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Nintendo begins to experiment with free-to-play in the West
Nintendo begins to experiment with free-to-play in the West
February 13, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

February 13, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
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Today, Nintendo announced that it is releasing two free-to-play games to its 3DS eShop service: Steel Diver: Sub Wars and Rusty's Real Deal Baseball.

Steel Diver: Sub Wars is a submarine-based first person shooter, and it's more of a hobbled, unlimited-time demo than a true free-to-play game -- paying $9.99 will unlock the "premium" version of the game. It is available now.

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball, meanwhile, offers a slate of minigames players can unlock by spending real currency in-game. They start at $4 a game, but players can haggle with the game's protagonist, Rusty, to pay a lower cash price if they choose. Gamasutra posted a story about the Japanese version of this game last year which contains more details. The game will launch in the West this April.

Neither game features "real" microtransactions, with Steel Diver: Sub Wars particularly far from the standard set by smartphone games and PC MMOs.


Rusty's Real Deal Baseball

Last year, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata spoke about his company's interest in the free-to-play model, saying, "For new titles with no established base, if, in the process of development, we found it to suit the free-to-play model, we might follow that route, or we might do something like 'Cheap-to-play.'" Rusty seems to fit that proposed "cheap-to-play" mold.


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Comments


Ryan Christensen
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Nintendo will have a difficult time with in-apps/micro transactions. First off the nostalgia, fanbase rage. Secondly, kids are a large part of their platform and recently with Apple paying back parents they would need it very locked down. Third, they aren't good at online/servers/multiplayer and who knows how long that content stays around. Toughest sell in the world: Nintendo in F2P (even if necessary), second only to Nintendo on mobile as seen with the last round of WiiU bad news.

Bob Johnson
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I don't understand your reasoning.


1. I don't see why fans would automatically rage. Fans would get mad if they got a good in-app/micro-transaction game from Nintendo??!?!?

2. I don't see the problem with kids. Nintendo's platforms, by default, don't allow you to purchase content with a few clicks unless a parent sets it up and allows that.

3. NIntendo seems pretty good at online and servers and multiplayer actually. The examples being Miiverse, their eshop and Mario Kart. They also have Spotpass.



Kyle Redd
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@Bob

If Nintendo put out a new Zelda game where rupees had to be purchased with real money instead of coming out of chests and clay pots, fans would rage even if it had the greatest gameplay in the history of the series (and rightly so, in my opinion). Similarly if you had to spend money to buy Pokeballs in Pokemon or power-up mushrooms in Super Mario Bros. No fan of Nintendo wants them to go down that path.

Christofer Stenberg
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@Kyle

"For new titles with no established base", I think that includes Zelda and Pokemon.

Desmond Crowe
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@Ryan and Kyle,

If we read the article provided, it becomes abundantly clear that that's *not* what they're doing. They charge a modest (and finite) amount for extra content, which is an infintely more customer friendly scheme than what a lot of developers are doing these days.

I'm looking at you, EA.

Jeferson Soler
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Desmond Crowe is right! Plus, in case of Rusty's Real Deal Baseball, you can use the Haggle function to lower the price of the mini-games, and from what I read a long time ago, it might be even possible to get a mini-game at no charge if the Haggle is way too successful. One way to look at Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is to see it as a free base game with the option to customize it by purchasing individual mini-games and those mini-games might add up to the possible base price of the whole game if it were to be sold at the brick and mortar stores; of course, that would be based on if the Haggle function wasn't used. Nintendo of Japan was very clever on how to do this game. It was a great way to appease anyone that was pushing Nintendo to do a F2P game, while at the same time, Nintendo made the game fun and fair for potential customers.

Ryan Christensen
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@Bob

While I agree F2P done right is not bad, just saying it is a hard sell for Nintendo based on those factors.

1) See any thread about Nintendo going F2P or on mobile for the rage I mention. Me personally, I might not mind seeing an F2P Super Smash Bros or Open world Mario that might have in-apps or virtual currency as long as it is fun and works like Valve, Halfbrick style F2P.

2) Apple also locks this down heavily yet still had to pay a settlement, and that platform is majority adults unlike Nintendo. So less money will also be generated this way in addition to the wall/payment problem of selling to under 18.

3) Nintendo is not great at multiplayer online or server based content as they don't do a ton of it. Not saying they don't need to be good at this yesterday. Nintendo isn't as trusted as Steam or Apple/Play in keeping your purchases which are systems built around that at the core not bolted on later, hard to change culture quickly.

If you see other posts from mine you will see I am a supporter of Nintendo, bought everything up to WiiU, and hope they move into some of these areas. But with that said, it is the toughest sell of all and there is the rabid fanbase to tread lightly and in-apps to kids are much harder. Of course you can get game cards and gift cards but for the most part kids aren't buying things with their money.

To top it off, unlocks don't usually work well on F2P, there has to be more goods/value than the price of the game to justify the free side and get the population needed to make it profitable. So DLC like unlocks are ok for premium games, but for F2P to work long term there has to be currency, lots of vanity upgrades, lower cost entry points (.99 buckets of coins), higher buckets to make lower buckets look cheaper (99.99) etc. Eventually F2P gets to that but as long as it is focused on vanity/accessories/customizable options and maybe extra content then it doesn't get that icky in-app. F2P like TF2/Valve style, Halfbrick Jetpack Joyride style is the good F2P, the bad would be Dungeon Keeper. Nintendo might even do better at a subscription model.

My favorite NES was the 8-bit NES and my favorite games were gold Zelda, Blaster Master, Contra, Cobra Triangle, and of course Super Mario.

Zach Taiji
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Disagree. This isn't the first iteration of IAP's on the 3DS. I own one, and several AAA titles have IAP's including Fire Emblem and the recent Bravely Default. Both games have been a critical success for the platform.

If done right, IAP's can be very effective. If devs continue to push full featured games such as Bravely Default and Fire Emblem on the 3DS and offer optional IAP's, it'll work just as it does currently. Muddling games with IAP's like iOS and Android do, will not work on the 3DS and Nintedo platforms - but I'm almost certain that will not happen, as standards are set much higher for Nintendo dev than iOS/Android dev.

Also, purchasing IAP's and such on the 3DS are not a one or two-click task like on iOS/Android - and they are tons of parental controls.

Chris Melby
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@Ryan,

You said this above; "...they would need it very locked down".

They as in Nintendo. They are locked down. You can not buy anything via their eShop, etc..., without first adding funds.

Have you even bought anything from Nintendo in the past 8 years?

Why would you even put Nintendo in the same light as Apple if you had, given how different their payment structure is setup?

The incident that Apple had with micro-transaction abuse is not even possible on Nintendo's platform, as there's a set max to how many funds can be added -- $200 on the Wii U and 3DS.

Bob Johnson
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@Ryan

1. FAn rage at their worst imagined fear of an established franchise incorporating the worst elements of F2P isn't proof that Nintendo couldn't sell a F2P game.

Is anyone FOR having their favorite franchise be made into a F2P game with all the worst elements the model is known for? No. Does anyone want their favorite franchise "dungeon keeper-ized?" Not from what I've read.


2. Again Nintendo's platforms don't allow automatic purchases by default. An adult with a credit card has to enable that feature. IF Nintendo has proven anything over the years it is that they are very protective of kids.

Club Penguin is an example of a successful F2P kid's game. And since you've pointed out many F2P models that were successes why would anyone think we've closed the book on even more successful F2P business models including ones for kids?

3. Again have you played Mario Kart online? It is a very well done multiplayer experience. Have you seen the stuff they've done with Animal Crossing? Have you seen Miiverse?

There's more to online play and servers than Xbox Live or a BF4 server etc. Nintendo doesn't do many online things close to as well as the other guys. But the reverse is now also starting to be true. Nintendo is carving out their own online strengths.

Whether you were or weren't an ardent supporter of Nintendo never crossed my mind. It did enter my mind that this guy hasn't used Nintendo's latest platforms. And/or has a very narrow definition of F2P, online multiplayer, and servers/services.

Ryan Christensen
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@Bob and @Chris,

As I said I have played all Nintendo's up through the Wii except the WiiU and handheld up to present 3DS and with my son including online multiplayer and purchasing games on the eShop, we also play PC, mobile and PS3.

I think we'll just have to agreed to disagree. I don't feel Nintendo does online and services as well as others and doesn't compare to mobile.

Yes Bob F2P is broad and why I put the range of extremes from Valve/TF2 style to Dungeon Keeper. Unlocks and DLC is not really considered F2P but is another way to allow funded content, but I am for Nintendo doing either, not against it in any way again but it is a hard sell (not to me - to the reasons I believe above). I think we are arguing some of the same points but I disagree that Nintendo is as competitive as they should be in online, multiplayer, servers/services/stores etc. Personal opinion I guess. I have been derided here in the past for saying Nintendo should go multiplatform, F2P Super Smash Bros, now I guess I am on the otherside. I think I'll refrain from opinions on Nintendo as it strikes a nerve.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Ryan Christensen - The main reason I would assume that Nintendo would be demonized by some people for doing a F2P game is because some of those people don't like F2P games to begin with and I don't blame them for that. I played these F2P games (particularly, the ones that are known as "social" games) a long time ago through Facebook, but unlike some people, I didn't do purchases nor take advantage of some promotional offers (like becoming a Netflix member for example) to get some in-game stuff as well as didn't use illegal hacks to get "free" stuff. During the time that I played these so-called games, I saw the problems that came with those games, especially when it came to the competitive side of these games, so I'll have to say that F2P games are not all that's cracked up to be, in my opinion. Having said that, Nintendo seems to have found a way to make F2P games work. There's no denying that there will be concerns from people that don't like F2P games, but in case of Rusty's Real Deal Baseball, Nintendo found ingenious ways to make the game look good and one of those ways is with the Haggle function. If the western version of the game is anything like the original Japanese version of the game, then players could even get some of the mini-games for free and legally. At this point, I don't believe that Nintendo will apply the F2P practices onto any of its existing IPs and will instead focus on doing F2P games as new games that are not based on existing IPs, so there's no need for anyone to be worried about Nintendo trying to do something like a F2P Super Mario game, for example. Steel Diver is the one exception to the rule, but I heard that the game wasn't too popular when it was first released, so doing a new Steel Diver game as a F2P game would be like a fresh new start for the game.

Bob Johnson
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@Ryan


I just want you to connect the dots. Not seeing the connection between your conclusions and reasons.

Justin Kovac
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I miss the days of demo/trials/shareware. Sub Wars gives you 2 of 7 single player missions, access to 2 subs (of 18 I think) and full access to multiplayer. I had fun in the few rounds I played online. Worth it for anyone with a 3DS to give it a try.

John Flush
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As did I. When Mobile was first going there was a lot of 'Lite' games which were just that. But it quickly died for the "Free" to take its place. Unfortunately I was one of the few I guess that like Lite editions more because I knew they weren't trying to monetize me out of the gate but rather trying to get me to upgrade.


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