Wind Waker HD could trigger the demise of retail sales

Lock up your game cases and instruction booklets, folks. The end is nigh.

Yesterday Nintendo, the same Nintendo that insisted that gamers did not want any online shenanigans, released the HD update of Zelda: The Wind Waker on their eShop. Wii U owners craving this decade-old game (I’m feeling an upcoming article on remakes. You wait.) can download it now on the eShop or wait two whole weeks to pick it up in disc-form on October 4th.

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Wind Waker HD went boxless when it released yesterday.

It’s no secret Nintendo is pushing digital sales these days. Earlier this year Nintendo shipped a scarce amount of Fire Emblem: Awakening copies, then saw digital sales soar. I can’t blame them. Going digital saves publishers a ton of money in terms of packaging and shipping, not to mention the fact that digital copies eliminate the used-game sales that hurt the industry. That being said, this two-week gap is a major deal. It may very well be Nintendo’s first stab to the heart of physical game sales.

Depending on how consumers respond to this Wind Waker situation, we may end up seeing Nintendo revisit the strategy with heavy-hitters like Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. Will fans have the will power to wait two weeks for those games to hit Best Buy shelves? If they don’t, the downfall of retail game sales is upon us. Granted, due to shaky internet connections and cynicism toward online purchasing, hard copies won’t die off instantly. The concern isn’t with the hard copies themselves, but with the quantity. If publishers determine that they only need to send one or two shipments, you might have to be there day-one to grab a rare retail copy Final Fantasy XXI or Metal Gear Solid 9.

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My favorite game in the palm of my hand. Wind Waker HD fans are invited to post photos of their Wii U menu icon.

I’ve always viewed videogaming as a hobby that involves collecting experiences. That’s the most valuable aspect of the entire hobby–not obtaining trophies/achievements or topping leaderboards or anything like that. I sit and enjoy a game for where it takes me and what it illuminates in that hot air-filled mind of mine. The magic happens between two taps of the power button. But once the credits roll, I like to have something tangible to remember the game by. I love boxes and manuals for that reason. Every time I open Final Fantasy VIII’s scratched-up jewel case, loose hinges and all, the nostalgia drowns me. And while that case may seem like an unnecessary expense in today’s digital world, let me say this: every time I hold FF8 in my hands, I’m more likely to consider buying another videogame. That’s power you won’t find in a main menu icon.

A more artistic mind than my own once said: “You can’t wrap your arms around a memory.” I say you can’t wrap your button-mashy fingers around a digital download. Less poetic, same message. Keep things physical, Nintendo.

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