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Certain Nintendo 3DS titles (e.g. Animal Crossing) are available as both physical copies and in the Nintendo eShop.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to buying from each?

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  • 2
    Does "You don't need to swap memory cards as often" count as an answer, or are you looking for less obvious pros/cons?
    – Nolonar
    Oct 11, 2013 at 17:51
  • 1
    you cant lose software... cartridges like running away
    – Rapitor
    Oct 11, 2013 at 17:51
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    @JLaBella But you can lose your 3DS, losing all of your digitally purchased games in the process, since your account is linked to the handheld and not to a username & password.
    – Nolonar
    Oct 11, 2013 at 18:06
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    True, but consoles are a bit bigger and more difficult to lose.
    – Rapitor
    Oct 11, 2013 at 18:09
  • Price is a notable difference as well. For example the MonHun3 sale for 50 percent off was on the eshop version only I think
    – Lawton
    Oct 11, 2013 at 18:39

3 Answers 3

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Cons of Downloaded Games:

  • Can't share with friends
  • Difficult to move from system to system
  • Leaves cartridge slot empty (no placeholder)

Cons of Physical Cartridges:

  • You are unable to back-up data into an SD card
  • Need to carry/swap cartridges
  • No possibility of recovery*

* Never assume Nintendo will get your digitally downloaded games back either. That being said, anecdotal evidence:
I recently purchased a 3DS and purchased and downloaded a game. A week in, my hinges began loosening, so rather than sending it in for repair, I wanted to replace it at the retailer. I called Nintendo support, who told me that if I made sure to register my current 3DS first, and write down my serial number, they would be able to initiate a system transfer remotely, after I had exchanged my system. They said this is a new option, and I think it seems to be a step in the right direction. I swapped my system, and called them back. Unfortunately, their phones have been too busy to even put me in a queue for the last several evenings, so I can't yet confirm that this will in fact work, and am now left with a 3DS and none of my downloaded games. For now, this is definitely another pro for cartridges.

Really, it comes down to security of a physical copy vs convenience of a digital one. Personally it's physical cartridges for me from here on out, until Nintendo moves to a real account-based system.

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  • Would be better if it included Pros for each as well.
    – Batophobia
    Oct 11, 2013 at 19:38
  • @Batophobia That seems a little redundant and repetitive; the pros for each are the cons of the other. I guess I'm just pessimistic like that.
    – dlras2
    Oct 11, 2013 at 19:42
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    Not necessarily. A pro of downloads is "Easier to carry multiple games". Though it is still fairly easy to carry DS cartridges so it is not a Con for Physical.
    – Batophobia
    Oct 11, 2013 at 20:48
  • I edited it by accident. oops. I just realized you can do that with cartridge games. Oct 15, 2013 at 22:28
  • I don't think leaving the cartridge slot empty is a con for digital. Rather, the opposite is a con for physical - you can only have one physical copy on it at a time.
    – Auro
    Oct 26, 2016 at 18:52
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Ive had both cartridge and download and found it easier with digital as most of my cartradges has some how stopped working completly from drops, dirt and dust ruining the contaccts.

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Downloads have advantages and disadvantages over physical copies as follows:

Pros:

  • Able to carry more than one game at any one time in the system without needing to switch cartridges - while some claim that having it empty is not a good thing, you don't HAVE to keep it empty

  • Able to backup data in the SD card

  • Quickly able to switch between games due to only needing to go to the Home screen and selecting the new game

  • Able to have two sets of save data if you own both a physical and a download copy - great for LPers who want to practice without affecting the LP save if the game only has one save file

  • Not needing to rebuy the game should the SD card corrupts, unlike a physical copy

Cons:

  • Storage limited by SD card size

  • Transferring to a new 3DS can be a pain

  • Impossible to share the game with friends - but then again, with some games (EG. Pokémon) there's only one save, while others offer Download Play to let them play a limited version of the game

  • If the SD card becomes corrupted, you'd lose progress on all games on it unless you backed them up on a PC

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