Although games like League of Legends and Hearthstone have had massive success as ‘free to play’ games, when developers reveal that a game is free to play, fans start to worry. Many games get F2P right and only sell optional extras so that people who pay aren’t gaining an unfair advantage, but there are games like Need for Speed: No Limits and Dungeon Keeper that have made gamers feel like they are being robbed of their money.
That’s why gamers are concerned with Nintendo‘s upcoming venture. Recently, the company announced that it would be getting into the mobile gaming business with game publisher DeNA. According to the announcement, the two will be developing original games based on Nintendo’s existing IP (including “iconic” characters from their roster) rather than porting games over, and they hope to release the first one this fall. Given DeNA’s history with releasing free to play games, it’s likely that their Nintendo games will be free to play too, but fans are worried that the games will be designed to grab their cash instead of being fun.
But Nintendo seems to recognize that people are wary of free to play games and in a new interview with TIME, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata reveals that he doesn’t like the phrase ‘free to play’ either. He prefers to call it ‘free to start’:
“I do not like to use the term ‘Free-to-play. I have come to realize that there is a degree of insincerity to consumers with this terminology, since so-called ‘Free-to-play’ should be referred to more accurately as ‘Free-to-start.
The thing that concerns me most is that, in the digital age, if we fail to make efforts to maintain the value of our content, there is the high possibility for the value to be greatly reduced as the history of the music industry has shown. On the other hand, I have no intention to deny the Free-to-start model. In fact, depending on how we approach this model, we may be able to overcome these problems.”
It’s good news that Nintendo wants to “maintain” the value of their games but games like Pokémon Shuffle leave room for doubt. Although Pokémon Shuffle‘s gameplay is addictive, its monetization is seen as aggressive since the game charges people for extra plays or makes them wait 30 minutes for them to refill. Even if Nintendo calls the game free to play or free to start, business decisions like these have been criticized by gamers.
Furthermore, Iwata told TIME that it gives “games an opportunity to spread across different generations of people, and give people more opportunity to communicate with one another about games” and that with their most successful games, you often see grandparents and grandchildren talking about their games together. There are lots of family friendly free to play games out there but governmental boards like the European Commission have expressed concerns that people are being duped into spending money without realizing it. Nintendo will have to keep this in mind if they want to market their games to children, or they may end up with lots of angry parents asking for refunds.
In addition, Iwata also revealed that not all of their smartphone games will be free to start. He says that “I do not believe it is an either-or situation between Free-to-start and packaged game retail business models. There are games which are more suited for the Free-to-start model. We can flexibly choose between both revenue systems depending on the software content.” But, even if Nintendo does release paid-for games on smartphones it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be as expensive as Nintendo’s console titles.
The idea behind Nintendo’s smartphone games is that they want to introduce people to their characters and encourage them to buy Wii U and 3DS consoles; making their smartphone games incredibly expensive will only put people off buying Nintendo products instead.
Do you think free to play is a good idea? Do you avoid games with this business model?