This piece was made in response to Pretty Good Gaming’s video on the new Animal Crossing.
After it’s initial announcement in April 2016 and almost a year of delays, Nintendo has belatedly announced what is hopefully the final launch-window for their mobile Animal Crossing game.
Unlike what some believe to be its exorbitantly priced counterpart, Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is coming to mobile devices, by the end of November, at no upfront cost to players.
Animal Crossing once caused an uproar for gating players by simply forcing them to wait; in New Leaf, if you wanted Cyrus to customize your furniture you’d have to wait 42 [real time] hours for it to be completed. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp adds a frictionless way for impatient players to expedite the customization of their furniture while paying for the development of the application and its updates. Unlike other games, which have to mold game mechanics with microtransactions in mind, Animal Crossing took an organic gameplay feature and decided to monetize it.
Now some might not see the difference between this and other microtransactions.
In free to play MMOs like Dauntless the money you pay, as part of a “Founders Pack” exponentially increases the loot you get from monsters, letting you spend more time in the city and less time repetitively battling the same bosses. (Dauntless has removed microtransactions from their game and is considering a normal pay-to-play, one-time purchase model.) In Animal Crossing you’re having a timer removed: both give you the ability to make time inconsequential. But my argument is that the developers were not forced by their higher-ups to alter a major mechanic of the game just to institute a transaction – it was a part of the gameplay that has been integral since the beginning of the franchise – and they finally gave gamers an option to make that process frictionless; something that many impatient people would have been paying since’s Animal Crossing’s inception if given the opportunity.
This is the way that in-game purchases should be implemented. A company should make you want to throw money at them because you’re enjoying their game so much, and not make you feel like you need to pay them, out of fear that you’re missing out on portions of a game you’ve already paid for. There should be no badgering or constant reminders that other people are spending money on things that you don’t have, and gamers should not be pressured by subtle or overt signs that there is more content behind a paywall.
Those arguing the game should be like Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, should know that Nintendo felt it was a disappointment, with Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima saying that revenue “did not meet our expectations.” And that although, a month after its launch 90 million users had downloaded the game, only 3% of them purchased it. In the time Nintendo’s pay-to-play game earned $30 million in gross revenue, Pokemon Go’s free to play with in-app purchase model had earned Niantic $200 million. As someone who’d prefer to pay for an app one time than be nickeled and dimed to access its best features, I never thought I’d be arguing for in-app purchases. But after taking a look at the numbers, I can’t think of a studio that’s come up with a better compromise.
This is part one (and a draft) of a series I’m writing about consumerism in video games; both their price and the value they hold for us.