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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine to Accelerate Gaming's Digital Download Distribution?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - And will it be a temporary phenomenon or a new normal?

One of the biggest macro-trends in the videogame industry is that digital distribution—you download (or even stream, though that's still in early phases with questionable success) a licence of a game from your game system's Internet-connected eCommerce platform and get to play it without owning a physical copy—is on the rise. It's decimated some companies like GameStop that have relied on selling physical game copies and are now trying to diversify into other things.

There are still a number of people—myself included—that greatly prefer physical copies of games over digital licences. Yet even I'm going around telling people they should spend their money on digital licences to the entire Ace Attorney franchise. (By the way, you just lost your chance to take advantage of a dramatically good sale.)

What's happened? Well, people have steadily been okay with the new technology, if only because some games are digital-only, and the digital path has the advantage of vendors’ rewards programs favouring it. Whatever data point you want to look at, be it GameFAQs polls or vendor data (see middle of the document “Digital Sales Indicators” or the below screenshot), the proportions continue to rise.

Nintendo digital downloadable version sales fiscal year ending March 2019 2020 coronavirus
I believe Nintendo will publish their data during May 2020 of what the 4Q January–March 2020 (coronavirus season) sales looks like.
You can be sure that I'm going to dedicate coverage to that.

My thought is this: With a lot of the world's gaming customers and physical game retail outlets—including Nintendo NY—now under quarantine or severe social distancing measures thanks to the coronavirus (and thank you Kamek for yesterday's great coronavirus reporting), people won't have a choice in how they get their games. If their Internet connection still works and they're stuck at home with more time on their hands, it's quite a bit more likely that will incentivise the digital distribution.

There are already thought pieces about how corporate office life will be changed forever thanks to the coronavirus having folks stay-at-home and getting used to it—they won't want to go back to the old way of having to collaborate in an office building. Of course, this is future-looking speculation about what happens after coronavirus goes away, and we're clearly not at that point yet.

It's possibly silly to compare a daily activity—working at the office—to an activity with much less frequency, buying a new game. (Well, I assume you don't buy a game every day.) But if this quarantine/social distancing routine goes on long enough, you might be “forced”—obviously no one is literally forcing you to make any purchases of leisure goods— to buy two, three, four games this way according to whatever your new game acquisition schedule is. (Assuming that the eCommerce platform isn't down for the day, of course.)

Maybe you'll get used to it. Or you'll be relieved as soon as it's over so you can go back to physical buying. I'll be very interested in the immediate and long-term data and trends!

Ludwig is a data geek, but unlike many other data geeks, he's quite good at written communication. Therefore, you should keep it to KoopaTV to let you know what's really going on. You'll appreciate it for your own sake. As for what you can do now, answer this: Have your consumption habits been affected by coronavirus yet? Let KoopaTV know in the comments section below, and if you're really consistently impressive, you may win a Nintendo eShop gift card. Hey, wait, isn't that encouraging digital distribution as well...?

A day later, SQUARE ENIX can't promise everyone who wants a physical copy of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE can get one.
People are spending more on gaming in general due to coronavirus, but less on shipping and much less on physical retailers. Must be digital distributions.
We know the digital sales numbers for the fourth quarter of Nintendo's fiscal year ending March 2020, and they're impressive.
Nintendo confirms that they are quite cognizant of digital downloads being accelerated, and they expect it to be a new normal.


  1. As someone who prefers physical games whenever possible yet is seriously considering cancelling one of my physical pre-orders to get the game digitally instead, I expect at least a short-term trend toward digital sales.

    (I've also been considering the benefits of a digital copy for something like Animal Crossing, which expects you to play in short bursts across long periods of time, although I don't even know if I'd enjoy Animal Crossing.)

    1. More on this topic tonight... and more on liking Animal Crossing Thursday. :)

  2. I preloaded Animal Crossing: New Horizons because of coronavirus. I would have gotten it physically otherwise. But being pregnant with barely any information on how it affects pregnancy and fetal growth, stores limiting amount of customers and store hours, among other reasons made me not want to deal with it. And I am not patient enough to wait for shipping or to pay extra for day one delivery.

    1. Did the physical challenges of pregnancy affect you in the same way the first time around, or is this digital preference just a factor of coronavirus being added into it?

    2. Coronavirus was a major factor in the decision.

    3. Alright, understood.

      I mean, even if you can barely move at the latter stages of your pregnancy, I suppose you could ask your husband to pick up the game for you. If there wasn't a pandemic outside, anyway.


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