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Nintendo's full game downloads off to a promising start
Nintendo's full game downloads off to a promising start
October 25, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Nintendo is new to selling downloadable versions of its retail games online, but it's already managed to convince a considerable portion of 3DS owners to purchase them through the eShop.

Depending on the title, downloadable releases make up between more than 3 percent to over 10 percent of total sales for first-party 3DS titles globally (other console makers have not shared data for their digital sales, though Sony has told Gamasutra that downloads make up a significant percentage of total sales for PS Vita games).

And in Japan, downloads for one unnamed first-party 3DS game made up 15 percent of total sales. Nintendo releases these digital games simultaneously with their physical counterparts, and sells them at full price (typically $40 in the U.S.) on the eShop, but retailers are free to discount download code cards for individual 3DS games.

Nintendo pointed out in an investors meeting that it managed to reach these percentages without any mass media advertisements for the download copies. It intends to start highlighting the downloadable versions of games in ads soon, starting with Japanese commercials for Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

The company shared several other insights on its downloadable games, noting that for New Super Mario Bros. 2, U.S. consumers were most likely to buy the digital versions, followed by Japanese 3DS owners. Nintendo described its percentages in Europe and Australia as relatively small.

And download ratios for games intended to be played for a short time every day, such as Brain Age and Art Academy, were higher than other titles. The company previously attributed this to players preferring to have a version they can load any time without needing to carry a cartridge.

While it waited much longer than its competitors to start selling full game downloads, Nintendo has been aggressive in making them a major part of its digital strategy recently -- it started offering digital versions of third-party games, added older first-party titles to the eShop, and promised to make full game downloads immediately available for Wii U when the console launches next month.

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