Satoru Iwata

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.

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.

11 Readers Commented

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  1. Merkadis on May 19, 2015

    Hmm… i’m skeptical until i actually see some results.
    You guys do remember Nexon ceo with his “no more P2W”? it also sounded a bit like this here.

  2. NopnopanNOP on May 16, 2015

    There already games that do this kind of business model very few but still exist. Still there are also other games that do this and only appeal to the people who push more money in. I think there does need to be some form of norm for making a fair F2P game. These game companies do not place their hopes on small payment systems because well they know their game is Shi# and don’t wanna put more effort than they want too into the game because well there are limits and putting pay to win tactics into a game is more easier than balancing it for all users to enjoy.

  3. Razer on May 16, 2015

    Good. I’m glad Ninty ignored the troglodytes that told them to do it the easy way. If this new business model is successful, it will be the beginning of the end for shit games that cater to people with more money than brains.

  4. NeoS on May 16, 2015

    This won’t prevent games from nickel-and-diming you to death. It also won’t stop the hordes of cheaters, trolls and lazy casuals that flood popular F2P games.

    It is a step in the right direction though. Too bad most developers don’t care about their image as much as Nintendo.

  5. Buggy on May 16, 2015

    Nintendo should stick to what their good with instead of trying to lose a leg branching out into the mmo markets, Now nothing to see here folks carry on with your daily business.

    • NopnopanNOP on May 16, 2015

      how is it back in the 90’s bros ? I was pretty sure this was the future.

    • Eviil on May 16, 2015

      uh, brah, you shouldn’t sleep on Nintendo.

    • elli on May 16, 2015

      They’re pretty good at everything, actually.

  6. oןןǝɥ on May 15, 2015

    I tried some f2p 3ds games, they’re just as bad as every other mobile game.

  7. Mystika on May 15, 2015

    Nintendo’s so far published 4 free games (all on the 3DS; there are others but those aren’t from Nintendo):
    – 2 full F2P games (Pokemon Shuffle & Pokemon Rumble World) which while limiting players on a time basis (Shuffle moreso than Rumble World), limit mictrotransactions per month as well (a practice which I like, but for addicted players who want to spend big, may not like). The microtransactions are a way of bypassing the time limits/or to get powerups which can be earned ingame anyway.
    – 2 free to try games (Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball & Stretchmo/Fullblox), which are more like demos, but just branded under a different name, as most of the content still requires a 1 time payment to access (call them mini-expansions if you will).

    While I don’t think Ninty’s going to go big with F2P games (their core business is still paid games on their consoles), it’ll still be interesting to see where they head with F2P. Of course, it’s still very doubtful they’d join the PC market (they only just this year announced joining the mobile market after a long period of opposition to it).

  8. Richard on May 15, 2015

    sounds cool. i hope it works out lol.

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