Try Before You Buy!

In which Colin ponders the wisdom of demanding cash up front before you can find out if something's fun...

mario stop

(Or should that be ‘tray before you play’?)

At last – Nintendo may be giving up this ridiculous approach of “No Free Content” on their platforms!

In this day and age, it seems crazy to think that we might be expected to buy (for example) Coldplay’s new single or album – without first being able to hear it.  Plain stupid, in fact.

Well that’s pretty much the approach Nintendo’s been taking to WiiWare and DSiWare releases.  You want to buy a game digitally? You’re buying it.  Full price.  No refunds.  Based on a short description and a screenshot or two.   Free trial you ask?  Not on our platform, they say!

Until now.  Finally they seem to have cottoned on to the fact that relatively few people are actually buying anything via their online stores and that their “no free content” stance might be a large part of the problem.  Have you purchased anything from the Wii store recently, readers?  Or even browsed it in fact?  Do you know what games are up there – or what’s coming soon?

The problem seems to be that Nintendo are still locked into the idea of buying physical products, rather than encouraging a large and active userbase for their online service.

It’s a key difference; one which means Amazon still sell tons of stuff – even though they put their competitor’s prices right next to their own.

Amazon’s approach is about helping people choose the right product for them.  Not just about shifting boxes from Amazon.

Nintendo-Ant and Dec Wii Fit Plus-thumb-300x231-91141

Nintendo – seen by most people as the good guys in the games industry should be about helping people to choose the right game – and find fun new games to play.  But it hasn’t been like that – Nintendo’s WiiWare system makes it as inconvenient as possible for users to decide which games they’d like to purchase.  Players need to have as much information as possible before they choose to buy a game.  That’s why demo’s have been such an integral part of the games business for so many years.  When you consider that the Wii and DS are seen as entry points for kids and families into the world of gaming, it becomes even more important for them to have this simple and free way to discover new games.  Crotchety old farts like us may be familiar with the delights of Mario, Starfox, Pilot Wings and Yoshi, but kids and non-gaming parents might never otherwise find the whole glorious history of games which Nintendo has built up.

The only way it could have been worse is if they’d only provided a screen code that then had to be taken to a local game store to pick up their game of choice.  Whether Nintendo likes it or not, digital distribution is now a part of the whole games experience for many people.  Asking a consumer to make a purchase based upon a title, a screenshot and a description is just not going to work.

It’s the same reason the mobile phone games market never reached the giddy heights of the Apple AppStore.  Give consumers a taste – a chance to actually play something, and if they like it they’ll come back.  If you demand the money up front, the chances are you’ll never see them in the first place.

– Colin (@denkicolin)