Nintendo deserves credit for not forcing microtransactions in phone apps (opinion)

Nintendo has gained justified criticism over the years for a couple of unconsumer-friendly practices. But when it comes to smartphone apps, the company earns back some credit for avoiding the forced microtransaction route. As an example, when gamers purchase Super Mario Run on iOS or Android for $9.99, they can finish the entire game.

Yet, there is an article on Forbes which calls out Nintendo for not pushing microtransactions. The author Paul Tassi starts out by discussing The Pokémon Company’s Magikarp Jump and how it lets the player go far without purchase.

For fun, let us cross-examine that section and the rest of the Forbes piece.

“I’m getting deep into Magikarp Jump. Charizard has just shown up, my Karps are hitting level 30 now and I’ve racked up half the badges in the game. It’s serious business, and I have spent exactly $0 to get here.”

Zero dollars? That is great!

“I don’t quite know how to phrase this, but Nintendo almost seems allergic to money when it comes to its mobile offerings. Like it’s uncomfortable with the concept of bringing in revenue the way almost every game does in this scene.”

Again, Nintendo deserves applause. Even if the plan to avoid forcing too many microtransactions is temporary, it shows Nintendo perhaps does care. Showing followers goodwill tends to pay off in the long run.

Furthermore, even though “almost every game” offered on smartphones pushes extra fees of some sort, it does not make the practice right. Most gamers who grew up with regular consoles simply wish to pay one fee.

“The opening loading screen is a lengthy message about how … you should consult with your parents and purchase items together if you feel that’s the best decision for you (clearly I am not the target age group for this).”

Tassi brings up another problem of games requiring extra purchases. Children tend to click the buy button without asking their parents. If the fee was only required up front, then kids would not make a huge mistake by buying it. But in microtransaction-heavy games, the risk of hitting up the parents’ credit card for $100 or more is higher.

“I can’t tell if this is Nintendo simply misunderstanding the market, and failing to realize how they could make even more money from these games if they were priced properly or sold better items in better ways.”

Will Nintendo make more money though? If Nintendo began to center their apps around selling specific items, the goodwill initially gained could evaporate. Isn’t Nintendo trying to lure new customers into their Switch/3DS world with these smartphone titles? The company does not need to push for profits on phones then if that is true.

“Or, as some may argue, perhaps Nintendo is trying to be ‘moral’ here, setting limits on purchases to kids don’t get addicted, or trying to offer a quality $10 product as a one-time payment rather than milking everyone with microtransactions after the fact. That is how it looks … ”

Yes! Sometimes how it looks is how it is.

“Keep in mind this is also a company that has comically overpriced accessories for its consoles. It’s a company that re-sells you the same Virtual Console games a half dozen times on different devices. It rarely discounts games at all … ”

Well, Tassier makes a good point here. Nintendo shows a lot of “bad will” with their main consoles at times. Again though, that is why with smartphones it makes sense for them to roll out the welcome mat.

Microtransactions are fine when used sparingly. But when a game revolves around them and requires purchases to move further, the practice becomes a nuisance. The strategy works for some companies, but at what long term cost?

The Game Boy, DS and 3DS never needed games that required players to pay more than the initial price. All three portable handhelds were successful. Therefore, Nintendo games on smartphones do not need to push microtransactions either for the company to remain ahead. Just make decent games that fit touchscreen controls.

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