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Nintendo stops selling digital download codes for its games in Europe – here’s why

Nintendo Switch digital download codes
(Image credit: Future)

European retailers are no longer allowed to sell digital download codes for Nintendo first-party titles from today (July 1), which means consumers are at the mercy of the Nintendo Switch eShop’s prices if they want to buy Nintendo’s games digitally. 

Previously, retailers could sell digital download codes of first-party Nintendo games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Super Mario Odyssey, which could then be redeemed on the Nintendo eShop. These digital download codes would often be cheaper than buying a game directly through the Nintendo eShop, which tend to be full price bar the odd 30% discount during a sale. 

Historically, Nintendo has been reluctant to discount its games amid fears it reduces the value of its intellectual properties. Similar to Disney's model, which rarely sells its DVDs and Blu-Ray discs for cheap, the company understands that gamers can't find these titles anywhere else, so a price cut is often seen as detrimental long term.

The controversial move was revealed by UK online retailer ShopTo.net, who revealed they were no longer able to offer/sell digital download codes of Nintendo games.

More coins required

So why is Nintendo making it more expensive to buy games digitally in Europe? In a statement provided to Nintendo Life, Nintendo said it has ended digital download code sales for its “own-published software” after “careful examination of the evolving European marketplace in recent years.”

But what about if you buy physical Nintendo Switch games? Well, they’ll still be a lot cheaper than buying digitally, but frustratingly, Nintendo first-party games refuse to drop in price, despite often being many years old. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is still £47.99 on Amazon, for example, which was released in 2007. 

Thankfully, Nintendo's decision only applies to first-party titles and won't affect games by third-party publishers, Nintendo eShop funds, Nintendo Switch Online memberships, and DLC add-on content.