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What do you think of Nintendo's Free-to-Start/DLC/etc. experiments? [roundtable]
Nintendo has been getting pretty wacky, business model-wise, these days. Up is down, left is right, cats and dogs, living together...

So how do you feel about their attempts to modernize and monetize their groove?

Have you enjoyed Pokemon Shuffle and Pokemon Rumble World? Have you tired of tiny Pikachu icons on your start screen?

How about DLC? How much have you bought for Nintendo games? Will you pick up all of the Smash Bros. characters? How about the costumes?

Confession: I have played an embarrassing amount of Pokemon Shuffle (without consciously meaning to). Rumble is also somewhat addictive. Honestly, it feels kind of manipulative. And I'm not sure I enjoy that feeling. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a much, much, much better game, but the barrier to entry/minimum session length is so much higher. It's the same phenomenon that causes people to watch TV instead of play games at the end of a long work day. Anyway, I'm still collecting my thoughts on the topic. My kneejerk reaction is: I hate DLC and Microtransactions. However, I have absolutely no qualms with the way Mario Kart has rolled out new "content". Shuffle is also pretty well done, and basically free. So the devil is probably in the details. But I do miss the simpler days of yore.

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Posted: 04/16/15, 16:59:43  - Edited by 
 on: 04/16/15, 17:00:27
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Koovaps said:
I have no problem at all with these experiments. And by the reaction to Shuffle on this board, it all seems to be working. There is major enthusiasm there. To not pay is to be in the vast (95+%) majority, and actually helps spread the appeal to those who may end up as whales. The only way to resist the trend is to not play at all.

You don't see any ethical problem with this?
Posted: 04/18/15, 08:29:38
What exactly is manipulative about those games?
Posted: 04/18/15, 09:06:38

Easiest way to get a quick explanation of it is to watch the fantastic episode that South Park did on the subject this season.
Posted: 04/18/15, 11:06:34
Is there a way to get the explanation without being subjected to horrible jokes?
Posted: 04/18/15, 11:31:35

I'll give you an example.

In Pokemon Shuffle you get a certain amount of attempts before being locked out. They regenerate over time but are capped at a certain amount. This design encourages players to pick it up every few hours otherwise they miss out on attempts they could have otherwise earned. It's something that I believe MMOs use as well to encourage players to check in regularly.

I think the game does other things like have timed events so if players don't place in whatever bracket they miss out on whatever prize is on offer. Having the game lock you out of something like that and sell you more attempts is pretty sleazy. Especially when some people may struggle with impulse control.

EDIT: I should add, I am working with secondhand information on this. If any of what I said is inaccurate please let me know.

The biggest problem I have with free to play stuff is that there is no limit. A lot of games will have shitty DLC that is overpriced or cut content or whatever but there is a finite cost to have everything. With F2P there is no limit and they prey on people's weaknesses of impatience or fear of missing something.

Pokemon Shuffle is a match 3 game can we not agree that the idea that some people will sink hundreds of dollars in to it is a bit ridiculous?
Posted: 04/18/15, 12:08:17  - Edited by 
 on: 04/18/15, 12:10:47

Nope, not at all. People spend their money in dumb ways all the time. I've even heard that people spend money to buy hats in games?! How stupid is that? Is that even real? I've never played those games, so I can't be sure. Playing dress-up on virtual dolls! Ha! Can you believe it? Is that unethical at all?
Posted: 04/18/15, 14:47:48

You're pretty close on your Pokemon Shuffle description however there have been no other attempts at Nintendo to sell those Mega Stones that people have missed. However they don't force you to buy anything because you do earn coins and jewels in other ways. The level in which these quantities grow normally versus via pay is significantly different though.

Your point about 'no limit' is pretty much why I don't spend money on Free-To-Play games. I don't want to even spend a dollar because I don't want to get into a situation where I have spent more than I feel the game is truly worth. Then I'll feel cheated. However in simply not paying any money, I can get the necessary enjoyment out of the game until I feel it no longer is fun for free. Then I just stop. No harm no foul.

In the end, Nintendo is trying to entice people to spend money but there is nothing forcing them to actually do it to enjoy the premise and content. I've played every level and beaten almost them all without the use of any real dollars. Funny enough I would happily have payed somewhere between 5-10 bucks to just have an unlocked version. I thought Pokemon Battle Trozei was so fun that this variation of it would have been a nice sell. I wonder if they make enough money to justify the fact I won't spend any money on it. Probably.
Posted: 04/18/15, 16:08:15

I wouldn't necessarily say that. The games that do free to play best in my opinion are the ones that leave gameplay totally out of it. Buying cosmetic stuff like hats or whatever isn't as big of a deal because you can play the game just as well without the hat and if you buy it it is persistent. You never use up your hat or whatever. Those are two very big differences from restricting people's access and trying to sell them attempts.

Obviously people are free to spend their money how they see fit but it just seems kind of shitty to me there isn't another option for people who just want to play the game as much as they like.


No what I mean is that they offer things for a limited time and if people don't qualify they are more inclined to spend money to get more attempts at getting the prize.
Posted: 04/18/15, 16:53:18
I kind of agree with you, but I think this comes down to a question of politics, almost. Like big or small government. Do you think someone should be allowed to drink himself to death, as long as it doesn't impact anyone else? Similarly, I think these games DO prey on obsessive/addictive personalities. You and I can probably control ourselves when we play. But what if there's someone who can't? It is kind of non-Nintendo, since they often remove features that might be harmful to only a segment of their audience (kids).

From a personal standpoint, though, I think the games give a pretty good value, since I've spent $0 on Shuffle and less than $2 on Rumble World. I mean, I've bought tons of games for $15 that I've never even opened. Even though my kneejerk reaction is to reject pay-per-play, it would be a much more economical option for me, personally. My only personal concerns are whether the gameplay is compromised by the business model and whether the time I'm spending on these admittedly addictive games is the best usage of my gaming time. Like, it's not as if my StreetPass gaming sessions have been endless locomotives of bliss, but I have sunk a LOT of time into those games. Almost definitely more time than I've spent with games that offer me more utils/minute. That's troubling. Addictive is often used as a positive adjective when it comes to videogames, but I'm not sure that it always is.

Pokemon Rumble World apparently has a cap of $30. Which is less than the 3DS Rumble game's retail price (to say nothing of it's current grey market price). Does that change your feelings on it?

Also, is buying cosmetic items really so different? Or does it feed on people who have to have everything? I'm sure there are a lot of hat whales, as well.
Posted: 04/18/15, 20:10:06  - Edited by 
 on: 04/18/15, 20:11:44
From a developer standpoint I can certainly say that there are things out there that are TRASH. Many of them purposely exploit negative, addictive traits in humans and developers know damn well what they are doing. My least favorite trend is to introduce purposely overlong, purposely monotonous grind sections and then let people pay to skip them. If you're a game developer purposely putting bad content into games so you can charge people to skip it... you have no soul.

If you don't want to watch South Park explain what is bad about a lot of this stuff (I don't blame you) then a quick read at Cracked.Com might be better?

Personally I think a lot of this shit is terrible and exploitative and I'd feel like a horrible person if I put it into my games.

...with that said, it's not totally developer's faults as consumers are becoming so cheap that 99 cents is "too much" for a game. A lot of talk in indie dev circles revolves around "how do I actually compete if I DON'T do this terrible shit?" I'm not sure anyone has found a clear answer to that yet. On iPhone, for instance, it has become almost a given that if your game doesn't have big press / etc. surrounding it than it has to be free or no one will go near it. But free isn't selling, so how do you make money off of a free game?

Enter all of this nonsense. Blah.

That is in part why I don't care about the iPhone market. You can still just charge upfront on PC / consoles / handhelds / etc. and do ok, I suppose.
Posted: 04/18/15, 20:37:09  - Edited by 
 on: 04/18/15, 20:39:13
So, encouraging players to come back is manipulative? What about Animal Crossing, you have to come back at different times of day or time of the year, or a specific date for certain events that are happening. Is that manipulative? You'd have to spend all day in the game to experience everything.

Pokemon Shuffle doesn't seem sleazy to me, sorry. I have earned so much currency playing casually that I will never have to spend on the game. And if I wanted to spend, that's cause I like the game, and not cause I was tricked.
Posted: 04/19/15, 00:51:06

The design of wanting people to come back isn't necessarily problematic. In your Animal Crossing example they don't gain anything more by having you play the game daily. With Shuffle they are getting you to play it regularly and then selling you stuff on the side.

You wouldn't know if you were tricked. That's what makes it a trick.
Posted: 04/19/15, 01:58:26

Heck, I'd go one further and say that using addictive qualities that don't benefit the core game to make people want to come back is unethical regardless of whether or not they'll be spending more money.
Posted: 04/19/15, 20:40:14
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