Wednesday, February 26, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

“Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher.”

The fuck?

After Nintendo’s catastrophic cuts in its forecasts for both the Wii U and the 3DS, Nintendo announced some significant new endeavors and initiatives that the company intends to steer towards, such as higher focus on R&D on the Wii U’s hardware to make the Gamepad more relevant, re-establishing a new “Quality of Life” initiative which includes non-wearable hardware, and they have even considered mobile as a platform to syphon consumers to their main software and hardware.

Though some say that Nintendo doesn’t take pressure from its shareholders, the fact of the matter is that it is, indeed, a publically traded company. However, shareholders such as hedge fund manager Seth Fischer, who’s responsible for the above quote, isn’t just out of touch with what Nintendo’s desired business philosophy is, but is completely out of touch with the game’s industry in general.

While an easy fall back option for sustaining revenue, micro-transactions is a finicky concept that can contaminate game design so easily. It’s like chemistry; one wrong agent or even the incorrect amount, and it could turn toxic. Free-to-play models have struggled under unseen financial influences and proper game balancing to strike the well between being profitable and not being “free-to-win”. That’s why Zenimax stuck with the decision to charge players with a subscription fee for The Elder Scrolls Online. Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann, Brad Shoemaker, and Vinny Caravella talked about free-to-play as a model that “makes you get through all the mundane shit to get to the end faster” (not a verbatim quote). It becomes less of a game that you bought and more of an arcade machine on the go. Drop 25 cents here.

Outcries have not been in short supply about Dungeon Keeper’s aggressive in-app purchases for basic items that were in Peter Molyneux’s original game, a game that now Molyneux calls “ridiculous” and outspoken critics such as Jim Sterling berates that, “"It's free to wait, but not to play anything." Other classic titles such as Tales of Phantasia have also been aggressively riddled in app purchases. Touch Arcade’s Shaun Musgrave’s strapline for his review reads, “How to destroy a classic in three simple steps”, and discusses at length about how absurd omissions and monetization completely breaks the game.

Charging consumers 99 cents basic game mechanics goes far beyond the parameters of what Nintendo is willing to consider which, as we’ve heard thus far, does not include full-on mobile support at this time. It also insults the intelligence of consumers. Imagine paying for a Fire Flower or a Tanooki Suit. Imagine having to pay to unlock worlds 4-8? Nintendo isn’t completely evasive to in-game purchases however. The recently released American version of Darumeshi’s Sport’s Shop, better known as Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, plays with the concept in questionable but interesting ways with its haggling feature that allows players to “negotiate” actual prices of mini games with the in-game anthropomorphic store owner.

But to Dungeon Keeper-ize Nintendo mobile games? Fuck that noise. 

Writer's Note: Siting corrections embedded to Jim Sterling's Dungeon Keeper Review 

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