Digital distribution of games has definitely made it easier to acquire games without having to worry about physical media that may be damaged for good. It’s a double-edged sword, though, as publishers and game companies can decide to remove access to digital titles and that’s that. This greater control on the part of companies reared its head once again, this time in Europe where Nintendo is no longer allowing retailers to sell digital download codes for its first-party games.
To be clear, only digital download codes for main games published by Nintendo itself are being taken off European retailers’ hands. Codes for add-on content, eShop funds, and subscriptions can still be purchased from those third-party sources. Third-party games, those not published by Nintendo, are not affected.
Even if it only affects titles like Animal Crossing or Super Mario, it’s still a sudden and unexpected change with almost no warning at all. The disclosure only came from UK games shop ShopTo which Nintendo did finally confirm to publications like IGN.
It doesn’t give any concrete reason other than as a product of its analysis of the European market. The implication is that either these codes weren’t exactly hot sellers anyway or that Nintendo wants to simply cut out the middleman. First-party Nintendo games are, of course, available from the Nintendo eShop.
ShopTo’s tweet notes that this policy is effective across the EMEA region but Nintendo’s confirmation only mentions Europe specifically. It does set a precedent where Nintendo could implement it across all markets, putting retailers at a slight disadvantage and third-party games on unequal footing with Nintendo’s own titles. If anything, it could create a confusing scenario that could, in the end, drive gamers to just check and buy from Nintendo’s eShop anyway.