Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

Staff Blog | There's Still Love in Boxed Retail Nintendo Games

Namco Bandai announced a cheaper price for the download edition of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on the Wii U today, which might just lead the way for cheaper digital distribution for retail games.

As well as covering the Nintendo scene, I work in the retail industry and one of the key words that come up time after time in our meetings is "value" - what is offered to the consumer, you and me, and would we pay for it?

As we shift towards a truly digital age, where downloadable film, books and movies is the norm, where does it leave gaming?

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Digitally distributed gaming is hardly anything new, but for Nintendo fans being able to download the latest full New Super Mario Bros game in a matter of minutes sounds better than a triple chocolate cake dipped in warm custard. Should a downloadable copy of, say, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D be the same price, if not more, than the exact same game from a shop?

When initially discussing downloadable retail games, the president of all things Mario, Satoru Iwata noted how pricing is determined by "value" and that the same experience is offered from both ways of buying. Whether it's Mario Kart 7 downloading whilst you're having a nap or delivered by the Postman, distribution aside, it's the value should be identical.

But I still find there to be more value in the physical boxed copy of a game.

There's still something special about video game boxes in particular compared to DVDs or music CDs - it's like with books. I've tried to skim through long chunks of text on an eReader screen and it's just not the same as being able to hold, read and physically skim through. Whilst books are analogue in nature and games require a screen to play, having the plastic case and booklet evokes a similar feeling; there is a collector's value.

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That's where the additional value comes into play - a full colour booklet, the added experience of having a physical box, being able to share a game with friends and that unmistakable feeling of opening it all up for the first time.

The value comes with ownership and distribution.

The added and still relevant nature of boxed games should give it more value, a slightly more expensive price and therefore keep the download version at the "base" value, and cheaper.

On the flip side, Nintendo wouldn't want to undercut retailers by dropping the price below the recommended RRP, but I would like to see retailers taking initiative in pricing when it comes to eShop cards and being able to purchase credit towards a downloadable retail game.

As an idea, digital games could close in on the value of retail by potentially linking to an online "ownership" database - so in theory a player could lend a digital copy to a friend, but then would be unable to play until access is returned. Likewise if selling on digital copy, ownership could be transferred and payment made with digital credit towards a future purchase. Could this approach lure more players into the digital domain?

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I still can't imagine paying a full £39.99 for Super Mario 3D Land when the only added value is having the title installed and always available. Though I was ever so tempted, I must admit!

What happens if (or when) download pricing starts to fall in line with what retailers are offering, or even t dips below? Could more and more gamers opt for digital to save a few pennies?

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I agree on most counts. Nintendo are wrong. The value is not the same between the digital and physical versions. One is something, one is nothing. It's that simple. The retail market is good for the consumer in another way - competition. There is only one Nintendo eShop, but there are countless retailers on the high street and online selling the same physical product.

On PSN and XBL I'm always noticing digital versions of retail games being priced north of the physical versions! This is unacceptable. Sometimes slightly, sometimes significantly.  007 Legends is currently on PSN for £60. That's right - £60. I'm sure the standard price for the physical version is £40. Generally, you're paying about £10 more for the digital version of Game X on PSN/XBL. Not on at all.

Ultimately, the digital version should always be less. That was the whole idea behind digital-distribution when it dawned - it cost less for everyone involved. The only digital vendor I know who seem to get it right more often than not is Valve with their Steam service.

Digital versions can have their downsides, too. Stupidly, I bought Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition from PSN because there was a good deal on. What I didn't realise is that it's an 18GB file. Now, I have a measly 120GB HDD on my PS3 (which is probably more than what the majority of Wii U owners will kit their consoles out with). 18GB is a pretty big chunk out of that. On your other article, you sat Tekken Tag 2 is also pretty large. A few games like that and you'll have filled your little 32GB SD card.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

What's disappointing also is the increase of boxed games losing all their original packed-to-the-brim manuals in place of a leaflet saying all of the info and instructions can be found in the game menus. Where possible, I'll try to get the boxed versions over digital, but will almost always go for the cheapest options if it's quite a significant difference.

The pricing of digital console games is very worrying, though. I can't fathom their thought process behind it. Are they gearing us for an all-digital console future, where they will be able to charge whatever they want? Can they afford to price digital games so highly and risk poor sales? I don't get how they can be so out of touch with the online retail scene in particular, where games that can be bought from £10-£30 are being priced £40-£60 digitally. If it's not Zelda or Final Fantasy, I don't buy games for £40 or more any more (hell, I rarely go above £20 now), and if things carry on into the next generation where boxed games may die off further, and the likes of Sony and Nintendo charge £50+ for new games, well, I'll be gaming a hell of a lot less.

Granted, you get the odd great deal on the PS Store. I always make sure to check each weekly Store update, and always the sales. The cheapest boxed retail version of Ico & Shadow of the Colossus is £25, but £20 digitally, and I actually got it for £16 in the Store sales earlier this year. PSN games get amazing prices, too - SSF2HD about £5, Lara Guardian of Light for £5, Braid for £2, Pac-Man DX for £5, etc. But I just cannot understand the cheek of some of these prices for digital versions of boxed games now. So long as boxed games carry on, though, we should be okay in the UK... Although Nintendo games remain at extortionately high prices for years afterwards - something that continues with Wii, DS and 3DS and is likely to continue with Wii U.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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I have to dissagree with most of this. Games are digital data - the medium is nothing. Its a few pence and easy to make by anyone. 
In a few years we will all have 3D printers and this will be even more irrelivant - we can print those plastic boxs if we want.
For the next gen, and all the ones after the idea of shipping games around the world will seem crazy. As would the idea of not being able to get X/Y/Z due to stock - everything will be everywhere all the time.

DD is vastly better for the enivroment, human enegy consumption, as well as costing far less to make. Its irrational and very wastefull too cling onto our boxs for the sake of...I dunno...sentiment?

That  should, of course, mean that we get it cheaper too. Nintendo saves on production,distro, and retail costs - we should get at least half those savings. But comptition will bring the cost down like everything else - if Nin,Sony or Microsoft games are more pricy, more people will buy the other ones. You dont need retail for competetion.I suspect Nintendos current pricing is purely because they dont want to undercut retail. They want retail "on their side"....for now.

The only bad thing about digital is the laws arnt there to protect us yet - we need laws to ensure that if a company that sold us  a DD version of something goes belly up, we have the right to download from elsewhere for free. (ie, all torrents,isos ect ecome legal).
Thats the real danger atm. 

Please give our little random review show a try;
http://randomreviewshow.com/index.html
We have special effects and umm...stuff...

Btw, I tried to post a graph (http://www.theaveragegamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/GamesCostBreakdown_PieChart.jpg) but it kept crashing.

Basicly, removing the physical product gives the publisher between 25%-50% more money on each sale if its the same price.

Please give our little random review show a try;
http://randomreviewshow.com/index.html
We have special effects and umm...stuff...
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

DD is good in many ways and likely to be the future of gaming, but it's only good for people like me if prices can reach the prices of current boxed versions available at online stores now and in as quick a time, too. E.g. it took about 3 months for FFXIII-2 to reach £9-15 on online stores. If it was DD-only, you think it would drop below £30 after 3 months? Hell, most games probably won't drop below £30 for a year. That's what I am worried about in a digital-only console future. Otherwise, I am in agreement with Darkflame - good for environment, more chances of localised versions (even if they don't get translated, they could still be sold!), quick and easy access, less chance of consoles breaking down due to laser eye faults, faster load times, etc. We would likely all miss boxes, but such are the times. But again, it's only good for me if prices are as good in the future as they are for boxed ones now (based on the UK scene in particular).

I'll never deny DD isn't the way to go for many smaller developers, though. I recently watched the presentation and reveal for Abe HD, in which the devs of the game spoke about how, if it wasn't for digital distribution, they simply would not have been able to do this game. It was in no way possible to do a boxed version. By distributing Abe HD at a low cost and digitally, they will see almost all of that money back, rather than it going to the retailers, the publishers, the shipping, etc, etc. That in turn means the developers profit more and can invest in bigger and more projects. That is the future if we want to see smaller companies thrive and develop more games. More quality games.

But I am in total disagreement with big developers charging so much for digital versions of their games, whether it's the next Zelda or Mario, or FIFA or Call of Duty. It's just a disgrace.

( Edited 26.10.2012 19:24 by Azuardo )

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I think digital gaming can have its benefits, I know it came across strongly otherwise in this blog.

Despite a sort of sentimental attachment, I still think retail boxed games have their own value in:

- Resale
- Being able to share/exchange with friends
- Physical protection: if the console goes bust, there's still the ability to carry on playing on another system.
- Competitive pricing with retailers.

I know Nintendo want to keep the peace and not undercut retailers, but until digital pricing falls closer I don't think there's as much more value on it.

Granted yes it does have it's merits with a virtually infinite stock level, environmental aspects as Darkflame says and being able to release it easily as the clock strikes twelve or possible "pre-download" like Steam does.

But when I can just wait for the postman on launch day, save money and get a physical boxed copy? I'll opt for that.

With some games it may even take longer to download.

Once Nintendo allows retailers to sell download codes (not download credit) and has a decent way of reselling/sharing digital games, it would definitely sway me when there's a good deal to be had.

I'll gladly take the £15 odd saved by buying New Super 3D Land and put it towards another game. Heck, for the price of on 3DS download you could potentially buy 2 decent 3DS games easy.

I'm certainly not complaning about download games, it's a good idea but just not come into its own yet compared to music/film etc.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

I'm a hoarder, I love collecting games and having them all pretty on my shelf. I'm also poor, and love to scour second hand shops for bargains. So I hardly buy any eShop games at all. I've had my 3DS since launch, and bought my first eShop game yesterday (Pokémon Dream Radar). I'm slightly tempted to buy the download version of Animal Crossing when released, due to the nature of the game, the convenience of having it stored on the console would be good. But I probably won't.

Nintendo should bundle physical games with a code for a free download version, I'm sure they could implement some way of stopping it from being abused.

£40 for a digital copy of a game that can be £20-£30 in shops is mental. Digital should be cheaper.

3DS Friend Code: 4425-1453-7061

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