Don’t say that Nintendo isn’t forward thinking when it comes to embracing digital distribution. Ever since the Wii had the ability to go online and download classic titles, Nintendo has been dabbling with digital distribution for their consoles, both home and handheld. The 3DS has been a part of their initiative to launch retail games in both physical and digital realms, and one of their flagship games for the system, New Super Mario Brothers 2, has seen rather sluggish sales in the digital department. New Super Mario Brothers 2 was launched on July 28th in Japan, and since the launch of the title has seen only 5% of the total sales of the game come through digital sales.
That isn’t to say that is a failure, though. Many gamers, especially ones on handheld devices, are simply not used to the idea of buying a full retail game through such means. Home consoles such as the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 have offered full retail games for a while now, some at launch while others well after they’ve been available for a while, and of course the PC has been on the forefront of this movement with platforms like Steam. There has been a lot of success in moving digital copies of games as opposed to boxed versions, so for the handheld market, it should only be a matter of time before it catches on.
An interesting number to keep in mind is that the Brain Age sequel, Demon Training, recently launched using the digital/retail model and a whopping 20% of the total sales has been through digital downloads. It really could just be a matter of certain titles gamers feel more comfortable not owning the box and cart for, while others they want the whole package. It will be interesting to follow this trend as it moves forward.