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Nintendo seeing digital shift

Fils-Aime says Super Smash Bros. 3DS sales have been 20% downloadable, Bayonetta 2 closer to 10%

Digital distribution is becoming increasingly popular throughout the console gaming industry, and Nintendo is no exception to the trend. In an interview with Re/code, Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime said the company is seeing its ratio of digital-to-physical sales shifting, but the scope of the change varies on a case-by-case basis.

"Retail still is the majority of the business for us," Fils-Aime said. "But what's interesting is, game by game and at different points in time, you see a different consumer reaction. Smash Bros. for 3DS, consumers wanted that game immediately. They didn't even want to spend the time to get in their car and drive to retail to get it, so our digital percent for that game is quite high - about 20 percent of the games sold here in the US were digital, which is a pretty significant piece. Compare that to Bayonetta 2. That's a huge game, and could take up a large part of the memory in the 32GB Wii U. That's a game with a digital percent on the lower side, today about 10 percent or so. Our mentality is, we want the consumer to have the choice based on what makes sense for you, what makes sense for the type of game it is."

Those sentiments are similar to ones made by Activision executives this week in a post-earnings conference call. The publisher's Destiny and Diablo game saw download percentages in the high teens. However, executives noted that early adopters of new consoles have been much more willing to embrace downloadable games than their past-gen counterparts, so the platform still plays a role in a game's digital-physical revenue mix.

Destiny didn't appear on the Wii U, and for the first time since the system's launch, Activision's Call of Duty franchise also took a pass on the system. When asked how Nintendo plans to court more third-party developers, Fils-Aime reiterated points the company has previously put forward, but emphasized the importance of the online experience.

"In the end, what third-party companies want is a large install base to sell their games into [and] a wide demographic footprint that they can target their games to," Fils-Aime said. "They also want a robust connected environment so that they themselves can explore downloadable content or digital sales. [For] the Wii U business, year-to-date versus last year, our install base is almost doubled. We're building that footprint for developers, with a range of games from Bayonetta 2 to Mario Kart. In the North American territory, just about every Wii U is connected to the Internet."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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