Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Super Mario Bros. 2 + Nintendo + Digital Distribution = What Exactly?

I've been wanting to weigh in on Nintendo's recent decision to start doing digital distribution starting with New Super Mario Bros. 2. Short answer: I like it, with a caveat.

Despite what it may appear, I don't actually hate digital distribution. I have tons of articles where I praise Steam and GOG to the rafters. Digital distribution is both convenient and means that you don't have to change out physical media constantly. Steam and GOG both add an extra tick in the "Pros" section by including frequent sales into the mix.

Most companies want the switch because of the dastardly scourge of used-game sales, and because they have far more control over the price once the game is being sold. After all, if the only copies of Game X sell for $50, that means that everyone who wants it has to buy it for $50! Cue "We're In The Money!"

However, that's not good for consumers, and if Nintendo goes that route, it's going to be a mess. So here's what I truly hope Nintendo has done: I hope against hope that Nintendo has looked at the bad examples of the PSPGo, Origin and others and the good examples of Steam and GOG and emulated the good examples more closely.

For example, I'm sure Nintendo plans on selling New Super Mario Bros. 2 at retail for $40. Are they going to sell it on the eShop for $40, or are they going to sell it for $30 or less? After all, by selling it direct to consumers, they're cutting out manufacturing of the cases and cartridges, as well as shipping. While servers aren't cheap, they already have the underlying setup for the eShop in place. Asking for Nintendo to sell New Super Mario Bros. 2 for less than retail isn't far-fetched.

That's really the only concern I have. As far as transferring games from one unit to another, I'm sure they'll have that functionality in place the same as they did with the DSi to 3DS transfers.

Now, it's conceivable that Nintendo could totally botch this. They could sell New Super Mario Bros. 2 for $40 in the eShop, the servers could be unable to handle the deluge of requests and Nintendo could be wholly lacking in support after the fact. It doesn't seem like a likely scenario, but if this doomsday scene comes to pass I reserve the right to change my opinion.

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