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Nintendo President Really Doesn’t Like The Term ‘Free-To-Play’

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to suggest that a complete transition to a Free-to-start model should be made because the existing retail model is outdated.”

10 thoughts on “Nintendo President Really Doesn’t Like The Term ‘Free-To-Play’”

  1. While I do agree with Iwata’s term “free to start” being fairly accurate (for the most part), free to play is a lot easier to market. Free to start sounds like a demo or trial, and people don’t want to think that when they play a game because it makes them feel like they need to pay for the actual experience – when that happens, the white noise term of “pay to win” comes into play and easily drives potential consumers away.

    When I see a free to play game I know there’s a premium slice of content, but I don’t expect it to pay anything in my experience. Even if I’m told that I have to in order to progress at some point, more often than not I have to break out my wallet far later in the game when burnout’s starting to hit. With free-to-start, the term means that at some point you will have to pay because only the entry was free of an admission free.

    I like the term and think it’s apt, but I don’t think it’s going to catch on if Nintendo use it in their first step into mobile gaming.

    1. It’s a sad truth that, in business, sometimes honesty isn’t the most lucrative policy.
      But in a world where lies for the sake of profit is an unfortunate norm, I find the open honesty in display here to be highly admirable.
      It shows that he’s taking the free to start model seriously, and that he’s likely going to keep his word about not abusing the model for profits, that he’ll do his best to keep the integrity and quality of the IP’s used intact.

      Honesty like that can inspire trust even as it pushes an uncomfortable truth forward.

      It’s an interesting paradox, wouldn’t you agree?

  2. “Free-to-play” is actually borderline lying. A lot of so called free-to-play games actually DO require money to “play” them. They are just free to download them initially.

    So, as Iwata said, a more appropriate term would be free-to-start.

  3. The funny thing is, I’m on level 110 of Pokemon Shuffle and I haven’t spent a dime! Starting to feel that I owe them a buck or two just for all the entertainment I’ve had for free…

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