Nintendo is slowly wading into the pool of modern video game economics, but don’t expect it to embrace every trend. The house of Mario may be ready to finally join the digital age, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready to do business like the average iPhone game publisher, especially when it comes to DLC.
After a decade of half efforts, the company behind Mario is embracing online communities and digital distribution. New Super Mario Bros. 2 for Nintendo 3DS marked Nintendo’s first efforts selling full retail-style games through it’s Nintendo eShop, a practice it promises to continue on its new Wii U home console. Speaking of the Wii U, one of that machine’s core selling points is Miiverse, an online network that Nintendo describes as a social network that will offer multiplayer gaming and community features akin to Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. It’s even selling downloadable content like new levels for New Super Mario Bros. 2.
What Nintendo won’t be doing, however, is releasing games that are mostly supported by microtransactions. Animal Crossing: New Leaf for Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo’s relaxing social simulator a la The Sims, is ready made for paid downloadable content. Rather than find new furniture, clothes, and other goods for your little virtual town, why not just buy it? Despite the potential for profits, Nintendo refuses to do business like Zynga does with The Ville.
“Some might say that it would be unbelievably profitable to provide paid add-on content for Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but we were concerned that a game in which you enjoy yourself more by the power of money would not be suitable, and we decided to avoid such a feature after an intensive discussion with the development team,” said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata during the company’s quarterly investor question-and-answer session, “[We] would like to like to find the type of add-on content consumers will find enjoyable in each game. We intend to basically create add-on content with which we will be able to make long-term relationships with our customers.”
This isn’t to say that Nintendo isn’t still interested in free-to-play gaming. Iwata said in June that Wii U especially won’t shy away from new models for getting games in people’s hands. “We have designed the system from a technical standpoint to allow developers to freely take advantage of things like free-to-play and microtransactions.”
Nintendo is in rougher financial shape than it’s been in nearly a decade. It would be understandable for the company’s executives to price gouge players, especially with collect-a-thons like Animal Crossing. That the company is concerned with not turning off players isn’t just impressive, it’s downright laudable.