To eShop or not to eShop…

Should you buy a digital or physical copy of the next Pokémon games?

With little over a week (in most places) remaining before the release on Pokémon Sun and Moon, we as consumers come to a new version of the question: “Where should I buy this?” Due to the ‘digital revolution’, this question has recently transitioned from “Do I buy this locally or from a big chain?” to “Do I buy this from a store or Amazon?” to “Do I buy a physical product or a downloadable version?” It is the third question that I am here to help you answer.

Contestant #1: The physical copy


  • It’s a physical copy – The only reason you should ever buy a book not on an eReader anymore. Sometimes it just feels good to have it in your hand.
  • It has a higher tendency to end up on a sale shelf – eShop games almost never go on sale, especially new ones. I’ll list some of those from authorized retailers in a bit.
  • Pre-order bonuses. While only a factor in major game releases, Pokémon most certainly is one. Posters, figurines and so forth can be nabbed if you pre-order the physical copy.


  • It’s a physical copy – Losing your game card for Hannah Montana The Game or Build A Bear Workshop may not affect you that much, but losing a Pokémon game with a ton of hours played and all your precious creatures stored on it would be a massive shame.
  • It requires either time or effort – You either need to go pick up your game from your local game store, which may be within ten minutes or a few towns over depending on where you live, or wait for it to be delievered to your place on time.

Places to Buy (in the USA)

Many stores are offering discounts or incentives for buying from them. For the sake of keeping with Nintendo’s website, I’m ignoring all places not listed there as authorized retailers. All prices here are listed in USD.

Amazon is, as usual, cheaper than everyone else at $31.99. The shipping cost could be an issue if you don’t have Prime.

Toys R Us‘ website has a sale to match that rate as well as free shipping, although they “never know exactly when [their] sales will end”, so act quickly. Also that deal is not applicable to stores, and, to my understanding, their “pick up in store” option won’t even ship until you’ve gone into a TRU after the release date.

GameStop has their price set at the standard $39.99 (or both for $79.99, which costs an extra cent), but offers a “Double Sided Poster” to people who pre-order it with them. They also are offering a gigantic 40% boost to any used products traded in directly to pre-order Sun or Moon. Combine that with another 10% boost for being a Pro member, and it meant that if I wanted I could trade in either two other 3DS games or just Pokémon HeartGold to cover all or most of the cost of the game. Profit.

Walmart has marked the games down to $34.56, and also offers free shipping to your home or your local Walmart store, but it will not ship until the 18th and therefore not arrive until the following Monday. I also can’t vouch for that price being valid in your local store, or mine for that matter.

Best Buy and Target have no sales to speak of for now, but an online order should arrive at your door or be ready to be picked up at your local store (although Target doesn’t have this option available yet) on the 18th.

The Pokémon Center website is the least efficient model so far, selling the game at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) and not giving the consumer any reason to believe that it will arrive on time.

Contestant #2: The download


  • Instant access – You can download the file to your game right now, and you just need to open it while connected to WiFi on the 18th (or 23rd) to start playing it. A list of the times when this becomes available has been included below. It often allows you to play it before it comes out in stores!
  • Harder to lose – Humans have a tendency to misplace things. A DS is easier to to spot than a cartridge. The game is also saved to your account, so if you do misplace it you can hypothetically re-download it onto a new DS.


  • Nintendo’s policy is weird – In the event that you lose/break your DS, it is a long and gruelling process to transfer the data. This is due to Nintendo’s policy that allows only one 3DS to be associated with each account at a time. If you don’t transfer this first, you at minimum need the serial number for them to even consider re-establishing your stuff. A purchase history, including which cards were used to purchase each item, also helps.
  • The file is huge – 3.2 GB is a lot of space on the 2 or 4 GB card that you have in there now. You may need to get a bigger one.

Release Times

Here is when you can start playing your downloaded copy. If your time zone isn’t included here (looking at you, Central and Mountain times), do math.

North American Nintendo 3DS
Europe: November 18th at 0600
UK: November 18th at 0500
North America (EST): November 18th at 0000 (Midnight)
North America (PST): November 17th at 2100
Japan: November 18th at 1400

Japanese Nintendo 3DS
Europe: November 17th at 1600
UK: November 17th at 1500
North America (EST): November 17th at 1000
North America (PST): November 17th at 0700
Japan: November 17th at 2200

European Nintendo 3DS (not the UK)
Europe: November 23rd at 0000
UK: November 22nd at 2300
North America (EST): November 22nd at 2000
North America (PST): November 22nd at 1700
Japan: November 23rd at 0800

European Nintendo 3DS set to UK
Europe: November 23rd at 0100
UK: November 23rd at 0000
North America (EST): November 22nd at 2100
North America (PST): November 22nd at 1800
Japan: November 23rd at 0900

The Verdict

The final decision falls to you, the consumer. I personally downloaded Moon, and am considering picking up a physical copy of Sun.

Are you downloading your games or buying hard discs? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Edited by bobandbill.