Could Nintendo change the way we think about free-to-play monetization methods?
In speaking to investors earlier this week, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata -- who already has had his say on free-to-play and its less-savory practices -- said that his company is exploring alternatives to change the monetization of its F2P games from one that appeals to a "narrow and large[-spending]" audience to one that's "wide and small[-spending]." In other words, he wants his games to get smaller amounts of money from a larger pool of players instead of a lot of money from a few players.
The second question on this page is where Iwata explains in depth his company's strategy. In noting that the traditional way Japanese mobile games make money is by exploiting "whales," Iwata says that such a strategy "will not produce long-lasting results," even if it does produce short-term profits. A secondary issue is the desire to keep Nintendo a family-friendly company, and avoid incidents like this one, so that "parents and guardians can give Nintendo products to their children with peace of mind." As such, Iwata has challenged his team to come up with alternatives, and his developers have had "many active discussions on the topic."
It's an interesting challenge, and considering Iwata's seemingly high integrity, one that I wouldn't doubt he's serious about. Of course, as with my last article about Iwata, I'm not 100% that it can work without something really restrictive, like my Awful Idea from last year, which sounded nice in theory but not so much in practice. Not only that, but big spenders, as much as they might seem abhorrent, are what help keep games free for the vast majority of players. Reduce their impact and it means more players have to pay to enjoy the game -- which could have a dramatic effect on the "free-ness" of a F2P game and the enjoyment level of its player base.
Still, it'll be interesting to see if Iwata and Nintendo can actually pull off something that appeals to customers and is healthy for the company in the long-term. Maybe it will lead to a whole new way to approach F2P monetization that games will rush to adapt.
About the Author
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.
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