Plenty of people will happily tell you that Nintendo doesn't understand digital, and that the Japanese giant is late to the party and has been outpaced by rivals Microsoft and Sony, who put their respective weights behind online content much earlier and more effectively.
Nintendo certainly has some things it needs to work on in this area — a single user account system being the top of our personal list — but few would argue that the firm isn't making massive strides in the digital arena. It's pushing both the Wii U and 3DS eShop and courting plenty of indie developers to fill them with games.
Speaking to IGN, Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime gave a confident assessment of where he thinks his company is right now regarding the world of digital downloads:
From a Nintendo perspective, we needed to have the right infrastructure. We needed to have the right approach from a digital standpoint. And we needed to have the capabilities to execute it right. I would say that, beginning with the 3DS, and certainly to a whole new level with the Wii U, we’re getting digital right. The consumer is voting with their wallets. A game like Animal Crossing, where 30 percent of the sales are happening digitally, the consumer is recognizing the benefits that we have with digital content. Not only in dual distribution products – products sold both digitally and physically – but in the very strong library of digital games, whether it’s games from independent developers or content that we’re bringing back digitally. We’re creating a very strong business proposition on our digital space.
Just to put this in perspective, when we launched the Wii and when we launched the DSi, from a consumer’s perspective. I mean, sure, yes, you could watch Netflix on Wii. Yeah, there was access to some digital content. But you compare that now to all the reasons why you want to have your device connected, it’s like night and day. The first step in driving digital sales is getting the device connected. So as we sit here today, the percentage rates of connection are huge. And that just gives us the ability to message to the consumer, to merchandise, to motivate them to spend some time in the eShop, and as they do that, they see just the wealth of great content we have.
The other piece that we’re seeing is that there are certain packaged games that I would argue are a better experience having them digitally and on your device. Animal Crossing, right? I’m one of those consumers. I have it as a digital download. I actually have Pokemon Black in my slot. I’m revisiting that before Pokemon X and Y comes. So for me it’s just easy to get into that game, play a little bit, water my flowers, get my fossils, and then go back to another game. And so by recognizing these consumer behaviors, we’ve been able to dramatically grow our digital business.
Of course, you can't download content unless you have enough memory, and another topic discussed in the interview was system memory. The Wii U launched in 8 and 32GB SKUs, with the former now being effectively retired. However, many users are finding that even 32GB is limiting, especially after you've downloaded a couple of retail titles. Should Nintendo have included more memory, as its rivals intend to do with the Xbox One and PS4? Reggie thinks that approach is unfair on the consumer:
We believe it’s important to provide a value to the consumer. [Memory] gets cheaper, right? Minute by minute, day by day. And so why lock the consumer into some high price point just because it happens to have 120 gigs of memory? Our mentality is, let’s sell a system that has enough memory to get you going, and then if you love digital downloads and you want to keep downloading content, buy a separate external hard drive. The price of it today is a hell of a lot cheaper than it was six months ago. And that’s a value benefit that the consumer should enjoy. It’s a different mentality than our competitors, but I’ll tell you, ours is much more consumer-oriented given the reduction in ongoing price, of the cost of memory.
What are your thoughts on Reggie's comments? Do you think that Nintendo is doing enough in the digital arena right now, and are you happy with the Wii U memory situation? Post a comment to tell us your thoughts.