Here's Why Nintendo's CEO Dislikes the Term "Free-to-Play"

Satoru Iwata feels there's "insincerity" in the phrase.

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Nintendo president Satoru Iwata is not a fan of the term "free-to-play," feeling it's a disingenuous way to describe games that often don't turn out to be free for long.

Following a Time interview last week in which Iwata repeatedly used the phrase "free-to-start," the publication has published more of its conversation with the executive, including an explanation for why he uses that expression.

"I do not like to use the term 'free-to-play,'" Iwata said. "I have come to realize that there is a degree of insincerity to consumers with this terminology, since so-called 'free-to-play' should be referred to more accurately as 'free-to-start.'"

"The thing that concerns me most is that, in the digital age, if we fail to make efforts to maintain the value of our content, there is the high possibility for the value to be greatly reduced as the history of the music industry has shown," he added. "On the other hand, I have no intention to deny the free-to-start model. In fact, depending on how we approach this model, we may be able to overcome these problems."

The company has already begun to explore the free-to-play/start model in the past, most notably with games like Pokemon Shuffle (a mobile-style, energy-based puzzle game) and Rusty's Real Deal Baseball on 3DS. Rusty's is a free download but can be expanded with new mini-games that are purchased with real-world money. Unlike other games, you're able to haggle with a character to lower the cost of those additional downloads.

Nintendo recently announced its intention to begin developing games for smart devices in conjunction with Japanese company DeNA. These games won't necessarily all be free-to-start, as Iwata told Time, "I do not believe it is an either-or situation between free-to-start and packaged game retail business models. There are games which are more suited for the free-to-start model. We can flexibly choose between both revenue systems depending on the software content."

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Avatar image for toophat2014

Sorry for double post but my time for editing was up and I don't know how to delete the other post so here the corrected post that originally wanted posted.

Finally someone who is willing to admit the truth as any smart person knows there's no such thing as free to play in gaming industry it's all just different business models of getting your money. Someone always has to pay as gaming is a business afterall not a charity and if you didn't spend a dime that just means someone else has to and that your playing at their expense and you can bet that they are counting on these people I would call whales to spend enough to make up for the rest that isn't and those that like and want the full game will and do, meaning they spend a lot more then they have to if everyone had to pay the same amount to play that smae game like in B2P or sub only models.

Remember gaming is a business so profits are their goal and nevermind that If no one was to spend any money then the game would shutdown as there are costs in both developing and maintaining free to play games. Nevermind that they offer you a second rate stripped down version of the game initially to play free so that they can nickel and dime you back parts and etc afterwards through cash shop and microtransactions. It's not exactly the best model in gaming industry for the consumer but does make the business side a lot of money and reason for it trending. You quickly find that if you want the full game and everything it has to offer that you will spend money and more then if it were B2P or sub only that's a fact.

Avatar image for toophat2014

Finally someone who is willing to admit the truth as any smart person knows there's no such thing as free to play in gaming industry it's all just different business models of getting your money. Someone always has to pay as gaming is a business afterall not a charity and if you didn't spend a dime that just means someone else has to and that your playing at their expense. Of no one was to spend any money then the game would shutdown as there are costs in both developing and maintaining free to play games. Nevermind that they offer you a second rate stripped down version of the game initially to play free so that they can nickel and dime you back parts and etc afterwards through cash shop and microtransactions. It's not exactly the best model in gaming industry for the consumer but does make the business side a lot of money and reason for it trending. You quickly find that if you want the full game and everything it has to offer that you will spend money and more then if it were B2P or sub only that's a fact.

Avatar image for dr_zomberg

every free to play game ive played, have been free.

i got all equipment i wanted in dead trigger and didnt spend a cent on it.

already bought half the tree in ace combat infinity and havent spent a cent.

so yeah, to me, they are free to play.

if at one point they start charging to CONTINUE playing the game, then its called a demo.

Avatar image for ArabrockermanX

<< LINK REMOVED >> Most F2P games are traps that are actually P2W...

Avatar image for BlackScythe0

<< LINK REMOVED >> So what you're saying is you've never played a Pay to Win game. That does not make his statement of "Free to Start" wrong. It just means you lack experience in these types of games, which honestly is a win for you.

Avatar image for Raptornx01

So, he didn't ACTUALLY explain his position on why he hates the term. got it. click bait confirmed.

Avatar image for sidzero

<< LINK REMOVED >> Obviously you didn't actually read the article. It's right there: "I have come to realize that there is a degree of insincerity to consumers with this terminology, since so-called 'free-to-play' should be referred to more accurately as 'free-to-start.'"

Avatar image for Slash_out

<< LINK REMOVED >> Huuh.. He did explain it. Because the term is disingenuous...

He does not disagree with the model, just that it is not honest to call it free to play as it is not free very quickly, most of the time.

That's all.

Avatar image for ranbla

What a lot of people here don't seem to grasp is that the F2P model IS just a sham and that is exactly what Iwata is pointing out. No game company, or any company for that matter, is going to produce a product and then just give it away. F2P is a label they slap onto something in order to suck people in and then get them with the microtransactions. If your intention is to play a game (not just try it out but actually play it for some time) and never pay for it, then you're a leech, plain and simple. The idea is that some players with addiction problems (and a fair amount of disposable income) will offset the leeches. But make no mistake; no one cares about the leeches. You're just there to provide filler for the money-paying customers. Leeches aren't a valuable part of any business model. About the only thing they're good for, in the business sense, is getting their friends to play as well and hopefully, one of those friends will actually spend money and offset their leech friend.

Avatar image for salmon71

<< LINK REMOVED >> why do you think non-paying players in the "F2P game" are leeches? Isn't it the game makers try to leech players to pay through microtransactions? It's "fair" game for both the players and the makers in this F2P model to do what they do.

Maybe in the business sense, non-paying players are not what most game makers aims for rather than others that get hook and pay. I wouldn't think no one cares about "leeches". The more leeches you have the more downloads you get thus the better rating you have, the more income makers will get. You probably know about "Flappy Bird" phenomenon? That game is .... free (no more), but the maker made good money as well as Google.

Avatar image for nicemouse

Ummm, what would you know about sincerity Mr. Iwata San?

Avatar image for Elranzer

Between the bite-sized gameplay and Wario's greed, free-to-play seems to be the natural direction for WarioWare.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b69bebd1b0b6

I just can't take the free to play model seriously.. It just comes across to me like developers wont even bother making truly amazing games out of something that is merely free to play compared to that of a game I actually pay for. There is barely any incentive to do so. Saying that though, there are triple A block buster games that aren't even worth the asking price.

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South park explained first.


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I agree that free to play is a very dishonest term. These games are meant to look like free games but then 5 minutes in turn to programs designed to pressure children in to buying things and tell their friends to use the program as well. I'm a bit conflicted about Iwata in this, since all I can read out of this is that he is saying that F2P is a ripoff, but that he's going to make them regardless.

Avatar image for degeneratedsoul

Yeah, hence the term pay-to-win. However, I'd say some F2P games are, in fact, F2P. But let's face it... no one is going to call their game free to start. That will automatically tell the person that they need to spend money on it in order to get somewhere with the game.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> good point. I've played several F2P games that were, indeed, Free. Never spent a penny.

Avatar image for janembadbz

I've criticized Iwata in the past, but he's not wrong in this statement. F2P games tend to sucker you into paying more than what you would've already invested in a regular game.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b797108c254e

No. Free-to-play is's not free-to-experience-all-content...I've played over 30 F2Ps and only spent money on one because I felt it was worth it. Just because you can't help buying the new hat or the XP multiplier that doesn't change the fact that the game IS F2P.

Avatar image for Raptornx01

<< LINK REMOVED >> by that logic you can call any game that has a demo or trial period a free-to-play game.

and of those 30, how many did you play all the way to the end game, assuming they even had one?

problem with most F2Ps i've played it that eventually you hit a wall. you get to a point where progress is, if not impossible, so drawn out to the point that it becomes a chore to play. and the fact it happens deliberately, to try and get you to pay, only makes it more disgusting.

and whats worse is when they actually nerf the game as you are playing to make it even harder, or make it even more necessary to buy items. (this happened with FlyFF several times)

Avatar image for deactivated-5b797108c254e

<< LINK REMOVED >> No, that's free-to-demo. I consider any game that lets me spend hundreds of hours on it without having to pay a cent as F2P...of course there's good F2P and bad F2P.

An example of F2P done wrong is Star Wars The Old Republic where they cut you down at every turn and you have lots of "you can only do this once a week" crap but that's not the case for most games.

From those 30 I "finished" most of them, even though I didn't bother with end-game grinding for some of them, but that was by my choice, not a limitation imposed by the game.

I'm not sure what your experience with F2P is but mostly I encounter a game that's free all the way through but if you want pretty clothes, big shiny weapons or quick leveling you have to pay. Of course if you're a PvP kind of player you're going to get mashed by players who bought all their stuff while you're stuck to grinding it for weeks, but I don't find that unfair.

Do realise that most F2P games are designed to be a grind and to appeal to people with short attention spans to just buy everything instead, but if you spend money in it that's your fault, not theirs. I've been perfectly content enjoying all the content (actually enjoying it, instead of paying them to skip content) for free and never felt limited.

There's plenty of good free games out there, if you know how to search for them. Yeah, you'll probably sign up for some crappy games that you play for 2 or 3 hours and give up on, but that's part of the process.

Avatar image for toophat2014

You my freind have drank the kool aid and taken the bait you honestly think a business would develop a game just to lose money so that people with low atention life spans are able to grind lol. This is a popular business model for gaming atm for good reason it makes companies a lot of money and more in the long run and monthly basis then any other business model does with successful games.. Let me give an example of how it works so that you can see the bigger picture ok for example salesman tells something is free gives It to you but right afterwards he gets you to spend more money on other stuff then what that gift was and would have been in the first place now tell me do you actually think that gift was free and who actually made out better in the whole ordeal and do you see what really went on. there is very good reason we are seeing a lot of microtransactions and cash shops and you can thank the F2P model for it.

These companies can make more money offering less and relying on and off stupid stuff that is and was originally part of and included free in B2P games through microtransactions and cash shops and its a greedy trend in the gaming industry. Man they are even making money off cheats and getting people to play for cheats that were normally free and hidden in B2P games.

One thing you did say that I agree on is that there are good and bad F2P models or should I say some worst then others and a lot of that is gonna be based on what type of game it is and the cost of its development of course the easier and lesser it cost to develop a particular game can something's influence and decide the business model they go with and how much profit is needed in turn possibly getting a more fair F2P model which you might find in the lesser known or easier to develop genre type games online for example of it cost them less they can be more forgiving.

Lastly I will say that I wish Swtor never went F2P because it does have the worst F2P model in my opinion. Now I will say SWTOR was a very expensive MMO to develop in turn why prpbally part of why we got the worst f2p model of any MMO and fact that EA are kings of microtransactions didn't help neither. Basically EA gets to benefit and profit from the perks of both business models F2P and sub only making it double the money for a person who wants to play the full and better version of SWtor that being sub only version of course. If you think about it they simply gained a cash shop to strip parts of the game and nickel and dime back to players but that's not all or even the worst of it they decided to use packs as the way of players being able to buy and get items, emotes, mounts, and etc and basically forcing anyone who wants something to have to gamble and take their chances with the odds of the packs which obviously they did knowing people will spend even more money that way. This is all to bad because Swtor really is a good MMO and has some of the best main stories and story telling of any MMO along with a AAA game feel to it for an MMO but a really bad business model since it went F2P.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b797108c254e

<< LINK REMOVED >> You've made some good points but how exactly have I "drank the kool aid" if I just said that I didn't spend any money on those games? If other people are weak willed and can't avoid spending money on the cash shop that doesn't make my experience any less enjoyable or any less free, does it?
So I spent 300 hours on a game without paying a cent but since someone else spent $200 the game isn't free to play?

Also, I agree that SWTOR was a great MMO, just not worth the sub after you complete the storylines.

Avatar image for toophat2014

Let's not forget that with F2P they also throw all their focus and creativity into the cash shops and microtransactions first as that's where all their money comes from not the game itself intially. So while I don't entirely agree with you on everything I do agree on some points, for example I will say tha I will agree with you that they do design the game in a way that people wiith low attention spans are more likely to spend their money but don't always have to on everything but that's not their whole design and all they do and rely on as they also make sure to develop content that is not only more appealing but also only available through purchase after launch and it's not only normal with F2P but works and part of why I said and say free to start makes more sense because there will be content that you can only play or get through purchase after the game starts and you can bet on it as much as you can bet the best will come after launch not at the beginning. This is part of why most f2p games seem stripped down or second rate intially but soon after get better through after profits and purchases start to pour on.

Lastly would like to add that with or without cash shops and F2P every game will become a grind after a certain point and particular with RPGS or any game where looting is involved and important as people love to farm and grind to better odds at getting whatever they are after so that's part of why they can't rely on what you said alone to make money because some people will simply exploit it to spend no money if they have to and it's very common in MMOs with people who don't want to spend money to do this as long as they can until they have no choice but to spend money on something available only through purchase. You can bet that companies involved with design of game and business model know this so they make sure to design game in way that encourages and forces spending at one point or another.

Sorry for walls of text but I'm very passonate about gaming and don't mind spending money as long as I'm getting what I paid for and at a fair price and don't like what I have seen recently in gaming industry with both quality of games and their business models. I think a lot what is going on with all business models nowadays is partly from and influenced by the success of the F2P model. I hate how the more successful parts of the F2P design has been making its way it into B2P models and even sub only causing alot of shady business and greed partly due to businesses thinking they can reat the same success and profits without officially changing models. Let's just say the quality of games are suffering for it and your having to pay more just to get a fuller and quality game as you always have before no matter what model and partly thanks to F2P x(

Avatar image for deactivated-5b797108c254e

<< LINK REMOVED >> There's nothing to apologise for. I'd take walls of text over "you're an idiot" types of reply any day of the week, and I'm in total agreement with you that F2P are in most cases (there are a few exceptions) lower quality than subscription based games, but what I was discussing was whether F2P were really F2P and in most cases they are; whether you get the same quality out of it is a different story altogether.

Thank you so much for taking the time to express your opinion...there's normally not much discussion going on in these articles...mostly 1-liners and insults so it's refreshing to see someone taking the time to have a conversation.

Avatar image for NaturallyEvil

<< LINK REMOVED >> This is especially true because even in a game you paid $60 for, all the extra details will be paid DLC. Stuff that was invented as unlockables to add playtime so you didn't feel ripped off spending $50 on a game 10 years ago, now all costs extra. How is charging a few dollars for more stuff in a game that started out free worse than charging extra for stuff in a game we already spent a crapload of money on?

Avatar image for toophat2014

Because with cash shops it's designed to get you to spend a lot more on top of expansions or DLC with silly things like cosmetics, mounts, emotes, and a lot more that would normally be included and part of just a DLC or expansion for a reasonable price with B2P and most sub only models. While fact is with F2P models people can easily and do spend hundreds more dollars on a monthly basis easily to get everything they want and not just a couple times a year like for B2P with DLC for maybe 10 to 15 bucks each DLC or 30 bucks for a season pass. Also you better hope you don't get a cash shop like some f2p models have where you can't simply buy that content you want and have to take a gamble with packs and basically hope you will get the one piece of content or item you want which obviously is designed for people to continue spending their money until they get what wanted and people do.

The game itself is worst off for it and honestly after the intial free game you end up noticing and quickly seeing that all of the devs creativity and focus is pushed onto the cash shop or microtransactions first thereafter and the game itself so really free to start sounds more like it better and alot more honest. Listen you can pretend it's really free all you want but facts prove otherwise and fact is F2P is one of thee most profitable business models in gaming today and it's trending for good reason and that's because businesses know they can profit more from an F2P model and milk a lot more money out of people in long run who will spend their money to get the full game and experience along with everything it has to offer. You might not want to believe because you one of those people who try to play f2p games without spending one dime and are ok with playing and getting a stripped down lesser version of the game while they nickel and dime people who are willing to spend the money to get the full version but fact still remains that someone always has to pay and that some are or you would not have your game.

Avatar image for Raptornx01

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I dunno if it is worse. but is certainly something people should be more upset about. alot of the stuff you pay for now you used to be able to use cheat codes for. (extra money in GTA for example)

Avatar image for sirapathetic01

The title is very misleading. I agree with Iwata. The business model is very shady and it's common to find this in a lot of games that claim to be free completely.

Destroy our ability to comprehend and understand with NX please, Nintendo. I want you guys to be more than successful =L

Avatar image for andre-ivanovich

Hey Mr Nintendo CEO here's another phrase for you to take seriously this time!: Adopt to new ideas or bugger off from the gaming industry!

Avatar image for Raptornx01

<< LINK REMOVED >> considering that practically everything you take for granted in gaming today originated with nintendo, I'd say it everyone else that actually need to come up with their own ideas.

Avatar image for Elranzer

Nintendo is the one coming up with new ideas that everyone else adopts.

Avatar image for mattress805

Totally agree. They should change the label of that business model....AND rid of it completely.

Avatar image for toophat2014

Honesty is always the best way to do things..........

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

Well he's right.

Unfortunately, he's going to make games of that type instead of realizing how it's such a bad development model.

Avatar image for bunchanumbers

<< LINK REMOVED >> Nintendo got pushed into a corner. If people bought the Wii U and the games, then Nintendo would have been happy to continue providing free online and full Backwards Compatibility and other various deals. But since that didn't happen they have to try something else.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> If Nintendo had made a real console instead of a gommick machine chasing the casual audience they wouldn't be in this mess.

Avatar image for Raptornx01

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Nintendo is the only company left from the start of console gaming still making consoles. and they survived by appealing to the casual gamer.

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I have the impression that you are blaming game consumers for this. :|

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> And the 3DS doesn't exist?

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Would anybody like some pie ?

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Free 2 Pie