Nintendo Needs to focus on Digital Game Downloads

Not in the Android/App Store sense or the ‘make every game download only with always online DRM’ sense, but in the ‘not every game needs a massive budget’ one.

They need to realise that some of their titles would work best as digital only titles for a smaller, more niche audience.  That certain games could be a lot more profitable if they skipped the high street altogether and just focused on the small core of dedicated fans that buys them to begin with (or the average buyer looking for a random punt).

For example, Fire Emblem could work quite well in this way.  Make a few chapters and campaigns or whatever, add about a quarter of the characters and content of the retail titles and stick the game up on the eShop for about 10 dollars or so.  See whether the market’s there, see if the series can be more profitable by releasing bite sized titles that maintain the same core gameplay for less than a triple A development budget.  Isn’t that much better than releasing a gigantic blockbuster game in stores and trying to flog something potentially niche to the GameStop buyer? That bit can come later once the demand has been established.

Fire Emblem Awakening Bonus Art Book

Above: If Fire Emblem doesn’t ‘sell’ in retail form, why not trial it on the eShop instead?

Another good example of where digital could have helped was Game & Wario.  See those games it’s made up of?  Release each of them for about 2 dollars a pop on the eShop.  I mean, they’re the kind of things people are used to paying about a dollar for as mobile phone apps and they can’t really support a full priced retail purchase, so it was absolutely ludicrous that Nintendo was seriously trying to sell them on a disc as a boxed product.

Think about it.  Each of those games, as well as a maybe a bundle of Cluck a Pop apps could easily be a dollar or two eShop download.  They’d probably be a lot more popular this way too, since people would treat them as impulse purchases rather than something they have to actually think about.

Game & Wario screen Game and Wario Disco Game and Wario 8 Game and Wario Ashley mini game

Above: All of these are basically tiny games in themselves, so why not just sell them for a dollar/pound each?  People would be more tolerable of their faults if they were only cheap impulse buys..

And F-Zero could work as an eShop game too.  Okay, Miyamoto thinks the series isn’t in demand and can’t be made ‘interesting’.  So why not just make a simple, smaller F-Zero game on a minimal budget and see if it takes off as a download only title?  If it does?  Then commission a full length game for the Wii U somewhere along the line and tell Miyamoto to shut up and stop interfering. And if it doesn’t, there’s no real loss for Nintendo.  Isn’t that a win win situation?


Above: Maybe F-Zero could be tested out as an eShop game on Wii U?

It’s not only niche games or the like that could benefit from more of an eShop focus too. No, Nintendo should put some of their big franchises on there too.

How about some simple Mario games with only a couple of worlds?  You know, like a Super Mario Land 1 length title meant to be sort of quirky and imaginative?  Get the Nintendo EAD teams into two-five man groups, then let them run riot with whatever crazy Mario level and content ideas they can come up with.  Maybe have new villains, new enemies/bosses, new crazy graphics styles… just new and ‘original’ things seen as too ‘risky’ for the New Super Mario Bros series or the 3D Mario games.  Then they can be treated as almost like ‘in-house indie games’, with the amount of downloads for each being carefully monitored to see which ones resonate with the Nintendo/Wii U/3DS audience.

Above: Something like Psycho Waluigi would work great as an eShop title.  Nintendo needs to put a few members of the Mario team in groups and see what interesting concepts like that they could come up with given no restrictions.

Or what about the Zelda series?  It doesn’t all have to be big budget productions by the full Zelda team complete with an orchestrated soundtrack, you can have some smaller, simpler Zelda games by a small group of people.  Maybe in the style of the NES or SNES titles complete with focus on combat and exploration and bare minimum of puzzles.  Make each one about 5-6 dungeons and with some new ideas, then see if the demand for traditional 2D Zelda is still there.


Above: Try out some 2D Zelda games on the eShop.  That way, we’d get more of them than just Link Between Worlds.

And even full games could be released there.  Got an obscure game which you’re not sure would work in the US/Europe?  Localise it and stick it on the eShop to see how well it does with consumers. After all, the distribution costs for a digital game are practically zero compared to those you have to ship in boxed form, so take advantage of this as a way to release games you’re unsure about.  Much better than just never localising them altogether.

Xenoblade Box art

Above: Remember this ‘interesting’ situation?  We should get games like this on the eShop if they’re not ‘big’ enough for a retail release.  Then the successful/popular ones should be sold as boxed products.

Really, Nintendo needs to treat the eShop as more than a place to shove new IPs and the odd virtual console title and use it to trial their more obscure series.  Or even as a replacement for the physical games sales side for series that supposedly don’t sell enough to make the traditional model profitable.  Really, the eShop could be Nintendo’s most useful asset for testing new ideas and games, but they don’t seem to have figured this simple fact out yet.

Anyone agree with my eShop ideas/analysis?


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8 years ago

I kind of agree that they should put up some of their own digital eshop only games but I’d rather them do it with an IP than one of they’re existing franchises. Game and Wario could have done that, however, so I agree with you on that part.

8 years ago
Reply to  CM30

I guess I’d be fine with that as long as they balanced their resources such as having more people work on their, say, big 3D Mario project and then have a smaller team make a NSMB type side-project for download.