News Article

Nintendo's Point of Sale Cards Helping to Drive Downloads in Japan

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

"It’s safe to say that it’s a risk-free system for the retailers"

New Super Mario Bros. 2 may not be regarded in the future as an iconic, unforgettable 2D Mario game — though various members of the Nintendo Life team do think it's rather good — but it did represent one important piece of Nintendo's modern history. It was the first physical retail game available to download on the 3DS, kicking off Nintendo's policy of releasing almost all — some Wii U games have gone on and off the eShop — first-party retail games on its download stores. While it can be argued that Nintendo's still catching up in some areas of online distribution and infrastructure, it bears remembering that New Super Mario Bros. 2 was only released in August 2012; since then there have been a lot of releases, some interesting promotions and general progress forward.

It's unsurprising that Nintendo's download revolution is perhaps moving forward a little quicker in Japan, where it's pressed ahead with more widespread distribution of POS (point of sale) download cards; these do have a limited presence in the West, such as at GAME stores in the UK, but they're far from being prevalent on shelves. Famitsu has, meanwhile, published an article exploring the growth of download games in Japan (translated by Siliconera); industry analyst Eiji Maeda was clear on the benefits of the products.

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. It’s safe to say that it’s a risk-free system for the retailers.

...Nintendo’s business style of expanding downloadable purchases, will in the long-term, prove to be a merit for the developers.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a title that's performed particularly well as a download, and Famitsu's poll of over 7,000 Japanese gamers showed that around 20% now opt for downloads of retail games; that's a figure that seems consistent with Nintendo's reports on download percentages.

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%

Nintendo still has work to do to make download purchases more attractive, of course — a genuine network account system with purchases stored in the cloud and not hardware, for example. Pricing is also an area of contention, but it seems that downloading retail games continues to be an attractive option for plenty of gamers. We'd be surprised if greater visibility of POS download code cards isn't seen in the West in 2014.


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User Comments (27)



Knuckles said:

Some of these cards would be nice in the west, but I could always go to Gamestop to get a download code.



Warruz said:

Download only is the way to go with a 3DS just due to its portability. If you have more then one game at the same time going then its a instant +. It is a bit absurd that games from last year cost the same now as they do at release, but of course there is no competition so the only drive to reduce the cost is when sales trickle very low and the reduced price makes it relevant again.

At least that's my big issue, I'm willing to pay a little more for the QoL of having no card to worry about loosing, but I'm definitely not paying full price for something that's old.



kepsux said:

A big part of this is the fact that Japan is still very much a cash culture. People here have credit cards but it is not nearly as widespread as it is in other countries. Without these POS eshop cards very few people would use the downloadable service in Japan, I know I wouldn't.

Sidebar: The cards are sold everywhere, literally in every convienence store. It's really handy.



Gioku said:

I'd buy some of these game-specific cards if they had them in the U.S. I bought one of the generic $35 cards when I downloaded AC:NL... so they're not absolutely necessary.



TruenoGT said:

I was hoping these would lead to some price competition for eShop downloads (i.e. competing with retail), but that hasn't happened yet. I wish the cards were more widely available to encourage this. eShop pricing promotions have become much more frequent than previously, but the disparity between eShop and retail pricing, particularly for 3rd party Wii U games, is staggering.



Artwark said:

I always buy physical copies of the game instead of digital because it takes long time to download and besides, I just wanna put the game in and start....unless its digital games that are only at digital.



Cinaclov said:

I only download games that I know I'll always want to keep (although that's not so much of an issue now compared to when I was younger with no source of income) and have available to me all the time. As such Animal Crossing is the only full retail title I've downloaded, but that was bought using GAMEs download card system. The £40 Nintendo charges is pretty ridiculous, but the £34 or whatever it was I was able to pay is more manageable. I'd like to see more download cards rolled out over here.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

Well, good for those who prefer digital over physical. And I could see this becoming a major part of gaming distribution - but there's nothing in this world that could possibly convince into downloading retail titles.

What Nintendo really needs to improve on (as others above me already mentioned) is the unrealistic pricing for retail download games. They might convince people to buy from the eShop as it is, but on the long road it's a bad approach. Releasing full games for 40€ at first and reducing them after a year to 30€ would work out well on many ends: eager players will get it as soon as possible, doubters can still be convinced after the price drop.



vonseux said:

no way I'll pay the same (very often more) for a download when I can have the box with Art, Collection and Resale value. I can see some positives values on download, but charging the same is absurd, since there's no logistic or retailer cost.



unrandomsam said:

I am not willing to pay a cut to an unnecessary middleman. If the normal eshop prices were set to the average selling price for physical then I would probably get loads of retail downloads.



shigulicious said:

I feel digital downloads should be 10-20% cheaper than the physical copies. Until that happens, no thanks, for the reasons @vonsuex stated.



IronMan28 said:

I'm still convinced SM3DW sold more at launch than what is being report, since it's the first 3D Mario that is available digitally day one. Tracking physical sales matters for now, but not as much as two or three years ago.



cfgk24 said:

Monster Hunter4 and ACNL have sold 3,000,000 physical copies each in Japan 20% of that is 600,000 - add those together is 1.2 Million Downloads with extra profit for Nintendo to develop new games for us! yay!



Stu13 said:

If a game is the same price at retail as in the eShop, I'm buying the physical game. Straight up. But I have no problem with downloading large, retail-available games for the right price. I snagged 'RE: The Mercenaries' when they marked it down in the eShop for halloween. Took almost 2 hours to download, but impossible to pass up at 50% off.



sleepinglion said:

I'd sure like to see more sales, though. ANY sales on digital versions of physical games would be a plus. I love digital copies but when Amazon is selling Zombie U for 20 dollars new and the eShop still lists it at 60 bucks, I go physical. Not to mention the buy 2 get 1 free deals at Target and Toys R Us.



Solid_Stannis said:

Yep, and since Nintendo getting wise to the ways of digital sales was probably the only reason we ever got AA: Dual Destinies in the first place... let's just say I had a lot to be thankful for this year.



ted-k said:

For me download is the way to go on the 3DS since you can have all your games with you all the time without ever having to be switching cards. and there have been some nice sales, there was the 30$ credit for buying Fire Emblem Awakening and Shin Megami Tensei 4, and Capcom has given some great deals with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and RE Revelations at half price. Hopefully we'll see more sales like that. Also, I currently live in Latin America and the prices on games in stores are absurdly high so it's actually a lot cheaper for me to download them off the eshop even at full North American retail prices.



DarkSplatoonLink said:

These things are really good because you can just get them at your local Family Mart (like a Japanese 7-11) and other places that don't normally sell games. When I was in Japan I bought one of those eShop AR Cards and a convenience store, but they also had loads of download cards for MH4 and ACNL!



123akis said:

YH! download codes do have a very limited presence in the UK only in GAME stores. But it doesn't bother me as theres a GAME store 10-15 minutes car drive for me however, there's only download codes for first party games, would be great to get download codes for many other eShop games

Nintendo eShop cards are now very widespread in the UK. for me, I can easily get them in GAME, Currys PC world, WH smith, toys r us and supermarkets like sainsburys/morrisons



Genesaur said:

It really depends. For full-fledged stuff like Monster Hunter or Resident Evil, then a physical copy is my preference. Other games like Animal Crossing and Mario Kart are better for quick gaming when there isn't time for much else. For those kinds of games, it makes sense to have it installed on the system.



ToastyYogurt said:

I think the best advantage to these cards is to gift a specific game as a download. I want Animal Crossing New Leaf for Christmas, but I want it as a download so I can play it parallel to anything I might get cartridge wise (i.e. Play Animal Crossing for an hour, then quickly switch to Zelda). I believe Gamestop sells games in this option here in the states.



bronZfonZ said:

The day digital download prices become drastically lower than retail prices is the day retail stores say "screw this" and not sell any of your hardware either. That's a great way to sell consoles!

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