Nintendo: Our digital sales are soaring

Reggie Fils-Aime tells us that Fire Emblem alone sold around 80,000 units digitally; also, the pace of Wii U releases will increase "dramatically"

Last August, Nintendo began to more fully embrace digital distribution as a way to get games in people's hands - a notable shift for a company that had previously stayed an arm's distance from the online world.

The experiment is paying off. Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, says digital downloads are fast becoming a notable contributor to the company's bottom line - and he expects the trend to continue its rapid rise.

"We have 15 Nintendo-published titles available, both physically and digitally [on the 3DS]," he says. "So far in 2013, of those 15 available in this format, 11 percent of sales have come through full digital downloads of those games."

The numbers get more impressive with some individual titles. Fils-Aime says Fire Emblem Awakening has sold 240,000 units life-to-date in the US - with one-third of those in digital form.

Fils-Aime was in the mood to talk more about the 3DS than the Wii U, given the company's plans to announce new entries in the Legend of Zelda, Yoshi's Island and Mario Party franchises at today's Nintendo Direct broadcast. And given that system's success compared to its console cousin, that's understandable.

"So far in 2013 - through April 15 - 3DS game sales are up 55 percent versus last year, counting both physical and digital"

While the Wii U has yet to gain significant traction in the market, the 3DS has become something of a surprise success story. In the first two years on the market, it sold 8 million units in the US - 1 million more than its predecessor. And game sales have kept pace.

"When the NPD numbers come out later this week, you're going to see life-to-date 3DS game sales surpass 20 million units in the US," says Fils-Aime. "And that's just physical. It doesn't include digital sales. ... So far in 2013 - through April 15 - 3DS game sales are up 55 percent versus last year, counting both physical and digital."


Fire Emblem Awakening - a digital success story for Nintendo

67 percent of all Nintendo 3DS owners have connected their 3DS to the Internet so far. And most of those have found something of interest in the eShop.

"Through that connected experience, consumers have downloaded more than 41 million items from the eShop - everything from full games to applications like Nintendo video, DLC, demos, free items, and more," says Fils-Aime.

The 3DS was criticized initially for a slow ramp of games, something Nintendo has tried to counter with releases like Luigi's Mansion (which Fils-Aime says has sold 415,000 units so far) and today's Nintendo Direct announcements. Over the next nine months, he says, "the pace is going to be dramatically ramped up."

That's also going to be true of the Wii U, he says - but it appears the company is keeping that powder dry for E3.

"What I would say about Wii U - and what Mr. Iwata has said - is that the pace of launches has been slower than we hoped. But as we prepare for E3, the pace of launches for Wii U is going to dramatically increase."

One area you shouldn't expect the company to focus on, however, is non-gaming entertainment. While competitors like Microsoft see the console as a gateway into the living room that works in conjunction with the cable box, Fils-Aime and Nintendo would prefer to stay focused on games - and they believe the same is true of Nintendo's customer base.

"The pace of [Wii U] launches has been slower than we hoped. But as we prepare for E3, the pace of launches for Wii U is going to dramatically increase"

"We believe consumers buy our systems first as a gaming system, then enjoy the other entertainment options, so that's why we're putting such a big emphasis on the gaming software," he says.

Of course, another part of that software emphasis is the coming competition this holiday period. The Wii U will be fighting Sony's PlayStation 4 (and, almost certainly, Microsoft's new Xbox) for customer dollars. Nintendo's hoping the big guns in its new software lineup outshine the launch titles of the other systems.

To win the battle, though, it helps to be in as many retail storefronts as possible - and Nintendo is absent in one of the biggest: Amazon. While the retailer sells Nintendo hardware through some of its retail partners, it has not carried the products itself for a long time.

Fils-Aime declined to say precisely why the two companies seemingly aren't able to work together on hardware sales, noting that it was ultimately Amazon's decision.

"We have programs we make available to all retailers," he says. "So then in the end, it becomes a decision by the retailer how they want to participate. Right now, Amazon is focused on selling software, but has decided not to sell hardware."

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Latest comments (18)

Mazeltof Conceptual Imagineer 9 years ago
But Reggie, why is the digital version more expensive than the boxed copy?
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 9 years ago
But Reggie/EA/Ubisoft/Valve/Sega/Eidos/Sony/Microsoft, why is the digital version more expensive than the boxed copy?
Fixed that for you. And the answer is because, as Microsoft so candidly put it recently, publishers don't want to upset the physical retail sector. Until that, I want to say "subservience", to the physical market ends, digital will continually be more expensive than boxed, generally speaking.
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Randy Marr Customer Service Representative, Blizzard Entertainment9 years ago
Digital versions of the games cost exactly the same as the physical versions, as is the case for every digital downloadable game.
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Show all comments (18)
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 9 years ago
@ Randy

Are you talking about Nintendo games in particular, or digital games generally? I assume Nintendo games in particular, because it's blatantly obvious that digital versions of other publisher's games (be it Blizzard, Eidos, EA, etc) cost more than their physical counterparts. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 17th April 2013 8:00pm

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Cesar Hoffmann Translator 9 years ago
Great job, Nintendo!! I'm glad you are heading to the online world! Welcome to the internet! :)
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 9 years ago
Um...not exactly breaking news.
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Stephan Schwabe Multichannelmanagement, Telefonica9 years ago
Thats the question, on the WII U shop most games are 69,99€. If you look at retailers like Amazon / Gamestop you get the same game for around 10 - 20€ less. Same for 3DS Games Luigi Mansion 44,90 € in the e-shop 39 € @ retailers.. Not to mention the download speed on Wii U eShop is very slow. Monsterhunt 3 Ultimate with 9GB took more then 4 h to download and install. If i download a game like this on steam it is finishd in 1h and i can play it.

I like the shop but for me the benifit and service dose not fit the price i have to pay.

"I mean new games."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Stephan Schwabe on 18th April 2013 2:08pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
Stephan, do you mean New or Used?

Also seems to be a European issue. I'm not seeing a gap in price between Amazon and the eShop in the US.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers9 years ago
Morville is railing against isolating 3DS digital prices compared to the physical ones, but I think part of the reason it comes up more with the 3DS is the portable factor. Many people think the price of 3DS games are too high anyway, same with the PS Vita, so it enhances the resentment when the digital copy is the same cost. The games are cheaper than console releases, but they're much more expensive than digital offerings for smartphones or tablets. Before anyone jumps down my throat: I'm not say this is fair (because its mostly not), I'm saying it is what it is.
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University9 years ago
@ Jim

Speaking from a UK perspective, games available at both digital and retail are usually £5 to £10 more expensive digitally than they are at retail, while as you note, US prices are generally equivalent across both formats.
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up9 years ago
"soaring - ascending to a level markedly higher than the usual"

Assuming "usual` wasn't rock bottom then I would assume its good news.
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Private Industry 9 years ago
The EU price is easy to explain. In Germany, France and other countries games cost 70 bucks at retail and its fairly easy to get into other stores in EU to buy items there. In this case people would just connect to other country stores and buy cheap.
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Stephan Schwabe Multichannelmanagement, Telefonica9 years ago
Is true that german custumers can import games from other countrys like all other ppl in teh world.
On germans amazon moste games are 10€ cheaper them in nintendo eshop . For exampel Paper Mario 37,99€ on Amazon and 44,99€ on eShop. The same is for Blizzard, Diablo 3 59,99€ digital on Blizzard store on amazon 44,48€. For the most part consumers in germany or western europe in general feel like casch cows when it comes to digital sales. Ther is a lot to do for companys

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Stephan Schwabe on 19th April 2013 8:04am

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Ryan Leonski Indie Dev 9 years ago
I'm hoping because of this Nintendo will open up a bit more to indies. I really want to develop for a Nintendo console.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
Ryan, recent stories indicate that Nintendo is now the most indie developer friendly of the 3.
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games9 years ago
Ryan they have openned up, but you still need to comply with certain things. And of course you still need a DevKit. I wish, Nintendo one day would open their commercial devices for developers via software, like phones and tablets do. That would really help a lot for small indie studios, with next to 0 budget. But until Nintendo reaches the realization, that it is these studios that push up the software volume and often produce admirable success stories there will be as many years delay as it took them to realize that online is a good option! :) To them, indies probably still equal to the homebrew scene :)

"the 3DS has become something of a surprise success story." i smile every time i read that. It is a surprise only for those who were influenced by the negativity of the media. In particular this is the third surprise in a row! or fourth, DS, then Wii then DSi XL and now 3DS. To me, it was kind of obvious 3DS would be a success. It has everything DS had only better and more.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
Yiannis, Nintendo just gave a presentation at the Full Indie Summit over the weekend. Here are a few key points

- no concept approval process for eShop
- no mandate to use motion controls or GamePad features
- Nintendo doesn't require platform exclusivity
- interested devs can visit a special Wii U developers page and fill out a small questionnaire to work towards acquiring a license
- Nintendo will provide the Unity Pro 4 engine at no additional cost
- you need business entity status, which costs less than $200 in the US
- no hidden fees for devs on the eShop

Other details I am familiar with are no minimum sales threshold; no patch, update, DLC fees and they don't require a business address any longer.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development9 years ago
Yiannis, technically speaking you could compile your games and just hope they run the same on the real device as your PC builds, but that would be a disaster waiting to happen.

As far as I'm concerned the environment is good. Surely if you can't afford a measly little devkit you are just a hobbyist. Hell, I've probably spent more than a devkit on my music hobby, and if there is a team of you who can't put together enough moola for just one then you really need to sit down and think about what it is you are really attempting to achieve here.

Now I say this as harshly as I can because I think we can sometimes get too wrapped up in trying to solve the problem in the most self-destructive way possible.

Is it that you don't want to make any financial investment? then you lack confidence in your ability to create anything of value to justify making the effort in the first place. At that stage you should do nothing but make games for the platforms that will cost you nothing to develop for (like the PC or browser games).

The barrier of entry is incredibly low for digitally distributed games. I just think people are jumping on the "Nintendo aren't for indies" bandwagon.


Seriously, people need to get this 0 budget idea out of their head. Why should the Universe give you money back for no investment at all? You know the value of having your game on a Nintendo device. In fact I would just ask you, what do you think their platform is worth? Because if you calculate that it could make you $1M in 3 years and you're crying over a few $k for a devkit you really need to put things into perspective. And if you don't think their platform can offer any value then why not focus on the PC, it did well for Mojang and Zynga.

Just think about it for a while.
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