The experiment is paying off. Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, says digital downloads are fast becoming a notable contributor to the company's bottom line - and he expects the trend to continue its rapid rise.
"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 numbers get more impressive with some individual titles. Fils-Aime says Fire Emblem Awakening has sold 240,000 units life-to-date in the US - with one-third of those in digital form.
"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," says Fils-Aime. "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."
The 3DS was criticized initially for a slow ramp of games, something Nintendo has tried to counter with releases like Luigi's Mansion (which Fils-Aime says has sold 415,000 units so far) and today's Nintendo Direct announcements. Over the next nine months, he says, "the pace is going to be dramatically ramped up."
"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."
It's kind of ironic that the least online savvy competitor was able to get day one digital releases right first, but there you have it. I'm certain this is going to be the trend going forward for everyone and it makes sense, however I wish this happened last generation. There's still some rare titles to find, having them digitally would've made things much easier.
I'm taking this as a hint that E3 will be heavily focused on Wii U and showcasing software, as it should be. Let's see, 2 months away.