How Nintendo (might have) Just Revolutionized In-App Purchases

Last week during a new Nintendo Direct live stream, Nintendo announced a bunch of new games as well as more info on previously-announced titles. Most people are talking about the biggest news, like the confirmed release date for Mario Kart 8 (May 30th woo!) or the latest addition to the Super Smash Bros. roster. But something completely different caught my eye. It’s something I never really saw coming, but it has real game-changing potential in the realm of IAPs (In-App Purchases).

Before we go any further, let’s talk about IAPs briefly. In case you’ve been living under a rock, IAP is a rather brilliant idea that Apple started (or at least made famous) with the App Store. It actually started as a good thing. You download an app and it’s yours, but you can spend additional money within the app to unlock more features. It was all well and good until people figured out a way to warp it, so now there are two “types” of IAPs:

Type A) You spend real money to buy a permanent component of the game that becomes yours forever (level packs, bonus items, upgrades, etc.)

Type B) You spend real money to get fake money, and when you have spent all that fake money in-game, you have to go back and buy more fake money using more real money. And down, down, down the spiral you go.

In case you were wondering, Type B is total garbage and a dirty way to get people to spend their cash. Logan covers this very well in his most recent article. I wanted to stop and make this clarification because I believe Nintendo will never stoop as low as “Type B” IAPs. What they have done is revolutionized “Type A,” which was already a perfectly fair method.

“To be fair, it actually looked kind of fun and seemed to be a quality game, but it was what followed the initial explanation that really caught my attention.”

So enough about IAPs. The 3DS game that was announced is called “Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball.” When I heard that title, I started tuning out at first. Most sports-based video games just don’t interest me in the slightest. In Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, you play as some kid who goes around playing baseball-themed minigames. Rustys-Real-Deal-Baseball-HittingEach minigame has a very simple premise (hence the name “minigame” I suppose). You can pitch, catch, bat, ump, play outfield, etc. To be fair, it actually looked kind of fun and seemed to be a quality game, but it was what followed the initial explanation that really caught my attention. When you aren’t playing these little games, you go to a shop run by a seasoned old baseball player named Rusty Slugger. He will give you tips and hints as well as training. But you can also buy additional game types from him with real-world money. Boom, IAPs. But what’s so different about IAPs in this game?

Bargaining.

“… Rusty will initially charge you $4.00. However, you then have the ability to haggle with him.”

Yup. Bargaining. In Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, when you try to buy a new minigame, Rusty will initially charge you $4.00. However, you then have the ability to haggle with him. You can basically tell him, “I’m not paying that much! Here, how would you like this [insert item] that I collected earlier in the game?” Rusty will then take that thing from you and lower the price. The actual, real-world price. There may be other ways to haggle with him that I don’t know about, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can negotiate at all. It’s a brilliant idea. It gives the player the feeling that they have power over how much money they spend, and at the same time, Nintendo probably only planned for that thing to cost $1-2 anyway. They just started it at $4.00 so you feel good about it once you fight it down to a lower price. It also adds a bit of fun to the fact that you are spending your hard-earned cash. It turns the process into a minigame of its own, rather than just having a cold popup that says, “Are you sure you want to spend all that hard-earned cash? Click OK to confirm!”

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I understand that this could just turn into nothing and we all forget about it in a month. But nevertheless, it is a fantastic idea. If nothing else, it’s a sign that Nintendo continues to aggressively think outside the box. Could you imagine this concept extrapolated out to other games? How about Call of Duty DLC? “This latest map pack cost $15.00… unless you can convince us to drop it to $10.00 by killing 100 zombies in 5 minutes.” Suddenly, the dreaded prospect of having to spend more money has been alleviated by turning it into a game of sorts. A game where I can win back some of my money.

I believe this method is simultaneously beneficial to developers and fair to gamers. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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