Nintendo is trying to hold its place in the gaming industry by not directly competing with Sony and Microsoft and releasing its own free apps and games on the Nintendo 3DS and on smartphones. But while these games are free to download, are they really free to play or is this Nintendo's sneaky way of ripping Nintendo fans off?
In March, Nintendo announced that they are partnering with DeNA Co., Ltd., a provider of mobile portal and e-commerce websites based in Japan, to start venturing into the mobile gaming arena. This created quite a huge uproar in the gaming circles, and even in the stock market. Fortune even reported that Nintendo's stock shot up by 24 percent when the news that Nintendo is creating mobile games came out. We do know that Pokemon Go is already underway, but aside from that much-awaited mobile game, Nintendo has already announced two free apps-slash-games on the Nintendo 3DS and on smartphones, mainly to experiment with the free-to-play model.
First up is the new and free Nintendo app for the Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo Badge Arcade, coming on the Nintendo eShop on November 13.
Nintendo Badge Arcade comes to Nintendo #eShop for #3DS on Friday. Collect badges and decorate your HOME Menu! https://t.co/fvDT2rTtlkThe Nintendo Badge Arcade has already been available in Japan for quite some time now, but it is only launching to the rest of Nintendo players all over the world. It works much like a regular crane arcade game where you drop some coins and you control a crane arm to scoop a prize or prizes inside the glass case. The Nintendo Badge Arcade is something to this effect, only with Nintendo badges as loot to collect. The badges are Nintendo games-inspired, which means games like The Legend of Zelda,Super Mario, or even Animal Crossing. However, even though the Nintendo Badge Arcade is free to download, you will be charged $1.29 for five plays. There isn't much you can do with the Nintendo Badge Arcade if you aren't paying real bucks to get plays, so basically, it's not as free-to-play as it sounds. The Verge, however, notes that you can get more than one badge per play, meaning your $1.29 can really go a long way.
— Nintendo UK (@NintendoUK) November 10, 2015
Nintendo players discuss at Kotaku that the Nintendo Badge Arcade does have its quirks, too. Apart from the paid plays, there are random Free Plays given out if you aren't keen on spending. The badges can also be used for a couple of things, such as decoration for your Nintendo 3DS home screen and attaching badges on folders. Some badges can also be used to change Nintendo 3DS apps, such as the miiverse, camera, settings, etc.
In October, Nintendo also announced its first mobile app-slash-game, Miitomo, available on all Apple and Android devices. Miitomo lets Nintendo users communicate with other Nintendo users all over the world, so some would say it's more of a social networking app than a game. So the question of whether Miitomo is actually a free-to-play would be debatable, since it doesn't give the user much "gaming" experience.
However, Miitomo is only the first of five games that Nintendo and DeNa are planning to release on the smartphone. This may explain the lack of depth in the app-slash-game. Fortune reports that DeNa CEO Isao Moriyasu said at an earnings briefing this week that all five games with Nintendo are already in the pipeline and they will all be free, so Nintendo fans should expect better and free-er games to come out from the Nintendo and DeNa partnership.
Miitomo by Nintendo will be available for download come March, 2016. The other four mobile titles by Nintendo and DeNa are all slated to come out before March, 2017.
[Image screenshot of Nintendo Badge Arcade trailer via Nintendo3DSuk]