Over the last year or so I’ve bumped into several different developers working on different games built around the free-to-play model. Typically reserved for PC and Mac outings, the principle here is that games will garner larger followings without price tags. Then companies can cash in on this crowd of gamers with things like ads and microtransactions.
Here’s the thing: it typically works in the company’s favor. Everyone I’ve talked to has reported massive gains in both player counts and revenue. A larger install base means a higher rate of ad sales and a larger chance that folks will partake in the $1 downloads.
“I’m not interested in offering software for free of charge,” he said. “That’s because I myself am one of the game developers, who in the future wants to make efforts so the value of the software will be appreciated by the consumers.” Although freemium games can make money through ads and microtransactions, Iwata expressed concerns about “[destroying] the value of game software.”
Free-to-play software doesn’t necessarily make sense on consoles, and that’s part of the reason while most will be willing to give Nintendo a pass on this mentality. But, even more than that, Iwata’s point speaks largely towards the notion of game quality. That’s something Nintendo, as a first party developer, has almost always been great with. You can’t patch Wii games post-launch, so first party Nintendo titles have to be assembled properly the first time around.
The same doesn’t apply to any other game on any other current console.
As Joystiq points out, Nintendo’s opinion here will likely mean that Ghost Recon Online will not be free for the Wii U. It is for the PC.
What do you think? Is Nintendo bucking free games to make more money, or are they more in-tune with what makes games better experiences?