Given that the 3DS will have been marked down to just $170 in the US by August 12, Nintendo's portable is likely to have a far larger installed base than it otherwise would have this holiday season. And while that's definitely good for games due out later this year, like Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7, it also coincides with Nintendo's latest push into the online space.
In a call with analysts following Nintendo's turbulent first-quarter earnings report, president Satoru Iwata said that the 3DS's eShop will support paid downloads for virtual goods by year's end. As translated by Andria Sang (and confirmed by GameSpot), Iwata said that similar functionality will also be available through the Wii U's online platform when that system launches next year.
Currently, the 3DS supports paid downloads for full games, such as those in the 3D Classics store. However, through conversations with design head Shigeru Miyamoto, Iwata said that there is an interest in providing new levels and features beyond the core packaged game.
Iwata stressed that it would be unwise for Nintendo to pursue paid downloadable content of the ticky-tacky variety, such as stat increases. Selling this type of content, he said, could increase short-term sales, but it would damage the long-term relationship Nintendo has with its customers. However, Iwata left open the window of other publishers releasing minor add-ons for their games.
The Nintendo executive also said that his company does not plan to pursue the free-to-play model, where developers release a game for free and monetize it through microtransactions. This type of business model, he said, would be a disservice to Nintendo's content.
Lastly, Iwata remarked that Nintendo intends to dramatically increase its presence in digital content over the next three years. He expressed a hope to grow Nintendo's digital business by more than 10 percent, saying also that he hopes to remove gamers' hesitation over buying virtual goods.