Nintendo has been in the spotlight a lot lately, fortunately for more than just their next-gen consoles troubled unit sales. Company President Satoru Iwata has also drawn plenty of attention for statements concerning the future of Nintendo and their business strategies, going so far as to put his own job on the line if The Big N can’t turn things around. I recently discussed the company’s plans for better NFC integration with the Wii U, but their new approach to digital distribution goes much deeper than simple payment methods.
In a rather lengthy financial results briefing, Iwata mentions that Nintendo is considering a variety of payment models to attract more folks to the eShop, Nintendo’s digital distribution service. Commenting on the company’s shift into the digital space, he said that, “We will not simply change our existing packaged software distribution channel. Rather, we might have many other types of business models in addition to packaged software. For example, we might see more games that are similar to free-to-play games, games that cost much less or games that require a monthly subscription fee.”
Discussing the benefits of digital distribution, Iwata cites the inherent flexibility of it as one reason for the shift in focus. “Digitalization allows for greater flexibility, whereby having more ways to make payments, both software developers and consumers have more options,” he explained. “And Nintendo 3DS and Wii U have flexible systems to handle such trends, so it is now a question of putting these ideas into action.”
One of the ways Nintendo will potentially put those ideas into action is through Suica e-money support, as mentioned as part of their strategy for NFC integration. This e-money system would facilitate things like microtransactions, or potentially making quick in-game DLC purchases. Iwata specifically mentioned that using a service like Suica, that makes it so easy to pay for things, would likely encourage more folks to splurge on pay-per-view video-on-demand services. (Think how easy Amazon made purchases with their “1-Click” option.)
I think, in this day and age, expanding your digital platform is an absolute must for home consoles. People don’t always have time for an in-depth, emotionally taxing experience; so providing quick, if not entirely casual games is a good way to offer additional variety all under one roof. If Nintendo can create some lighter first-party experiences in the same vein as WarioWare and offer them for free in the eShop, I’m willing to bet it would convince at least a few people to put away their Angry Birds and keep their 3DS handy for killing time instead.
I will admit it’s strange to see such a complete 180-degree turn by Nintendo. Remember, not all that long ago Nintendo basically scoffed at casual and mobile gaming, looking at their models as ineffective, if not altogether insignificant. Now it seems the company has found some value in offering free-to-play titles with the option for microtransactions. Far be it from Nintendo to ever simply hop on the bandwagon, though. I’m sure whatever their cooking up will have some original functionality behind it. I’ll admit I’d probably cave a little easier in regards to micro-payments if more console games had cheap and easy in-game 1-click payment methods
What do you guys and gals think about Nintendo’s digital strategy going forward? Would you like to see them offer a few free-to-play titles, or more substantial games that require monthly fees? Would you be more inclined to spend nickels and dimes here and there if they offered an easy e-payment method? Share your thoughts in the usual place.