Wii U digital vs retail (physical) games

Professor E. Gadd

Well-Known Member
Oct 15, 2012
Wii U
Now that Nintendo is finally warming up to digital game sales, what are some of issues to consider when deciding whether to buy a game via a download vs a retail disc (or card, in the case of 3DS)?

I am particularly cautious about Nintendo "gimping" some of the digital versions in order to save disk space. Seeing how DVD games can be as big as 8GB in size, it's easy to see how Nintendo would be tempted to lower the bitrate on the audio or the cutscenes, cut out bonus features, etc.

Are my fears justified? For example, how does the digital copy of Wind Waker HD compare to the physical one? What are some of the other things to watch out for when buying digitally?

P.S. By the way, I strongly dislike the term "digital" when referring to downloads, since both physical and downloaded copies are always digital.
I don't know the exact mechanics of it, but I think you're way off in thinking they'd actually remove content from the digital versions of games. It wouldn't be unthinkable to guess that they could perhaps compress some of the data, giving potentially lower quality sounds, but I still don't think they'd do that. You're paying for the full game regardless, so they more than likely wouldn't make one version worse than the other. Besides, Nintendo are actively working towards going all-digital, so if anything they'd want the digital version to be better.

If you're looking at going down the digital route, there are still a couple of concerns. The biggest problem is that while we don't have a unified account system (which Nintendo are allegedly working on at the moment), games are tied to the console rather than the account. So, if your console breaks, you'd lose all of the games you owned. Nintendo consoles are more durable of course, and from what I've read they're very supportive and usually manage to recover all of your games, but that requires sending the console off for repair.

Asides from that, the sheer size of games is the other problem. Given that the Wii U doesn't need proprietary hard drives, you can go out and buy a 1TB/2TB for relatively little, which should contain any and all games you intend to buy, but that's still extra money. And then the download times are huge - I think Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate took about 5 hours start to finish. I was in student accommodation at the time, and only had a 2MB connection, but it still takes a while.
I'm stilling buying the physical copies whenever possible as I much prefer that over digital downloads.

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