News Article

Satoru Iwata Acknowledges Possibility of Free-To-Play Games

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Only for different, more suitable concepts

While many of us watched Nintendo's formal presentations at E3, as would be expected of a trade event there were low-key meetings and Q&A sessions as well. An analyst Q&A has been published by Nintendo, where Satoru Iwata was grilled on a range of topics such as Wii U hardware, costs and bundles, which were genuinely brushed off as Nintendo wasn't ready to reveal details.

Questions that did get some detailed answers revolved around subjects such as the social networking aspect of Miiverse and, intriguingly, a number of questions about the importance of digital services and concepts such as free-to-play gaming. Below are a collection of answers that address Wii U's digital platform and the benefits of giving developers the opportunities and tools to make good use of the system.

With respect to the Wii U system, when we began working on it, one of our goals was to have a variety of purchase options and additional e-commerce options available at its launch. And because of that, we have prepared a Digital Rights Management system. We have designed the system from a technical standpoint to allow developers to freely take advantage of things like free to play and micro transactions...

As we’ve shared with you previously, for the Wii U hardware system, from the beginning, we’ve planned to make it possible for people to release their games as either an optical disc or as digital content. So publishers would be able to choose from both of those options.

Currently, we are in discussions with the publishers by sharing with them our offer in this area. Through that process, if publishers accept it as reasonable, games in the digital format will be available from the launch time. There are no technical restrictions...

I do think that we can improve profitability because with digital goods you avoid things like the cost of goods for media. You do not have the cost of shipping physical goods and you also can hold down inventory risks.

When asked directly whether Nintendo would explore free-to-play for its own games, Iwata made clear that conventional Nintendo titles such as those in the Mario franchise are not considered suitable, but admitted that the company may consider the model if the right ideas and concepts are developed.

We would like those who highly recognize the value of the products we have created to play them. What I am trying to say is that we are not considering introducing a free-to-play game if the game itself is not suitable in that fashion. I have no intention to deny every possibility of free-to-play.

As expected, Iwata was vague enough to suggest that Nintendo is still some distance from experimenting with different pricing models in its own franchises, but did say enough to suggest that the Wii U eShop may open the door to other developers trying free-to-play and micro transactions. It's a potentially touchy subject, so where do you stand?

[via nintendo.co.jp]

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User Comments (35)

BenAV

#1

BenAV said:

I'm not too fond of the concept of free to play games.
But I think they're doing the right thing by letting publishers release them if they wish, as they want to keep the third parties happy.
I can't complain too much about it, because if I don't like the look of the game then I simply won't play it.

TheDreamingHawk

#2

TheDreamingHawk said:

Free to play for a minigame is fine, but nothing from nintendo. That wouldn't fit them.

And no freenium either.

spidey1010

#3

spidey1010 said:

Good to know Nintendo's trying to be more aggressive and cutting edge.

While I can't see any of their core franchises going free-to-play, I'm really glad they're opening up that possibility for developers.

As for disc V. digital, there's something appealing to me about having a physical disc. Although that may just be lingering sentiment from when games were actually written to the cartridge. I hate the modern standard of saves being kept only on the system's hard drive.

k8sMum

#4

k8sMum said:

i think the headline is a wee bit optimistic. it felt as if it was pulling teeth to get Iwata to even discuss free-to-play games. i am not a huge fan of them, in any event. i am also torn between digital/physical cart purchases.

Rensch

#5

Rensch said:

For small, casual games (Angry Birds, anyone) it would be a good thing.

Lew3107

#6

Lew3107 said:

Potentially, I can see their older, more obscure franchises that haven't been out for a while going free-to-play, like Balloon Fight or Duck Hunt. But even then I think they'd be restricted and may be better off as downloadable titles.The only 3rd party FTP game I've ever taken interest in is Ghost Recon Online, other than that, don't really care for them.

komicturtle

#8

komicturtle said:

They should not consider free-to-play since most of the time, it's not even free at all. Also, imagine a F2P Mario game where you can only play a few levels at a time and have to purchase "energy" to keep going. No thanks.

Animal Crossing could work, but I'm not using real money to purchase furniture or bells.

It's a waste of effort and resources when they can be focusing on games we have to pay for that is of top quality.

armoredghor

#9

armoredghor said:

Considering the price of a console dev kit (3DS $3000 vs. iPhone $100), I don't think we'll have a problem with the shovelware on the iPhone. We got it on the Wii, but it'll cost people a lot more to publish a game on WiiU, which hopefully means more professionalism. Free games are good to start a franchise, but 20+ year old franchises don't need that to be successful.

EvilLucario

#10

EvilLucario said:

Nintendo should not do this. However, I'm all for having Nexon's Vindictus and Crytek's Warface on the system as free to play games.

ThomasBW84Admin

#11

ThomasBW84 said:

@k8sMum Fair enough :) Iwata did speak about it as a valid option for other developers, and then refused to completely rule it out for Nintendo. As I suggested at the end, I think it'll be a while before we see a free-to-play release from the big N, but it may dip its toes into it if a fun, accessible concept nags at the devs for long enough.

To be clear, I'm not keen on free-to-play, personally, but it's becoming a part of the gaming landscape. It's positive that Nintendo's establishing the infrastructure on Wii U, even if it doesn't like the idea itself.

AVahne

#12

AVahne said:

Ghost Recon Online. Make that free-to-play just like the PC version.
Nintendo doesn't have to make any free-to-play games, just allow any f2p PC MMO that gets ported to Wii U to be free-to-play. Ghost Recon Online is one that should definitely be f2p like the PC version.
And I'm still hoping for a Wii U version of Phantasy Star Online 2!

Undead_terror

#13

Undead_terror said:

any games that are free on any other device or flash games that make it on the shop need to be free

MeloMan

#14

MeloMan said:

If Nintendo Land is an inclusive game that can be upgrading and ongoing with Wii U's lifespan, then maybe free-to-play games can be introduced through there, I dunno. Overall, I don't see it as business critical, and their stance of "suitable" I can fully understand. Nintendo's not one to "just do it", just to do it.

Skeletor

#15

Skeletor said:

@spidey1010 I think the best part of having save files on the system is when a friend is borrowing your game, you won't have to worry about your save files. I've had the misfortune of that in the past.

JohnDoe123

#16

JohnDoe123 said:

He did say "different, more suitable concepts" I'm all for the possibility of F2P, if handled correctly.

rjejr

#17

rjejr said:

I don't see Nintendo making any "free" games, ie iOS and Android type 1 minute long stuff, but "free' can mean other things, such as PS Home (you have to pay for the Midway games but there are a ton of smaller things to play). And technically Wii Sports was "free" as it was bundled. Free Realms can be played for free, as can several other MMO, up to a point, though some of them are really just glorified demos. And Sony gave away a few "fre" games after the network breach last year. And personally I've thought for a long time Nintnedo shouldgive away free VC games as a marketing ploy - buy Mario SNES, get Mario NES free.
You know, maybe before we talk to Nintendo about "free' games we should introduce them to the concept of "sale". If they want the Wii U to compete w/ PSN and Xbox Live they are going to have to start having sales.

Ernest_The_Crab

#18

Ernest_The_Crab said:

@rjejr They probably will have the option of sales for 3rd party developers for downloadable software. My guess is that we won't see sales for Nintendo games though. Nintendo games generally sell very well, to the point where they don't need sales (excluding games with no advertising like Excitebots).

Frankly, this also becomes a problem with games that are sold at retail AND digital. I seriously doubt a developer in that scenario would choose to have a sale on the digital copies if they can get the retail ones to sell.

Neram

#19

Neram said:

"I do think that we can improve profitability because with digital goods you avoid things like the cost of goods for media. You do not have the cost of shipping physical goods and you also can hold down inventory risks."

Therefore digital should be cheaper for us as customers as well.

Aviator

#20

Aviator said:

Anyone talking about free-to-play being cheap shovelware.

Download Steam and all of it's free-to-play offerings, then come back to me.

mamp

#21

mamp said:

Humble Bundles anyone?
Also the only Nintendo game I think should be free to play should be Urban Champion can't believe it got a 3D classics remake.

komicturtle

#22

komicturtle said:

@Aviator
I know TF2 is a great F2P game. Spiral Knights is good except for the transactions part- then again, they have to make money somehow and it's quality software.

Henmii

#24

Henmii said:

Nintendo really doesn't need free-to-play games! What they should do though is asking the same amount of money for a i-phone port then it did cost on the i-phone! Because it is ridiculous to pay 5 Euro for a game that did cost 1 Euro on the i-phone!!!

Morphbug

#25

Morphbug said:

This means at least one free-to-play massive multiplayer online RPG is bound to happen. It would be awesome if correctly implemented with the Miiverse :D

Token_Girl

#26

Token_Girl said:

I don't have a problem with them offering this option to third parties. I'd rather not see ads everywhere though - I'd rather pay a bit of $$$ than have ads everywhere. Once you start putting ads places, it's a slippery slope and then they're everywhere, because people start expecting them (see - cable TV, Xbox).

SanderEvers

#30

SanderEvers said:

Nintendo should allow:

Free to play
Buy to play (like Guild Wars (2))
Pay to play (like WoW)

But not free to pay (like most Facebook games)

MAB

#31

MAB said:

Yes Nintendo give us F2P games please so it will make some of these babies stop crying for their dummies ;)

paburrows

#33

paburrows said:

I could see additional Nintendoland games being free to play, which in turn would be a way for nintendo to test the waters for the posibility of wiether a character/game would be popular for a full game.

Kitsune_Rei

#34

Kitsune_Rei said:

F2P can be good and bad. It'd be nice to see them try it, so long as the games aren't too much like the Facebook crappy games. It could be pretty profitable if done right I'd think.
Would this just be for Wii U, or is 3DS a possibility?

SkywardLink98

#35

SkywardLink98 said:

I can't think of any of their current franchises that would do well the the F2P/Freemium type pricing model.

Kid Icarus could work, 10 levels free, 10 weapons, half of the multiplayer stages and half the powers, and for $4.99 a month (Or $59.99 as a one time fee) you get 15-as many as possible, double as many multiplayer stages, 200 more weapons, double as many powers AND 10 free multiplayer levels AND you can play any stage with 2 players with either being Pit or Dark Pit.

I'd but that :D.

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