How in the world can digital copies cost retailers more than packaged copies?
The next wave of a completely digital Nintendo future has just started in the Land of the Rising Sun. The release of both New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Oni Training on the Nintendo 3DS have helped usher in this era but not without a few hiccups. When it comes to the price difference between the physical versions and the digital version, there is a disparity. Probably not in the way that you would assume, either.
I used to live in the United States, so I have a pretty good idea of how pricing on game software usually works there. Games are typically what the suggested retail price is and that’s that. In Japan, it’s a completely different ball game. For example, the list price for New Super Mario Bros. 2 is 4,800 yen ($61) and Oni Training is 3,800 yen ($48). If you purchase the titles directly from the eShop, you’re going to be paying the exact price no matter what. If you opt to get the packaged versions, you will typically be paying less money. At my favorite local electronic store in town, I can go out and buy NSMB2 for around 4,100 yen, 700 yen less than the list price! You would think that this would also apply to the digital download card that the store carries as well, right? WRONG! From my experience today, I can tell you that definitely is not the case. Of course, I can only report on the store that I went to, but from other articles I’ve read online, this is not just a local issue at my store, but an issue occurring all around the country.
Finding the digital download card for Oni Training was no easy feat for me. After walking into the store, it was easy enough to find copies of the game sitting on the shelf. After scanning the entire handheld gaming section of the store for about five minutes, I had no idea where they were keeping the download cards or even whether or not they had them. Instead, I just took the physical copy up to the counter and asked there. At first, most of the workers didn’t seem to know what I was talking about, but after some searching (apparently in the same area that I previously investigated), they managed to procure one and brought it to me. I noticed that the price on the download card was different than what was on the packaged version. The packaged version was right around 3,100 yen while the card was 3,600 yen. Begrudgingly, I pulled out my wallet and forked over the cash. For a moment, I thought about asking the clerk who was assisting me why there was a difference in the price between the two but decided against it. A part time high schooler probably doesn’t know much about financial decisions for that chain of electronic stores anyway.
I had been reading news about this for the latter part of the week. A digital card for the same damn game costs slightly more than a packaged version. I don’t even need to go into details as to why this is ridiculous. The digital distribution of all of Nintendo’s first party titles is perhaps one of the most forward thinking decision the company has made in years but aside from people like me (and you, too), who is going to choose a more expensive version of the same game? There should be absolutely no reason why the download card for either of these games should be sold at a higher price than the packaged versions. I mean, why in the world are they? If Nintendo were to be giving some kind of a kickback to the retailers for selling the physical copies, that would kind of make sense, but at the same time go completely against Nintendo’s new initiative. None of this makes any sense to me. For the retailers, it doesn’t really matter either way which version of the game they sell, just as long as they sell SOMETHING. Even though Nintendo has control whatsoever of retailers’ software prices, this is not a good start toward a digital future in Japan.