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Nintendo: Consumers "voting with their dollars in favor of digital content in a big, big way"

Company talks about continued shift to digital, the growth of eShop and its support for indies

While Steam, smartphones, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network may steal the spotlight when it comes to digital gaming, Nintendo's been quietly building up its own digital effort with the eShop for Wii U and 3DS. Increasingly larger percentages of total game sales are coming digitally for Nintendo and there are no signs of that slowing down.

"I'll say that we've seen a fundamental difference over the last couple years in our consumers' interaction with the eShop. The eShop is now one of Nintendo's top retailers. We sell as much software as some of the major chain stores through the eShop," David Wharton, director of marketing and analytics for Nintendo's network business department, told Gamasutra.

"Our consumers expect to be able to buy digital content on our platforms and are voting with their dollars in favor of digital content in a big, big way. It's been a dramatic shift over the last couple of years, and I don't see it changing anytime soon. There are certainly examples of individual titles that have done really well. But as a category, the audience is there and they're willing to spend money. The eShop has just grown a tremendous amount."

It was revealed recently that Smash Bros. saw 20 percent of its sales digitally, but Wharton noted it's been even higher than that for a couple other titles (without naming which titles). It's definitely a growing business for Nintendo. "Our unit sales and revenue from 2013 to 2014 was about 200 percent growth. So, I'm not going to get into specific figures per se, but we expect that kind of growth to keep going in 2015," Wharton added.

Nintendo has made it clear that it places a high value on unique content from indies, and the company reiterated that it's doing what it can to cater to developers on eShop.

"We try and create a whole bunch of promotional opportunities that independents can participate in. Where rather than promoting a single title, we're making them be part of something larger," noted Wharton. "Because one of the things we've found is that when we have a bigger story to tell, consumers respond to that.

"Whether it's an indie sale or whether it's something around a particular theme, or a particular event like PAX or E3, if we can tell a bigger story, we can create these promotional events that they can participate in. When they can take advantage of the fact that we have a whole bunch of people all coming to the platform at the same time."

While Nintendo doesn't have a pub fund system for developers, Damon Baker, senior manager of marketing in the licensing department, remarked that the company will assist with marketing and promotion where possible. "A lot of independent developers are amazing coders, and amazing at bringing experiences to life, but they may not be as familiar with how to market their game, or how to promote it, or how to take that to the next level. So we put in a lot of resources there to kind of hold their hands and show them examples of how they can make the most of it, and they can then use those tools for all of their future releases as well, regardless of platform," he said.

Baker added that with Unity being so popular among indies now, he'd love to see even more devs bring their titles to Nintendo platforms - Unity makes it easy. "We want those developers to make the most of every opportunity that they have. If it's really easy for them to bring that content over, because it's been developed in Unity, then we encourage them to do so. If you're making a game in Unity, there's no reason it shouldn't be on Wii U," he said.

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Latest comments (7)

Michael Revis Freelance Writer 5 years ago
I've really noticed that Nintendo's been pushing digital content hardcore. Almost every title that comes out lately has both a physical and a digital version, they've been announcing DLC like crazy for their games, and the eshop actually has a use now. It's a stark contrast to what Nintendo was doing last year.
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Christopher Ashton Carlos Software Programmer 5 years ago
I've been purchasing my games on 3DS mostly all digital now. I bought a 32 GB SD Card, and it is almost filled up now, I'll need to get a bigger card. I haven't bought many titles on Wii U Digitally. I buy more digitally on my PlayStation 4 than my Wii U, and that has to do with all my content being connected to the system itself and not the actual account. I really hope this fixes, because I know if I were to lose my 3DS or it was destroyed or something bad does happen to it, my digital library pretty much goes with it. So I really hope Nintendo will fix this issue really soon, if at all...
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
Christopher, contact Nintendo if something goes wrong. Your eShop titles are connected to your Nintendo Network ID and they will allow you to re-download everything. Though I agree that they do need a consumer end solution in place.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 5 years ago
"as stores are less and less willing to stock our products in quantity, and as our shrinking marketing budget and crap sales outside of core titles don't justify purchasing end caps and other good placement for our displays and demo stations (which is why all the Best Buys around here have them off in lonely corners, and ehy there's essentially zero presence in thei Black Friday ads), we'd like our consumers to move to the place where we not only keep all the money, but we don't have to pay for display"

That's the reality. Retailers are reducing media shelf space, and if you want the good slots, you have to make it worth their while. Of course they'll promote Mario Kart, Zelda, the core titles that move. But the rest will not be carried in stores, not be carried in quantity, not stocked on release day, and therefore Nintendo wants to move to digital. Unfortunately, the patterns they're seeing are coming from technophiles who make up a large portion of WiiU, and even 3DS owners

Nintendo does have one thing that Sony and Microsoft do not:download stations in-store. This will certainly offer an advantage on a digital strategy, and it's something the others need to offer in an era of 50GB games with 20gb patches. I'm not joking that on my DSL that's 4 days of downloading without doing much else. The ability to get a 64Gb sub stick combined with a fast copy machine, and the ability to exchange for preloaded sticks makes digital more practical, and that's one area where Nintendo has a lead, however slight.
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Andre Kling David 3D Artist, Social Point SL5 years ago
I really dont get the need to see everything as a competition, so what that Nintendo is the 3rd one? or that they sell only to technophilies, as long as the market is big enoth to keep the boat a float and make some cash, whats the problem? I wish the media would try to predict the big N doom day, its trying to do it for soooo long now and in the end they always surprise us.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 5 years ago
Andre, about fifteen years if they stick to the current path. They will be forced to merge of become another Sega eitha a more lucrative licensing income
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Shane Sweeney Academic 5 years ago
That's what they said 15 years ago.
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