updated 01:00 am EDT, Fri April 27, 2012
No direct selling to end-users yet
In an approach that appears to be a stepping stone to further digital selling, Nintendo has announced that it will begin offering digital copies of selected titles for the Wii U and 3DS systems through retail channels. The approach will allow buyers to visit actual game shops or the online sites for those shops and make purchases, and can choose to have either physical copies or digital downloads delivered to their console's SD card through a 16-digit download code.
Nintendo's deliberate involvement of retailers rather than a direct channel to consumers may not have the intended effect of slowing the more-direct gaming markets that have grown around iOS, Android and PS Vita devices. However, retailers will be able to set their own prices on titles and reduce their risk of unsold inventory. The system, should it prove popular, would also let Nintendo combat the market for used games.
The company has been seen to take very tentative steps into digital selling, offering only smaller games for download through WiiWare, DISiWare and the 3DS eShop, along with occasional "portions" of games sold at retail. The first title offered will be New Super Mario Brothers 2 for the 3DS, which is expected in August, along with brain-training game Onitore, part of the Brain Age series. Going forward, Wii U games will be handled using the same system when the educational portable gaming device launches later this year.
Slides from the Nintendo presentation