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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nintendo's Foray Into Free-To-Play

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Hooray? ...Not really.

So some parts of our videogame industry are becoming obsessed with the F2P concept. Meanwhile, Nintendo has been above it all, only recently experimenting with the concept of paid DLC with Fire Emblem: Awakening and New Super Mario Bros. 2. Even the most allegedly disturbing of industry trends can't just go unnoticed by Nintendo.

Before we go any farther, I'm going to clear the air. There is nothing inherently wrong with the F2P model. It just shifts the burden of payment from upfront to sustained as you play. No one waged a campaign against the old arcade games that were designed around extracting as many quarters as they could from you, did they? (Well, I guess they did, but not from a game design perspective.) F2P also allows you to give your favourite developer as much money in support as you want instead of the old system where you'd buy multiple of the same game or something.

On that note, if you are willing to buy the same game more than once, I recommend doing so for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies. Not because it'll benefit you in any way, but it'll sure help Capcom's sales figures and the Ace Attorney series' future.

Anyway, it's how some game developers use F2P that is so disgusting. And we'll talk about that in a later article or two.

But of course, Nintendo has to have unique takes on everything. Shiguru Miyamoto already said Nintendo is working on re-outfitting Steel Diver (that 3DS launch game no one cares about) to a F2P model, but we don't have details on that. StreetPass Mii Plaza, a free function on the 3DS, now has a creepy salesrabbit trying to sell you games.

And now in Japan, Nintendo is revealing a game called Darumeshi Sports Store for the 3DS eShop. It's F2P, and money is extracted from you via buying minigames. The unique Nintendo difference? You can haggle how much you pay. And this depends on your performance/action in the game up to the point you pay.

Now, unlike a lot of other F2P games where the developer can potentially get unlimited revenue from every player, Darumeshi Sports Store has a spending cap of... about $40. This is assuming the only thing you can buy are the minigames. The significance of this number? It's about the same price that normal 3DS games go for! Except you can "haggle" it less. I'm sure that people are already organizing FAQs for "best practices" in the haggling arena for how to get the best deals, and surely Nintendo developers should know that this sort of thing would happen.

So knowing that there is a spending cap, is this really F2P? Well, it IS free to obtain. You can't get the minigames for free, and this is just spreading the cost of the product ($40) over its lifetime, instead of upfront (still $40). So you can say that this is even more consumer-friendly than the traditional cost model.

Baby steps, though.

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