A few weeks ago, I gave my thoughts to Nintendo CEO and President Satoru Iwata’s comments about how “free-to-play” should really be “free-to-start.” For the moment, at least, it looks like Nintendo is serious about taking efforts to be more “fair” about its F2P practices.
A Redditor has posted an analysis of Pokémon Rumble World’s monetization, which he describes as initially appearing to be a typical F2P game with timers, microtransactions, and the like. The difference? You can only buy a certain number of gems, priced between $30 and $41 depending on what package you purchase, before the game shuts you off from buying any more. Not this month or this week, but forever. You still receive a few gems every day, but that’s it. A commenter on that post says that Nintendo does the same with Pokémon Shuffle, which limits spending to around $80.
I did uncover evidence that spending limits, when enforced by government agencies, can be ruinous to F2P games, but maybe that’s because the games mentioned in this article were built to, well, exploit whales, which is certainly not the approach Nintendo is taking. On the other hand, can what Nintendo is doing qualify as “free-to-play”? It’s really more like a free trial, after which you effectively buy the full game and never have to pay again. Maybe “free-to-start” really is the better moniker.
Pokémon is still a lucrative property, and Nintendo could probably make a lot more money by going the usual F2P route, or even just allowing a certain amount of purchases per month, rather than having a hard “lifetime” limit. Then again, maybe the company doesn’t want to risk negative stories of people blowing through thousands of dollars per month — or of their kids accidentally racking up huge charges — which could damage the kid-friendly brand.
Of course, we’re sure this approach will still seem like a “F2P scam” to someone. Comments, don’t disappoint!