Nintendo: Time to Ditch Retail?

Nintendo: Time to Ditch Retail?

With the Nintendo 3DS on the horizon and the rising digital market, Nintendo is continually being cornered by the press and asked what it thinks about increasing competition from smartphones. To no one’s surprise, Nintendo usually declines to preach doom and gloom. Instead, journalists get answers like the one Nintendo of Europe’s Laurent Fischer gave to Edge Online at the European 3DS showcase in Amsterdam last month: “We have never seen any link between growth in the mobile gaming market and decrease in the normal software market. It’s two different markets, two different topics. We couldn’t find any evidence of those two markets being linked.”

Fischer didn’t get a chance to peer into his crystal ball before the event started, so he understandably missed out on the recent news from Nielsen about U.S. families spending more of their gaming budget on mobile games. That said, even the Nielsen report doesn’t verify that people are abandoning retail games for the sake of downloadable iOS titles–only that the video game market is expanding.

Fischer therefore probably has a point: As the market stands right now, people expect a different gaming experience from their iPhone than they do from their Nintendo DS and 3DS. A quick glance at what’s popular on the App Store versus what’s popular on the Nintendo DS and PSP will confirm as much.

However, that doesn’t mean digitally downloaded games aren’t becoming more complex and impressive by the day. Nor does Nintendo’s stellar work with retail titles mean the company will be okay if it continues to treat the downloadable games market like an afterthought. The Wii’s Virtual Console has proved a huge disappointment to retro game fans, and neither WiiWare nor DSiWare grant talented indie developers the profits and respect they deserve.

Nintendo’s hesitation to embrace downloadable games is understandable. Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime wasn’t incorrect when he stated that for every Angry Birds, there are twenty thousand lesser clones. And the App Store does have some trouble with thieves who unapologetically rip off the hard work of other developers for their own profit. But while those problems are accented by the ease of digital distribution, they’re not the cause of them. Some degree of enforcement is expected, and indeed, necessary. Nintendo is more than up to the job.

The Nintendo 3DS will be Nintendo’s chance to prove that it wants to catch up and play online alongside Sony, Apple, and Microsoft. Fischer’s statement to Edge Online isn’t indicative that the 3DS’s online capabilities will be severely under-serviced like the Wii’s and the DS’s, but his words sound ominous, nonetheless.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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