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Nintendo trials packaged version of Splatoon 2 featuring no game card

There will be three versions of Splatoon 2 in Japan

Nintendo will attempt a new method of making digital games work at physical retail.

The firm, as spotted by Kotaku, will release three versions of Splatoon 2 in Japan at physical retail. There will be the traditional boxed version with a game card, there will be a digital card solution (both are widely used worldwide) and now the firm will release a physical box with a code inside. All three versions will have the same price.

The thinking of the new method is to satisfy consumers that like a physical copy, but also prefer the convenience of having everything stored on one device.

Physical retail is important to platform holders, as these outlets are where consumers buy the hardware. They also have a mainstream presence on High Streets and can reach a more casual gaming audience, where digital and online marketplaces might struggle.

The late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata talked at length about the possible strengths of POSA (point-of-sale activation) cards in 2013 as a means to solve excess inventory if a game fails to hit its sales target. It also means less risk for retailers, so that they can - in theory - stock more product.

"A fairly large volume of Animal Crossing: New Leaf for Nintendo 3DS was sold in the form of a POSA card, which is activated only when it goes through [cash] registers at retailers, and therefore the retailers do not have to shoulder the physical inventory risk," he told investors.

Indeed, the business model in digital means that publishers do not receive any money from its games until a consumer buys it, whereas the business model for physical retail (usually) sees the publisher get paid by the retailer in the first instance. They theory is that by removing the up-front cost, retailers will have more confidence in gambling on new IP and unknown developers.

However, typically POSA card are lower margin products - making them less appealing to retailers - and consumers tend to gravitate to the larger boxed products. Nintendo will be hoping that a cart-free boxed version can find a middle ground that will make digital-at-retail options more appealing to consumers.

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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