototally said:

It would be great to have Pocket Monsters Pokemon yellow vesion on the eShop .!!Im just saying.



Prototally said:

Nintendo plz.!! Leaving me w/ japenese Games like... "Jet Set Radio." on ps3
but its good. w/ a ps plus account.

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