Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of NOA, ruffled a few feathers when he defended Nintendo’s traditional pricing tier and threw in a jab at $0.99 downloadable games from the iTunes App Store, calling them “disposable” and “one of the biggest risks of the gaming industry”. Some say that these games represent a threat to mainstream gaming as a whole; others believe the enticingly cheap games are just a threat to Nintendo’s bottom line.
At their GDC presentation, the developers of Angry Birds took the opportunity to take aim at the Nintendo stronghold and lob a few verbal bombs of their own. Rovio executive Peter Vesterbacka had this to say:
There were comments by Nintendo that 99Â¢ games are destroying the industry and making games disposable. We don’t regard Angry Birds as disposable content. That’s why every few weeks we update the game: more levels, more content.
When you look at the pricing, there’s no denying it: 99Â¢ is the App Store price. But true value comes from updating. Games today are more about turning something static into a service. Websites that never get updated aren’t usually very popular. Ones that always shift are.
The implied jab at Nintendo would be that in contrast to lightweight games like Angry Birds, which are easily updated and dynamically evolving much like a PC title, Nintendo games are static. Sure, the extra money you’ll pay for a DS or Wii title will get you more content right out of the box, but the entirety of that experience is ultimately contained within that box. You can’t download more stars for Mario to collect in Super Mario Galaxy, or new tracks in Mario Kart Wii. And as far as Nintendo is concerned, they don’t seem to feel this is something they should offer, because your final purchase is a complete experience in and of itself.
On the other hand, we’ve seen what happens when console games subscribe to the “constant stream of new content” model, as seen on Xbox Live where you can pay for DLC (downloadable content) to enhance your experience. Unlike Angry Birds which offers free seasonal updates with new levels, if you want that new map, song pack, or other bonus content on Xbox Live, you may quickly find yourself being nickel-and-dimed to death.
Now that Nintendo has deigned to acknowledge the ubiquity of online gaming with the Wii and DS by offering online play, virtual shops, and game demos on both platforms, is it time for the big N to step up their game and offer some unique DLC as well? Would you pay for DLC that added new content to games on the 3DS, Wii, and/or Wii successor? Or should any such new optional content be free of cost if Nintendo wants to stave off the advances of App Store gaming? And can they maintain a $40 asking price for handheld games when $0.99 games like Angry Birds (which is also available in a free version) are gaining more ground?