Recently, the interwebs have been abuzz about Nintendo having released their first game onto mobile, coming from a highly sought-after franchise; as Android users, we have felt the slight from Nintendo as it's currently exclusive to iOS. As I have watched this story unfold from afar, there is a particular facet of it that has now caught my attention, as new information seems to have surfaced.
First, Nintendo may be offering more than two or three games that they initially planned on releasing. As a guy who grew up firmly entrenched in NES, I'm really excited to hear this. That's the good news, but it isn't what motivated me to write this. I've seen a bunch of stories lately that indicate that the investors and shareholders are unhappy With Super Mario Run, causing their stock price to fall. As of Dec 19th, their stock had fallen 7%. What I'm seeing crop up because of this, is a very unsettling conclusion. I'm seeing articles that go so far as to say what the displeasure of the investors is, and that these investors want Nintendo to chase after freemium dollars.
Super Mario Run
The president of Nintendo, Tatsumi Kimishima, was recently doing an end of year interview with a news outlet named Sankei, in Japanese. Dr Sekan Toto (@serkantoto) apparently translated and posted (in English) on that "He [Kimishima] says monetization schemes and target markets will depend on the nature of each game". Venturebeat cites the same interview and states: "While Super Mario Run is likely a hugely profitable game, investors aren’t happy that it has only one $10 purchase available to consumers. Instead, Nintendo’s stakeholders want the publisher to embrace free-to-play with micro-transactions, which enables players to spend thousands of dollars on a game". Does this possibility bother anyone else? We've already seen what the "race to the bottom" does, qualitatively speaking.
Clone after clone, all hoping to find the "white whales" that I've touched on before. What bothers me through most, is that it's not difficult for me to see Nintendo following through with this. Just picture something similar to the current release of Super Mario Run, only with with an item shop run by Toad that charges exorbitant prices in coins for a Frog suit, Goomba's Shoe, and pricing that's astronomical for Hammer Suits or Tanooki Suits. Haven't collected enough coins in the last fifty hours of playing? You can purchase bundles of coins for a couple of dollars. Coins could also purchase extra lives, continues, access to bonus stages, and more.
Speaking purely as a gamer, this is a worst case scenario for me. As I stated in my previous op/ed on the topic, freemium games tend to be rigged worse than what you find at the local carnival. The difficulty curves frequently get skewed, and even in the off chance that they aren't disproportionately difficult, the possibility that it's skewed distinctly colors my experience in a negative way. Given how many downloads there are for Super Mario Run on iOS alone, or even looking at how the NES Classic sold as many units in one month as the Wii U sold in six, it's no secret that people are hungry to enjoy Nintendo's Classic games on modern TVs and phones.
We as gamers do have some say in this, but that depends on how we spend our money. I can only fault Nintendo so far, for going where the dollars are. It's up to us as gamers to pay for games that charge up front, or via a single, full game unlock IAP. Even that may not be enough, though. We should be actively encouraging our friends to do the same. Only a shift in the market can really convince companies to offer pricing models that are more palatable.
Ryan Ballard - Having jumped onto Android from the burning wreckage known as Palm OS in Nov of 2009 with the original Motorola Droid, Ryan has been a fan of gaming on Android. Beyond that, most any other platform will serve (PC, PS3, SNES, tabletop, CCG, etc). Outside of gaming, he appreciates heavy metal, and super-hot Buffalo wings. He's married with two kids.