Super Mario creator warns gaming industry against overcharging and greed
The legendary video-game designer who created Super Mario and Donkey Kong has a word of advice for today’s industry – stop taking advantage of users.
Shigeru Miyamoto, 65, said Nintendo is exploring different ways of charging people for games, shunning the free- to-play model that’s become a moneymaker in the €120bn gaming sector.
Instead, he called on his peers to deliver titles at fixed prices without over-charging players, which will create more sustainable businesses over the long term.
“We’re lucky to have such a giant market, so our thinking is, if we can deliver games at reasonable prices to as many people as possible, we will see big profits,” Miyamoto said at the Computer Entertainment Developers Conference (CEDEC) yesterday in Yokohama, Japan.
Miyamoto’s criticism comes as the free-to-play model – including loot boxes and microtransactions – drives record profits. Instead of charging an up-front one-time fee, publishers are increasingly giving games away or selling them at discounted prices, and then nudging players to continually buy in-game products such as virtual outfits or encouraging them to bet money on winning rare items. The revenue model is especially common among mobile and personal-computer games.
Proponents of the free-to-play model say that it increases the longevity of individual titles and creates more predictable businesses, which attracts investors and boosts employment.
But opponents say it stunts creativity in game-making and promotes gambling-like behaviour, which resulted in Belgium and Netherlands banning loot boxes this year. “I can’t say that our fixed-cost model has really been a success,” the usually candid Miyamoto said. “But we’re going to continue pushing it forward until it becomes entrenched. That way everyone can develop games in a comfortable environment. By focusing on bringing games to the widest range of people possible, we can continue boosting our mobile game business.”
The comments come almost two years after Nintendo unveiled its first in-house smartphone game ‘Super Mario Run’. It charged a flat fee which was criticised as being too expensive and switched to free-to-play for the next two titles. ‘Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp’, has received criticism for being too focused on profits. (Bloomberg)