Nintendo will adopt a simultaneous digital and retail release policy for its own Wii U games when the console launches later this year, the company's investor briefing reveals.
The news comes from president Satoru Iwata's briefing to investors following the release yesterday of Nintendo's annual results. As expected, the company posted a loss for the first time in its 30 years in the videogame business. Iwata, naturally, focused on the ways in which Nintendo intends to return to profitability, and it appears he is following through in his previous pledge to grow digital revenue.
Nintendo-published 3DS games will also be available in retail and digital formats from August, with the recently announced New Super Mario Bros 2 leading the charge - though the briefing makes no mention of whether 3DS digital versions will be available on day one.
Digital versions will be available from the Nintendo eShop, but also from retailers via codes - a move the report partly puts down to the increasingly short shelf lives of boxed releases and retail's resultant cautious attitude to re-ordering stock of ageing games.
Nintendo won't set recommended retail prices for codes, allowing traders to set their own, but it's unlikely that many retailers will choose to significantly undercut boxed prices with little incentive to do so.
"To adapt to the changes in circumstances surrounding the video game industry, Nintendo is intending to deploy its digital business significantly," Iwata said. "We would like to prove that our challenges in the digital business will result in an expanded business sustainable for the long term."
As has been the case with all eShop purchases, downloaded software will be locked to the 3DS - unlike purchases made in XBLA and PSN which are tied to the account, not hardware - which could cause problems if you lose your device, or want to upgrade to the seeminfgy inevitable 3DS Lite, further down the line.
Nintendo, a company that has been famously slow to embrace online, is clearly working hard to revise its position. But the company's strategy is markedly different to Microsoft's, recently told MCV that it believes retail should remain the focus on day one, with digital sales following on a few months later.
"We don't do Games on Demand on day one, we focus on boxed retail for day one," Xbox Live UK product manager Pav Bhardwaj said. "That's where our focus has always been and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
"We release a game roughly six months after it arrives at retail at full ERP. That's our model and we'll be sticking to that. It's a successful model, so why change something you don't need to?"
Sony, however, currently makes digital versions of Vita games available at retail launch, and EA's experimental day-and-date digital and retail release of the PlayStation 3 version of Mass Effect 2 - Sony's first test of such a strategy - proved a huge success.
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