It’s weird to watch the dichotomy between the DeNA mobile Nintendo realm and the traditional portable and console Nintendo universe we’ve known for decades play out before our eyes. Although the Big N has slid comfortably into the skin of DLC and season passes for a while now it’s hard to think of them plopping down loot boxes into say, Splatoon 2.
But their mobile angle on the other hand has been very aggressive ever since the shortcomings of Super Mario Run‘s old school “$10 gets you everything” entry fee. Fire Emblem Heroes, their next venture, pursued the typical mobile gacha style blind box gambling strategy, hinged on getting players to spend hundreds of dollars to get the exact party members they want. None of that is particularly okay in Heroes, especially since there are virtually no regulations on loot boxes (thankfully Apple, perhaps due to pressure, is forcing studios to comply to some rules by requiring rarity percentages), but it’s a little more depressing to see it arrive in the kid-friendly neighborhood of Animal Crossing.
Just last night the free-to-play Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp added in loot boxes — a gacha style element called “Fortune Cookies” that you can purchase with premium currency. To convolute the system even further you acquire “stamps” from premium cookies, 10 of which are required for certain items — and you can get duplicates of gear you already own. It might be an attempt to boost the project after six months after not hitting sales goals, but it just comes off to myself, and several other players I’ve spoken to, as poor form since the game did not launch with them.
Does this mean that the next Pokemon on Switch is suddenly going to get loot boxes? Of course not, these are two separate ecosystems we’re talking about here despite the looming slippery slope argument. But Nintendo really doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish with their mobile venture. Do they want to just drain whales and make a quick buck like other studios by inserting gambling elements into all of their games? Or do they want to maintain their brand loyalty and bring in 3DS/Switch fans?
I have no idea, and I don’t think they do either.