In a recent financial briefing Satoru Iwata, the question was raised about why Nintendo doesn’t price their digital titles any lower than retail products– that is to say digital versions of games available in stores primarily. Iwata responded explaining how pricing games can cause digital inflation and even devalue some of their most valuable IPs.
…although the mainstream idea regarding the digital business in the industry before we actually started selling software in both digital and packaged formats last year was that the digital version should or must be priced lower than its packaged counterpart, we decided that, since the contents are the same, the company would offer the software at the same price, be it the packaged version or the digital version. This is because we want consumers to value software as highly as possible and because we have been trying to heighten the value of our software whenever we produce it. Prospective consumers can easily anticipate that games from established franchises such as Super Mario and Pokémon are worth the price, even before they start playing them.
He went on to note that there also is little need for Nintendo to price the digital versions competitively as they sell just as well as their physical counterparts, citing games such as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Animal Crossing: New Leaf as games which have sold remarkably well on the eShop. Iwata explained how sales have shown that most people who buy on game digitally continue to buy more titles that way, probably because they realize and enjoy the convenience that digital purchases on a handheld come with.
A lot of people might basically say that Nintendo basically doesn’t need to lower their prices, so they won’t, but I totally agree that lowering the prices would lower the value of the games. If a Mario title were offered for the price of one dollar, it would suddenly have to compete with a flood of other games of varying quality for the same price– including Mario clones and knockoffs. Maintaining a representative price certainly helps to reinforce that the game you purchased is worth playing and comes with the quality you’ve come to expect from such games. If you don’t believe, just go look at your Steam library and see how many games you’ve picked up from holiday sales that you’ve actually played for more than an hour or two.