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Iwata: Digital distribution still "significant" way off

Expanding lifespan is more important focus than replacing packaged goods, says Nintendo president

It will still be a significant amount of time before digital distribution replaces traditional retail, and developers should be concentrating on using the internet to expand a product's lifespan rather than change the way it is delivered, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has said.

Speaking during an investor briefing, Iwata expressed his view it could take 20 years for game delivery to switch primarily to digital.

"There is a variety of views about how much [digital distribution] will replace retailers and package software. Most radical people even dare say that retailers will be replaced by digital distribution in no time. But personally I think it will still require a significant amount of time," he said.

"In other words, it will require many years and months for the majority of videogame purchases to become digital. In short, in 20 years or so I might say it will have probably changed.

"But in five years or so I do not totally agree with opinions that no one will purchase titles at retailers by then. Habits of life do not change such radically and quickly. Especially for the expanded audience of various people to whom we are and will be trying to appeal, I believe their habits will change more slowly."

Instead of focusing on the switch to digital delivery, Iwata believes the internet should instead be used to expand a game's lifespan by delivering additional features and services to players.

"As a result [users] will play a single software for a longer time without feeling bored and will not sell it to the used-game shops, which will then contribute to more software sales. I believe such a utilisation of the internet connection is one of the major directions we should aim for and we will continue to try and raise the connection ratio."

The numbers of connected users of Wii and DS currently stand at around 35 per cent on Wii and 20 per cent on DS, said Iwata. He added that Nintendo Zone partnerships such as the one it has with McDonalds, which aims to lower the hurdle for connecting, had proved successful, but not yet elevated the numbers of users connecting with DS to the 30 per cent mark.

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