Satoru Iwata

Time magazine (Or is it the Time website now? Do they still make magazines?) recently sat with Nintendo CEO and President Satoru Iwata for a lengthy interview, and his comments regarding free-to-play — which Nintendo appears to be ready to jump into — have been making the rounds. Specifically, Iwata says:

“I do not like to use the term ‘Free-to-play,'” says Iwata. “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.'”

And he’s right, for the most part. There are exceptions, but a lot of “free-to-play” games are little more than extended trails, which either put up a paywall that force you to continue or make the experience so onerous after a short while that you feel compelled to spend. “Free-to-start” would usually be a more accurate description.

But accuracy isn’t the point of labeling something “free-to-play” — marketing is. And as I’ve pointed out before, companies bend over backwards to label their games as free-to-play, or just plain “free,” not because they’re striving for 100% accuracy, but because they want to draw people in. Calling a game “free,” with no qualifications, sounds a heck of a lot better to the average consumer than calling something “free-to-start,” which carries the obvious additional implication that it’s free to start, but will cost you money to continue.

Sure, you and I, being experienced gamers that we are, know that “free-to-play” games aren’t really free, most of the time. But we make up a very small part of the potential market, especially once you go beyond games like MMORPGs and shooters and venture into the world of mobile and social games, which is probably where Iwata and Nintendo will be focusing their efforts. It’s nice that Iwata realizes what’s going on, but he should probably also realize that a little deception (“free-to-play”) will serve his company better than full honestly (“free-to-start”). It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.


  1. is there even a F2P game which cares about what players/fans wants ?
    the only thing they did is to make the game free for those cheapos who
    dun wanna pay but prefer paying later when they are force to and then complain and then
    they move on.

  2. Free-to-play is just the rebranding of shareware and the migration to server/client networked games with persistent accounts.

    However, it is a very intelligent rebranding, since the term shareware doesn’t translate directly to “a game that I can play for free with limitations” for the average person.

  3. il be hones he never missed the Point it you as a consumer who just fails to accept anything different.

    Its like a Trend right now Free – to start sounds weird and Wrong but there will be a time that terminology eats away what Free – to – play is is.

    accept new things stop being in Rut is the only way Gaming evolves but Consumers fail to realize that!

  4. I don’t even touch F2P games anymore. All of them are now pretty much F2P, Pay 2 Have Fun.
    Either some have ridiculous grinding for free users or insane crafting times. It takes the fun out of the game. That’s why I’ve stopped playing F2P games since a couple years ago. I don’t play games simply because they’re free. I want to have fun. I used to be against B2P and P2P but the F2P gaming industry has changed my mind around.

  5. I see error of term F2P concept used by the CEO and Evil’s post.

    both can go back to the pass.

    following those concept, and the game will fail. want to argue? I’ll give you a hint, search YouTube. Easier for people like you who hate to research

  6. in the end, i still prefer subscription based models. 15 a month to have everything available to you and i don’t have to worry about kids who can’t afford it or hear their dilemma.
    and realistically it’s only 15$ a month. if you can afford to pay for your phone bill, internet, mortgage, hydro, etc. 15$ is like spoiling yourself in a month. unless you have kids then i think that 15$ is worth spending on your kids. otherwise free to play of any sort is a sad state. it’s made the MMO market so saturated with games that either has too little content because the game was rushed, or you have to do micro shitty transactions to have things available to you i.e. star wars.

    The worst case is that the game decides a P2W is the best option because people with money deserve to be on top bullshit.

  7. Freedom is not an absence of limitations, it’s an acceptance of their necessity. Free to play games are not “games where you don’t ever need to pay”, they are games where you decide when, how much and on what you are going to spend your money.

    It is not wrong or deceitful when publishers call their games F2P in most cases. Are those games not free to PLAY (even if they are pay to win, which is a different matter entirely)? It does not matter if some roads are closed to free players as long as all the destinations are accessible to them.

    • When I read this post, I kinda thought to my self ‘does he comprehend “Free to play” But then, if you’re using F2P to categorize games then I understand.

      Free to play is… what it says. You, as a player, are able to download and play the game for free. The other stuff like cash shops and etc are extra’s and is at the users discretion on spending their money on virtual goods.

      subscription based games are not free to play, because even those you may download the game, you still pay a monthly free.

      retail games that is not tied to a subscription is still not free to play, because you can’t pick up or download the client and then play, you first have to play.

      Now as intended, when they first created the term used today “Free-to-play”, it is when you either pick up the game or download for free, create an account, and start play right away.

      T H A T I S W H A T F 2 P M E A N S. period and nothing else. Everything else is just speculations…

      • The point I’m trying to make is that free to play games are not just “free to start”. Yes, publishers do expect their clients to pay at some point, but it does not make the game not free to play, because it is entirely possible to keep playing “without paying a dime”.


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