Last August, Nintendo began to more fully embrace digital distribution as a way to sell more games than ever before – a drastic change from their earlier years of distancing themselves from the online community.

President of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime, has said that digital downloads are rapidly becoming a major contributor to the company’s games sales and he expects it to continue to grow in popularity.

“We have 15 Nintendo-published titles available, both physically and digitally [on the 3DS],” he says. “So far in 2013, of those 15 available in this format, 11 percent of sales have come through full digital downloads of those games.”

The sales get even more remarkable with some individual games. Fire Emblem Awakening has already sold more than 240,000 units in the United States, with around a third of these sales in digital form.

Although the Wii U has not yet sold a significant amount, the 3DS has sold 8 million units in the United States in the past two years. That is 1 Million more than the DSI, with a continued rise in sales.

“When the NPD numbers come out later this week, you’re going to see life-to-date 3DS game sales surpass 20 million units in the US, and that’s just physical. It doesn’t include digital sales. … So far in 2013 – through April 15 – 3DS game sales are up 55 percent versus last year, counting both physical and digital.”

67 percent of all Nintendo 3DS owners have connected their 3DS to the Internet so far. And the majority of these people have purchased something of interest in the eShop.

“Through that connected experience, consumers have downloaded more than 41 million items from the eShop – everything from full games to applications like Nintendo video, DLC, demos, free items, and more.”

This is especially impressive given the 3DS’s early criticisms of a slow ramp of games, something that Nintendo had attempted to reverse with new titles such as Luigi’s Mansion and (410,000 units sold) and Fire Emblem Awakening ( 240,000 units sold) and Nintendo’s recent Nintendo Direct announcement. Fils-Aime says that the pace is going to be dramatically ramped up.

This increased pace will also apply to the Wii U, he said- however it seems that the company is keeping that under wraps for now.

“What I would say about Wii U – and what Mr. Iwata has said – is that the pace of launches has been slower than we hoped. But as we prepare for E3, the pace of launches for Wii U is going to dramatically increase.”

While the company is clearly ramping up the game for new gaming titles, you should not expect the same level of interest anywhere on non-gaming entertainment. Although competitors such as Microsoft are branching out to other parts of the home, Nintendo would prefer to stay focused on games- and to be honest, who disagrees?

“We believe consumers buy our systems first as a gaming system, then enjoy the other entertainment options, so that’s why we’re putting such a big emphasis on the gaming software,” he says.

Then again, another contributing influence on company’s emphasis on gaming software is the competition for the upcoming holidays. The Wii U will be battling Microsoft’s new Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 4 for consumer purchases. Nintendo is hoping that the recent slew of new gaming titles will surpass the appeal of the launch titles of other gaming systems.

Although Nintendo has a lot on its side, it helps to be in as many retail stores as possible- however Nintendo is absent from one on of the most significant places: Amazon. Although the site sells Nintendo products through some of its retail partners, it has not stocked the company’s products itself for a long time.

Despite Fils-Aime’s declination to elaborate exactly why the two companies seem unable to collaborate on hard ware sales, it was noted that in the end it was Amazon’s decision.

“We have programs we make available to all retailers,” he says. “So then in the end, it becomes a decision by the retailer how they want to participate. Right now, Amazon is focused on selling software, but has decided not to sell hardware.”

So what about you, what digital game are you most excited for?

Our Verdict

Michelle Wetherbee
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