Nintendo has long made it clear that it believed that downloadable games were something they did not think played into their strengths. In fact, they have continued to prove this belief by focusing on cartridges for the DS and discs for the Wii. They have certainly been left behind by the other two companies, with Microsoft offering many of its titles via download shortly after release, plus their download-only games available in the Xbox Live Marketplace, and Sony offering the PS Vita, the first platform to offer day one digital downloads.
Nintendo has made the decision to change their policy, as described during their financial results briefing. Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, announced that, starting with New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS and later with titles on the WiiU, new titles will be available via both physical and digital distribution. There are positives and negatives to both options for everyone involved, of course. Developers, publishers and console manufacturers certainly like the idea of digital distribution. No packaging and no resale value means lower costs and higher sales, except for GameStop. Some gamers, however, prefer the physical media so they can share the game with their friends, or resell it to GameStop, Amazon, RadioShack and the like.
Will this help get Nintendo back to profitability or is this too little too late? Hit the break for our take.
Iwata said during the briefing,
The digitally downloaded software will be stored in the consumer's SD memory card and be playable only with the hardware to which it was downloaded so that, unlike how you can share the packaged software which are stored in game card format, the consumer cannot share the software with other Nintendo 3DS systems owned by other members of the family or friends. Also, vacant space in SD memory card is needed in order to store the digital download software. On the other hand, as consumers can purchase the software through the Internet, they do not have to visit the retail outlets, be concerned about an out-of-stock situation or even carry around multiple game cards in order to play digitally downloaded counterparts when they are away from home.
So, gamers will not have any ability to share the game with other consoles, even by switching SD cards. That isn't terribly surprising, considering you cannot share downloaded games through Xbox Live or the PSN, nor through services like Steam of Direct2Drive. What is most interesting is Iwata's sense of uniqueness for this concept, as if he believes they are the first to offer the service. This is either a lack of knowledge about the competition, or a strategy to confuse investors, most likely the former rather than the latter.
So, are you excited about being able to download games directly to your console (3DS or WiiU) or do you prefer to have the option to sell your games back when you are done? Let us know in the comments section.