Soft Price Control

Nintendo recently launched a new customer loyalty scheme in Japan, My Nintendo, alongside the release of their first mobile game/app, Miitomo. In the scheme, players are rewarded with “platinum” coins for various activities centred around encouraging engagement with Miitomo and other Nintendo services. These coins can then be redeemed to get discounts on certain games or other digital trinkets like background themes for the 3DS console.

However, like all good mobile games, Miitomo has a second premium currency. At time of writing, spending these “gold” coins gives much bigger discounts to a wider selection of games. Unlike other mobile games, Gold coins are earned purely by buying other games on Nintendo eShop for 3DS and Wii U. The higher the cost of the game bought, the more coins are gained.

Interestingly, there is a minimum price bracket of 500 yen (~$4.50), below which the player receives no gold coins at all. If as expected, most Nintendo fans and regular eShop customers sign up to My Nintendo, then any games below the minimum price will become less attractive, due to them not coming with any gold coin rewards.

In effect, it introduces a soft floor on prices. Developers/publishers could still opt to price their games lower than the floor, but understand that there would be a disincentive to do so.

Nintendo have said in the past that they see price deflation as a problem. The eShop has a wide range of titles, but many are low price, short, quick experiences. That makes more sense for the portable 3DS. For the Wii U though, there’s more of an expectation that games are longer, more substantial games that players can sit down and play in longer sessions relaxing at home in front of the TV. By introducing a disincentive for developers to price low, it should mean that smaller games get squeezed out of the market.

Arguably more worrying for Nintendo has been the recent trend of regular, deep discounting of eShop games by 3rd party developers/publishers. Putting a game on Sale not only makes it more attractive from a pure price vs value perspective. But is also one of the few ways to increase visibility post-launch, with possible eShop store page placement and listings in Nintendo fan press.

Presumably, if games give gold coins based on the discounted price, it’ll give developers/publishers pause for thought when considering a sale. Whereas at the moment, there really is no reason not to regularly put the game on sale.

Just how intentional these changes are is hard to gauge with Nintendo. And how much Nintendo fans will place getting gold coins above paying less for a title, we’ll have to wait and see. Still, it’s a different way of tackling the problem of price deflation as seen on mobile, or the culture of deep discounting, as seen on Steam.

From my perspective, might even consider raising the price of Totem Topple on the eShop. At least once the new update for it comes out with all the new features etc. It’ll certainly have the content to justify doing so, and may also be that by pricing the game at a relatively modest $2.99 to begin with has given the impression of the game being a bit lower quality than maybe it really is. It’s a decision for another day, and My Nintendo is not even out yet here in the west, but it’ll certainly be something to factor in for the future.

Android developer working for Crystalline Green www.crystallinegreen.com