During today's Nintendo Direct broadcast Nintendo lifted the lid on its take on the Free-To-Play concept with an entirely new game: Rusty's Real Deal Baseball.
A collection of minigames which attempts to harness the "good feel" of the sport of baseball, this eShop download is free and contains a trial game, but to access other events — based around elements of the sport such as batting, pitching, fielding, and so on — you have to buy them with real money.
Each title has a starting price of $4, but in an interesting twist, players can bribe Rusty with in-game items and haggle for a cheaper cost — which is reflected in the real world price of the game. Presumably, these bribe items are limited and cannot be used indefinitely; while solid details haven't been revealed, it seems likely that skillful play in the game itself will yield more items which can be used to get on the good side of Rusty. You can also lend him your ear and listen to his many problems, which also results in a lower price.
The game is due for release in April, and was only included in the North American version of the Nintendo Direct broadcast — which would suggest that Nintendo is releasing it in that region first before pushing it elsewhere.
Here's the skinny from the official press release:
Ex-pro baseball player and dog Rusty Slugger owns a sports shack. He’s broke with 10 puppies to feed, so he offers a variety of baseball mini-games for sale, themed around the simple pleasures of baseball. Players can bat, pitch, catch and even umpire. The initial software containing a part of the first mini-game is free, but players can purchase additional mini-games in a unique way: by haggling to lower the real-world price for each downloadable game. Additional games start at $4 apiece, but giving Rusty items or listening to his problems might improve his mood and motivate him to offer steep discounts.
What do you think of this new approach to freemium gaming? Could Nintendo be looking to reward gamers who put the hours in with this unique mechanic? Could it catch on in other titles? Share your feelings by posting a comment below.