Nintendo president Satoru Iwata doesn’t like the term free-to-play and believes it should really be called ‘free-to-start’. Iwata admits that core gamers aren’t really fans of so-called ‘free-to-play’ titles and hopes to bring in a new standard for the mobile industry once they enter it sometime later this year.
“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.’”
“The thing that concerns me most is that, in the digital age, if we fail to make efforts to maintain the value of our content, there is the high possibility for the value to be greatly reduced as the history of the music industry has shown,” he continues. “On the other hand, I have no intention to deny the Free-to-start model. In fact, depending on how we approach this model, we may be able to overcome these problems.”
“I do not believe it is an either-or situation between Free-to-start and packaged game retail business models,” argues Iwata. “There are games which are more suited for the Free-to-start model. We can flexibly choose between both revenue systems depending on the software content.”
“However, because there are games or types of games which are suited for the existing package model, and because there are consumers who appreciate and support them, I have to say that it is a one-sided claim to suggest that a complete transition to a Free-to-start model should be made because the existing retail model is outdated.”
Square Enix’s America and Europe CEO Phil Rogers has explained to MCV that the company has no plans to abandon core gamers, despite the company’s recent shift to mobile platforms. Rogers told the publication that they are aware of gamers suspicions regarding free-to-play titles, but claims it’s only one of their business models.
“Today people might be suspicious of free-to-play – some people fear this is a tag for low quality although many see free to play games pushing boundaries in terms of quality and fun. We understand that generally a lot of core gamers don’t like the idea of free-to-play if it’s really seen as a way to charge them more than they want for something. That’s not the intention nor is it a strategy that will last and take any business forward.
“But free-to-play is one business model, not the only business model. And while we’re making games for a variety of audiences, we still have a lot of focus for those day one gamers that have such amazing passion, and which – frankly – this business has been built on. We have no plans to abandon them, and we value their responses – even if sometimes that can be emotion and hard to read.”
Toshihiro Nagoshi, Sega Chief Creative Officer, has spoken to Famitsu about the company’s plans to release more free to play titles for the Nintendo 3DS. Nagoshi is already working on Sega’s first free-to-play game for the Nintendo 3DS, Initial D: Perfect Drift Online. Nagoshi says that he is up to the challenge of making free to play games – which are popular on smartphones and tablets – work on the Nintendo 3DS.
“We don’t intend to stop with this title, and after looking over its results, we’ll think about what to do next. However, unlike games for smartphones, I believe there’s a perfect shape of ways to do things, somewhere out there, for the Nintendo 3DS. I believe that finding it will be our challenge, and in many ways, Initial D will be our first step.”
“At the moment, I can say that we’ve been thinking about plenty of things. We have suggestions amongst ourselves like ‘wouldn’t this be a perfect game for a F2P title on Nintendo 3DS’ and many more. So when the time comes to talk about it… we’ll just leave it at that for now.”
Earlier this year, Nintendo revealed it was working on a re-imagining of Steel Diver – the company’s first free-to-play title. Now, according to an Australian classification, the game has been titled Steel Diver: Subwars. The classification notes that it will be a “G” rated title and, though no designated format has been stated, the Nintendo 3DS is the assumed platform – just like the original 3DS launch game released in 2011.
At E3 in June, Miyamoto said the development team was looking at new ways to take the game into multiplayer territory. The classification does state a consumer warning that says “gaming experience may change online”, so this may be an indication of how the game will function in multiplayer, with the supposed four-player battle mode.
US gaming publication GameSpot recently caught up with Nintendo manager of business development Dan Adelman and senior marketing manager for licensing Damon Baker at this year’s PAX Prime event. Both employees spoke to the publication about what the future holds for digital games on Nintendo platforms. Adelman informed GameSpot that the company has a number of free to play games in the pipeline, but wouldn’t specify for which formats. Which Nintendo franchises would you like to see go free to play?
“Free-to-play is something that’s relatively new to us, and we allow it and we’ve got some games in the pipeline that are planning on supporting that.”
Animal Crossing lead designer Katsuya Eguchi says that Nintendo is open to the idea of creating a free-to-play Animal Crossing game which features micro transactions. Eguchi said that the first thing the development team would need to do is to look at what content will be available for free at the beginning. He concluded by saying that Nintendo would ultimately have to find a business model that works.
“I think the main thing that we need to think about before even considering doing something like that is to determine what we’re going to make available from the beginning. I think that’s key in deciding whether we do something like that. If I find a business model that works, however — that works for Nintendo and the end-user — then I can’t say that [free-to-play] is something we wouldn’t consider.”
“When you look at our main audience in Japan, they are definitely that audience that has smartphones. [They are] women in their late teens and early 20s. They are certainly playing free-to-play games on their smartphone.”
Shigeru Miyamoto has told IGN that Nintendo’s free-to-play title will be the Nintendo 3DS launch game, Steel Diver. Miyamoto told the publication that the free-to-play model would ultimately change the game’s design. He stated that they are looking at a number of ways they can take the game from a multiplayer perspective. Miyamoto concluded by saying that the free-to-play Steel Diver is something that they are hoping to show off relatively soon.
“There is something we’re doing with the Steel Diver idea that I think is going to open things up with that game… It’s going to be very fun. We’re exploring from a perspective of where we can take that from a multiplayer standpoint – it’s going to have this four-player battle mode that I think is going to be very interesting.”
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