NintenRants II – Nintendo’s Free-To-Play Output
For the next NintenRant, I wanted to focus on something that bothers me in general about the gaming industry, but agitates me even more with Nintendo’s handling of it; Free-To-Play or “Freemium” titles. Now, the idea of free games to play isn’t the problem (after all, who can turn down such an offer?), but the insidious “pay to progress” nature of the genre in general, and the suffocating restrictions that they place on standard play is.
Nintendo’s use of this particular genre is depressingly inconsistent; they have honestly succeeded on some attempts and created monstrosities that even Hell itself would spit out on others. The reassuring fact is that Nintendo are only currently playing with this concept, with only a handful of “freemium” titles floating around at the moment; but, with the announced entrance into mobile and the collaboration with DeNA, my main concern is that more of these will start to appear over the next year or so.
Starting with the good, Nintendo’s exclusive 3DS title IRONFALL: Invasion. This is not only a fantastic game in general, as Nintendo’s (successful) attempt at an arena shooter, but also is one of the best examples of the “freemium” format on a Nintendo platform. The initial download allows the player a short segment of the main single-player campaign and a limited version of the multiplayer mode. These give the player a single character and weapon configuration and, in the case of the multiplayer, a single map.
Although these restrictions do admittedly affect the longevity of the single-player, the multiplayer is not affected at all. The local multiplayer is both fun and only as predictable as those you happen to be playing with, which is wonderfully chaotic, and the best thing is that the purchase of the main game allows the individual purchase of each mode, so if you have no interest in the main game you can just purchase the multiplayer (unlocking all maps, skins and weapon configurations). So far so good for Nintendo …
… Then a wild Pokémon Shuffle and Rumble World appeared. One of these is less evil than the other but both as equally insidious in where their “freemium” aspects come from. Both of them employ the “timed” aspect of the concept, meaning that a player’s time with the game is restricted unless payment is made. Sure, you could just hold out and play it a little later, but these games are arguably (they’re Pokémon spin-offs) aimed at children who generally have less patience than the average player and won’t enjoy the wait.
However, I could look past this more-than-a-little cheeky tactic if it weren’t for the other randomised arbitrary nonsense (which for the remainder of this article I will refer to as the ABP – Arbitrary Bullshit Parade) that affects the enjoyment of the games. In Pokémon Shuffle for instance, whether or not you catch a ‘Mon on any given level is seemingly nothing to do with the Catchability percentage, or whether you use a Great Ball or not, it is more often not a completely randomised ABP example, or a case of paying more or using in-game currency (of which one type you have to pay for anyway to get any decent amount and the other of which you don’t get a decent amount either).
The same goes for Rumble World, the level you visit with each balloon is randomly chosen (unless you pay with the Crystals) so if you are trying to complete a balloon area by catching them all, you may end up just going to the same level constantly that you have already cleared. What’s more, if you do manage to get to a level where there are ‘Mon you haven’t captured, there is no guarantee that you will catch them (not matter how many you defeat of that particular one on a level), or even see them at all. Add to that the fact that each balloon has a set time it takes to “inflate” before you can use it again (unless you, you guessed it, pay) and it makes an otherwise relatively (in comparison to Shuffle) enjoyable game very frustrating.
In short, as I said before, Nintendo’s strategy on this genre is worryingly inconsistent. It both has games that are solid and enjoyable games that would inspire players to want to spend money on them (IRONFALL) and then the other side where even paying for them will not necessarily make them any less unbearable (Pokémon Shuffle). Sure, I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from games that I haven’t paid for, but I have so much respect for Nintendo and this ABP is so far below their usual standards of game design that it is almost sickening. I can only hope that F2P dies out or that Nintendo abandon this concept before too long, but I am not that confident that this will be the case.
But, what do you all think? Am I being harsh, or do you completely agree with me? Is there anything on this topic that I might have missed? Drop a reply in the comments, or tweet me @reuthegamer.