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Nintendo, Microsoft Take Different Digital Paths

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On Friday, Nintendo announced that it would start offering its in-house games as digital downloads starting with the upcoming 3DS title New Super Mario Bros. 2; in fact, Nintendo indicated that all titles it produces thereafter for both the 3DS and the Wii U will be available as a download from its online store the same day that they're available in retail outlets. Gamers will also be able to purchase codes from retailers that will allow them to download titles directly from Nintendo's eShop. This may be an olive-branch to electronics outlets that stand to lose revenue from Nintendo's move: Retailers could offer deals or bundles to buyers for going to a physical outlet to purchase a game as an incentive not to buy directly from Nintendo.

Console-based direct download services serving up AAA titles have been in the works for some time, as we have discussed on this site previously, but console makers have been slow to adopt the scheme. The scuttlebutt (some of it, anyway) is they don't want to risk the ire of physical retailers, who sell their games, consoles and accessories, and from whom much of their revenue currently comes (though some retailers are themselves beginning to jump on the digital distribution bandwagon). Regardless, cutting out the retailers could ultimately mean more profits for developers, and since Nintendo in particular makes so many games in-house, it stands to gain a great deal from an on-line purchasing system.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has pledged not to make its games available by digital means - at least, not until some time after they're released in stores, as they do with their current Games On Demand service. While it may seem odd that Microsoft would be more reluctant than Nintendo to embrace a digital future in any way, shape, or form, consider that Windows - as well as many other Microsoft products - is still sold (or pre-installed on virtually every computer sold) at the same retailers whose profit margins might be affected by Xbox games being made available online from day one.

One way or the other, the internet's inexorable decimation of physical media continues apace.

2 Comments

Keith said:

Aren't all videogames digital? Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it "download distribution" or "network distribution," rather than "digital." That's too broad, and doesn't really describe what you are referring to here.

seraph said:

It's called "digital distribution" because there aren't any analog components to its delivery. What part of pressing a plastic disc, printing a box, shipping it to stores, and stocking it on a shelf has gone completely digital?

There's a lot to say about digital distribution, but trying to change how the industry already refers to this new aspect is just muddying the issue for no reason.

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seraph on Nintendo, Microsoft Take Different Digital Paths: It's called "digital distribution" because there aren't any analog components to its delivery. What part of pressing a plastic disc,...

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