News Article

Talking Point: Nintendo's Focus on the 3DS eShop

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Gaming on a budget

This week’s European Nintendo Direct prompted the usual range of predictions before the event, ranging from optimistic but unlikely hopes to pessimism and predictability. What Nintendo of Europe boss Satoru Shibata gave us, surprisingly, was a broadcast heavy with eShop exclusives, some new and surprising and others with long-awaited release confirmations. The retail scene was relatively modest, with no real surprises, but there was more than enough download content on offer to get 3DS gamers talking.

Some of the titles were already on the radar, though various release details for this year were more than welcome. Hana Samurai: Art of the Sword, known as Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword in North America, had been on plenty of wish-lists for a fair amount of time, though a release in next week’s update will satisfy that itch. The Denpa Men: They Came by Wave is perhaps a surprise critical hit that cleverly uses AR – augmented reality – while Hydroventure: Spin Cycle and Nano Assault EX are sequels with good credentials behind them. All arriving by the end of the year, their confirmation was reassuring in the sense that eShop enthusiasts could look at a solid line-up on the way.

As is often the case with Nintendo Direct, however, the delights are often unexpected. Pullblox/Pushmo only arrived in Europe and North America in December 2011, yet its sequel will arrive in November, prompting many to re-double efforts to conquer the original’s fiendish later levels. Fallblox, which will be known as Crashmo in North America, takes the original concept, already a top-notch game, and adds in greater depth and new puzzle elements. It’ll be possible to make mistakes and remove support from higher blocks, causing them to crash downwards, and Nintendo’s already laid the ground for switches and floating boxes to shake things up, along with the added depth and ability to switch the view to the back of the blocks. Pullblox was amongst the first truly accomplished eShop games, so hopes are unsurprisingly high.

An announcement with less mass-appeal, but nevertheless a pleasant surprise for experienced gamers, was confirmation that three of the four Guild01 titles are coming to eShop, with SUDA51’s Liberation Maiden already available in Europe as a post-broadcast treat. Originally a boxed retail release in Japan, with each of the four titles led by a famous industry figure, rumours of a Western arrival had already surfaced earlier in the year. It says a great deal for Nintendo’s increasing commitment to the eShop that these games, which can probably be regarded as fairly niche in appeal, have been provided in digital form. It’s also ideal for gamers, as rather than pay full price for a bundle we can pick and choose from Liberation Maiden, Aero Porter and Crimson Shroud by the end of the year.

This line-up of releases, which applies to both Europe and North America – though Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword and The Denpa Men: They Came by Wave are already available in the latter territory – shows that Nintendo isn’t allowing the eShop to lose momentum in its second year. Like any download service it’s had quiet spells, and the Virtual Console schedule continues to frustrate many, but new download exclusives full of promise are continuing to flow.

Perhaps most importantly, the eShop seems to be establishing its own distinct presence on the system, utilising the capabilities of the hardware and thankfully easing the punishing file size restrictions that damaged DSiWare and WiiWare to such a degree. Nano Assault EX and the Guild01 trilogy are perfect examples of titles that would previously arrive as retail releases, and in all likelihood struggle for attention and not necessarily be widely stocked by retailers: the original Nano Assault didn’t even get published in Europe. There are certainly examples of games in the eShop that could conceivably, in the past, be reduced-price retail titles — £19.99 or $24.99 – that are now arriving for a lower cost on the digital store. There are low price options in the $1.99 range, of course, but the eShop is starting to produce titles that, not so long ago, would be snapped up at a higher price at retail by a small but dedicated group of gamers.

A greater focus on the eShop also makes perfect business sense for Nintendo and other developers. While we’ll save the debate about retail downloads and their pricing for another day, there’s little doubt that the 3DS online store is giving developers an opportunity to work on relatively ambitious projects with genuine depth and replayability, yet with a lower financial risk. The 3DS technology is thoroughly decent, but without the financial horrors of HD development, while the eShop makes worries about distribution a thing of the past. Level-5, in the current climate, would be slightly foolish to release Guild01 as a boxed physical retail title, but sticking the code for each individual game on the download store is far less of a risk. Our other example from earlier also shows this, with Shin’en Multimedia abandoning retail to re-release an improved version on the eShop, as well as Nano Assault Neo on Wii U’s online store.

It’s telling that the biggest stories out of Nintendo of Europe’s Nintendo Direct weren’t release dates for titles such as Paper Mario: Sticker Star, but the various downloads due to arrive before 2013. These releases are often new IPs, or sequels and progressions of franchises born on the 3DS eShop; it’s a new breed of games that are, slowly and surely, earning fan loyalty. What the announcements showed us was that the eShop is going to continue producing varied, potentially high-quality games in the next few months, all at arguably reasonable prices.

It’s inevitable that comparisons will be made with equivalent download games on tablets and phones, with debates about whether they’re gaming devices, but for its part Nintendo is continuing to support and strengthen its download exclusives, which is good for gamers and developers.

What do you think? Did the announcements for the eShop excite you for the weeks and months ahead, or do you feel that the platform is still not delivering the games or prices that you want? Let us know in the comments below.

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User Comments (48)



Ernest_The_Crab said:

For a second there i thought the name of the game was FailBlox XD.Hoping that the Guild 01 games come over here fast.



goldbricks23 said:

I am very impressed with the line up of eShop exclusive games coming out over the next three months, even the pricing for many of them appear to be on the reasonable side so there's no real need to complain. Most of purchases this Christmas will be on the eShop rather than retail and I'm very happy with that. Though that's not to say I'll not be buying any cart based games through retail, Paper Mario looks too good to miss!



19Robb92 said:

I love that they have a lot of focus on their online store. I just wish they'd release more 3D Classics and GBA games.



Zach777 said:

I have personally changed my view on retail and download for games. At first I wanted to purchase retail cartridges because I like to collect the games. I ended up downloading NSMB2 and buying the cartridge to get lots of coins from Club Nintendo and ended up playing the download and leaving the retail game on the shelf (foolish buying both I know, but I have learned from that experience). It would be nice if Nintendo offered some sort of a deal for people who have already bought the retail version of SML3D, TLOZ:OoT, SF64 3D, PWR, KI:U, etc. It really is dubm (misspelling intentional) to put them out at the 39.99 price tag and expect those who have already purchased the retail to buy the download. It would be nice to have every game on the go, but buying them AGAIN? Money doesn't grow on trees, Nintendo, come on...



AyeHaley said:

Liberation Maiden is a blast! Reminds me of my beloved non-nintendo treat: Zone of the Enders.



MetalMario said:

I'm really looking forward to Rhythm Hunter: Harmo Knight, Crashmo, and the new Picross. Hope they all make it to America like Crashmo.



rjejr said:

Games are good. New games are better than old games. (with apologies to all you VC fans).



Boo_Buster said:

@19Robb92 You are my guy Robb! We've got the same ideas quite often. I bought 3 of those 3D Classics, I think they are really cool updates on classic games, even if it is just basically adding 3D. We've been clamoring for GBA titles for a while now, hopefully they eventually come (I think they will)



YetAnotherMike said:

When I picked up the 3DS, I looked forward to revisiting the kind of games that were the first to take advantage of "3-D graphics," and could now be displayed in "actual" 3-D.

But despite the eShop lowering barriers and costs for third-party developers, and how more than a half-dozen car-and-cart racing games have been released for the 3DS, I'm surprised how many genres aren't represented at all, a year after the 3DS was released.

No skateboarding in 3-D (in other words, Tony Hawk)... No snowboarding racers in 3-D (e.g. 1080, SSX, Shaun White)... No 3-D "alien" first-person shooters (a la Metroid Prime and Conduit — yet Wii U will have Aliens: Colonial Marines at launch)...

There are multiple 3-D takes on some professional sports (auto-racing, football/soccer, golf, tennis) — even bowling was a launch window title — but basketball, baseball and hockey only appear in cartoon-style mini-game collections.

And has the entire world really given up playing air-musician, dance, pop music and rhythm games? (Wii U will have Just Dance at launch, and retro-rhythm games in the style of the PS2's Frequency and Amplitude would probably look awesome on the 3DS.)

Developers, get on it!



Bass_X0 said:

Nintendo should expand on retail DS games for the eShop by releasing new stand alone stages. How about four new courses for Mario Kart 7 with some new characters - but you don't need to own Mario Kart 7 to play it? Or some new courses for Super Mario 3D Land? But you don't need the full game.



Shiromikio said:

A great step forward. I like the option of both retail and download: retail for those who have/plan to keep multiple devices, download for the convenience and not worrying that physical copies would be sold out at the store. (Or, they could just allow eShop downloads to be played on say 3 devices that you own, if they don't already?) Hopefully they'll keep it up and offer older titles (VC, etc.) to make it easier to get games that are a bit elusive in retail.

Looking forward to Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight and a few others.



OptometristLime said:

I have no idea what I just watched but it was painful and definitely not a source I would turn to for gaming news...



Aqueous said:

The eshop has been really good. There are some high quality titles on there that I have enjoyed and played by both 3rd and 1st party sources. The known up coming list looks great and there are still somethings I haven't downloaded that look good as well.

I'll be keeping my eye on Crimson Shroud out of the Guild 01 games coming. I hope the eshop can keep this up.



RR529 said:

Really looking forward to the upcoming eShop line-up.

Just beat Cave Story, and I'm sure to get NightSky, Liberation Maiden, Crimson Shroud, and Tokyo Crash Mobs when they release.



19Robb92 said:

Yeah, I've noticed

Hopefully Nintendo will deliver on at least one of the two. I really think they should make 3D Classics out of some more popular retro games, like Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World or Bros. 3. That'd be great.



TheRegginator said:

Nintendo should allow us to download the digital version for free if we have the physical version.



Boo_Buster said:

@19Robb92 That would definitely be great! I think the most likely out of those would be Super Mario Bros. 3 3D. I wouldn't hesitate in purchasing that. A few SNES 3D Classics on top of some new NES ones would be cool though



Bliquid said:

If Liberation Maiden is " less mass appealing" as u say, then the mass deserves crappy Angry Birds anthologies for the rest of 3DS's life.
The eShop has a long road ahead to become a worthy service, and that road should start from introducing a NOT console-bound account. Until then Nintendo and their fans can say all they want, but the truth is that they are dwelling 5 years in the past, period.
Oh, and Vagrant Story is universally recognized as one of the best games ever made.



Ren said:

All this is great news for me. The e-shop/WiiWare, all the download stuff is what has kept me interested in gaming since the Wii came out. The 3DS shop is pretty good still, and when the WiiU comes out that shop may sell me on it when I can see if it's solid.
Just the Announcement of WiiWare is what made me excited for the first Wii until I found how nice the Xbox arcade games were. These smaller, smartly designed games really are the best hope for gaming in such a saturated market. There'll always be a place for the AAA titles but like Hollywood without the indie film boom, many of us would have lost interest long ago if not for the smaller creative voices finally getting their day.



Lalivero said:

@Strongo9 That would only give people reason to buy the retail, get the download free, then sell the game back.

@Bliquid I'm pretty sure the 3ds will get accounts as well in the future; though I will still by physicals mostly for retail games.

I am definitely downloading Rhythm Hunter: Harmo Knight.



Hokori said:

EShop is looked fine (though more fine in Japan then anywhere else) even if it doesn't have 1,000,000 apps



XCWarrior said:

I'm OK with more big eShop releases as long as they priced right. When I can't physically own a game, I don't want to pay $40 for it.



Windy said:

I think the Eshop has been on fire lately especially in North America. I hope it catches fire for all you guys in Europe as well. The Denpa Men is shockingly good although I have to say.....I called it! If you like RPG's classic style battles it's a title you don't want to miss.



Windy said:

Oh...The Eshop pricing usually stinks....Just saying. I will always think that if a game comes out retail and in the Eshop. There should be at least a 10.00 dollar price difference or credit. No box, no instruction, no cover art= a discount for downloading......COMMON MAN!



Ganmaku said:

Give us the option to get all the Japanese eshop games, you don't even need to translate them.



luminalace said:

The announcements are great but am I the only one who wants more, more!

Damn I am impatient and insatiable!



Linkstrikesback said:

So? It's an easily solved problem. Include a single use code in the game box. Then have the downloads only be accessible for 7 days after the last time you played with the physical game card., If you want to refresh the 7 day limit, just put the card in again.



wuuds said:

great write-up!
I loved the whole presentation and the fact that it seems Nintendo really wants to make us the fans happy. So many great games coming to the eshop. I've never used this feature before and i have to say that i love it's convenience.

One little complaint I have is that the obvious miss-step by Nintendo isn't addressed anywhere in the article. Digital downloads are awesome to be sure. Why though are the retail games cheaper in the shops than they are on the eshop?
I mean why should I get a digital download if I can get the physical game with artwork, manual etc etc?



aljoriz said:

@wuuds retail was priced cheaper so that nintendo would not directly compete with their retailers otherwise people would just go buy the e-shop version.

If only nintendo's strict Quality Assurance for retail games would extend to the e-shop games.

There were 2 games on the eshop that was buggy:
VVVVVV (which was fixed after a very long time)
Cave story+ (curly mode is unplayable, time attack does not feature missles)



wuuds said:

@aljoriz Ah that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I heard VVVVVV had some bugs at the start. I have the game now and I love it but I was surprised that they released a game that was technically not complete.
Dunno about Cave Story as it hasn't arrived here in Europe yet.



Hokori said:

Crashmo, HarmoKnight, Pokedex 3D Pro, Dempa Men 2, and Papaer Mario SS here I come to Download you.



Moonhillwat said:

I'm extremely disappointed with Nintendo not releasing GBA games onto the Virtual Console yet. They could make a killing by rereleasing games like the Super Mario Advance series! Kirby's Nightmare in Dreamland, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. A Link to the Past. Third party games like the heap of Final Fantasies.

Man, that would be awesome.



Linkstrikesback said:

They could still get around it. Every region can link their 3ds games to club nintendo accounts, correct?

Simply send an e-mail containing a one use download code to every club nintendo account that has registered whichever game x is getting a downloadable version, before a certain date, that can only be used on the linked 3DS.

They would have to send out a notification or something through the message system before to remind people to register their copy before the date, but it would work out for -most- people, at the very least.



uximal said:


I understand it would be crazy to buy it at that price again, as for me I am really happy that I will finally afford OOT 3D and SML3D since games are generally over priced in my region OOT 3D retail goes for 75 $, SML3D 85 $. I really hope they also release Kid Icarus on digital since back here it cost a staggering 95 $.... So I am really excited to see how nintendo is shaping up the e-shop.



Windy said:

Guys I'm going to stop with the pricing in the eshop. I was given a PSP as a gift and the prices are much worse. Although they did lower some prices on retail games that went digital download and do have a sales section for old software it's really about the same. I sure didn't expect that.

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