The most recent download update in North America - at the time of writing - is actually a rather good one. Not all weeks can be counted as such, but this week has some key retail titles and promising download-only games. There's plenty of variety in genres and prices, along with a few demos, so some will surely be eyeing up a few of the new offerings.
One such new arrival is Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water - Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water in Europe - which arrives in NA for some early build-up to Halloween. It has a rather neat approach in that it offers the Prologue and first two chapters as free downloads, at which point players can buy the full game for what is effectively a retail price; it's $49.99 in the US, $10 below the standard $59.99 price given to major first party titles. That's a decent chunk of change but, to be fair, it is a retail game.
Though it sort of isn't a 'retail game' in North America, and just scrapes into the category in Europe courtesy of a special edition with limited availability. Though a full retail game in Japan when originally released, Nintendo's opted to make it an eShop title in the West, saving costs on printing and distribution for what is - to be fair - a fairly niche IP outside of Japan. In early August we wrote about this a fair bit, characterising it as showing Nintendo's shifting approach to retail. When it comes to 'smaller' or lesser known titles traditionally considered as retail games, there's an increasing possibility that they'll become - in reality - expensive download-only releases.
Nintendo is not the first to do this, of course, with high-profile examples coming from Capcom on 3DS with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies and Ace Attorney Trilogy, both retail games in Japan but downloads in the West. There are other examples too, and it's easy to argue that it's better to have the game in some form rather than not at all - nevertheless with both of those titles we've seen readers state that they'll refuse to buy them as downloads.
In the case of Fatal Frame it doesn't help that the Wii U comes with modest built-in storage - Maiden of Black Water can hog nearly half of the available space (remember you don't actually get to use the full 32GB) in a Deluxe model, while Basic systems don't have enough room and don't go far at all without an external hard drive. Beyond that there can still be mistrust of downloading games, partly due to the fact you're effectively buying a licence rather than a disc that is definitively yours and can, of course, be therefore shared with others or sold. Downloads are more limiting in that respect - though perhaps more convenient - and not all want to spend retail prices for them.
In some cases, such as for this writer, the divide between downloading and buying boxed retail games can depend on the game. Perhaps something like Super Mario Maker - with its extras in the box - feel better as a physical purchase, while a new IP like Splatoon is fine as a download. Ultimately individuals will have their own preferences.
With Fatal Frame, of course, there's little or no choice in the matter. So if it is a potential indication of a future with more download-only 'retail' games, we want to know what you think. There are a few polls below to gauge your opinions, and naturally you're also welcome to debate it all in the comments.
So, where do you stand?