I’ve written before about my love affair with physical media. The look, the feel, the smell, the touch. But Paper Mario: Sticker Star comes out today, and instead of driving allllll the way over there to pick up a copy, I’ll be downloading it from the 3DS eShop for $39.99, while I sleep. I will receive no physical manual. I will have no spot for it on my shelf. I won’t even be able to re-sell it if it sucks.
Never fear: I haven’t given up on the good ol’ hard plastic cases. I thought too long and too hard about this, and I made an exciting list of the reasons why – at least in the case of Sticker Star – I’ll be eschewing the tangible for the digital. This is the first full retail game I’ll have ever paid for and not held the physical game in my hand afterwards. Sure, there’ve been lots of full free PS+ games, but this is a big deal for me!
- The biggest and most obvious reason first: there is no cart to lug around. I have a 3DS case that holds three games. Downloading new ones means I won’t have to deal with the harrowing decision of which one to demote to the shelf at home. What if that is the one I want to play?! Or worse: what if it falls out and I lose it, or I leave it in an IKEA? It’d be a travesty. I might cry.
- Handheld games are, in general, a lot smaller data-wise than their console brethren. So even with the stock 2 GB memory stick included with the 3DS, there’s plenty of room for Sticker Star, Cave Story, Liberation Maiden, Mario Golf, Donkey Kong, Pushmo, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, and all of my saves. Need to upgrade? $20 for 32 GB. Contrast this with my 320 GB PS3, which is so full of PlayStation+ freebies that I could literally not install Resident Evil 5 (this week’s U.S. freebie) without first uninstalling some older PlayStation+ freebies. I’ve bought maybe… ten total games off the PlayStation Network, and my 320 GB hard drive is full to the brim. First world problems, eh?
- It’s the same price as the physical copy. This isn’t a great reason, but there have been plenty of instances in recent memory (Mass Effect Games on Demand in Australia was 6,000 MSP when it first launched) where a digital version costs more than the boxed retail copy, because of in-store sales, poor marketing, or just general dumbness on the part of the publisher. Mario games don’t really go on sale. Which leads me to my next point.
- This game will stay at $39.99 MSRP for ages, so there’s no reason to wait until the hype has died in order to maybe catch a deal. Look at Nintendo’s first-party titles historically. It wasn’t until Nintendo debuted the Nintendo Selects line four-and-a-half years into the Wii’s life cycle that they finally dropped the price of Twilight Princess, a Wii launch title, from its original $49.99 price tag. Or how about Nintendo-produced 3DS games from ages past? Ocarina of Time 3D. Star Fox 64. Super Mario 3D Land. The newest of these three came out on November 18, 2011 – almost a year ago. They are all still at their debut price of $39.99. Paper Mario: Sticker Star will enjoy a similar fate. And who wants to pay full price for the same old game a year from now?
- Finally, the re-sell/trade-in value. I don’t get rid of my games, ever, so for me this is a moot point. I have a wall of games in my house, and someday (hopefully!) I’ll be able to teach my kids what video games were like when I was a youngster, before we had all these fancy bump-maps, HD graphics, and controller-less gameplay. And if I won’t sell it, then I don’t even really need to physically own it, do I?
So you see, this wouldn’t work with every title. But for me, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the perfect storm of portability necessity, price stability, and convenience.
But if my memory card gets wiped and Nintendo has no way to recover the data, I’m gonna be SO MAD.