When Nintendo announced earlier this week that it was partnering with mobile gaming giant DeNA to finally bring its characters to the mobile phone market, some were concerned about the direction the partnership would take with Nintendo’s legendary game design. DeNA’s international success comes on top of a deluge of free-to-play, microtransaction-heavy mobile games that often use heavy elements of chance to ensnare players for slot machine-style chases.
Nintendo hasn’t ruled out such a model for its mobile games, but says other payment methods will be considered for individual titles as well. In an interview with Time, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata noted that what he calls the “free-to-start” business model is popular on mobile phones, and that it would “naturally be an option for us to consider”. That said, “for each title, we will consult with DeNA and determine the most appropriate payment method. So, specific to your question, both [free-to-play and other business models] can be options, and if it comes with a new Nintendo-esque invention, so much the better.”
Looking further into the matter, Iwata said he doesn’t want to “choose payment methods that could harm Nintendo’s brand image or our IP,” and that it’s important to have a business model “that parents feel comfortable taking their kids with.” to play”. it’s even more important for us to think about how we can get as many people as possible around the world to play Nintendo apps for smart devices, rather than thinking about which payment system will bring in the most money.”
Nintendo has been taking small steps into the world of free-to-play gaming on the 3DS lately. Games like Rusty’s real baseball use haggling over microtransactions with a hapless shop owner as a clever form of storytelling. pokemon shuffle, on the other hand, uses a more standardized free-to-play model, selling items and extra moves for real money. In Japan, the 3DS also has a Collectible Badge Center app that allows users to pay real money for a chance to win tap game-style digital pins.
Elsewhere in the interview, Iwata clarified that actual game development as part of the mobile collaboration “will be done primarily by Nintendo”, though legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto will prioritize further development of Wii U titles. Iwata also reiterated that Nintendo would not simply port existing console games to the mobile marketplace due to platform differences. “It is my understanding that in smart devices, the main demand is for highly accessible games that smart device users can easily start and easily finish,” he said. “These aren’t necessarily the features people demand from games for dedicated video game systems.”