Miyamoto thinks the free-to-play model is wrong

Shigeru Miyamoto free-to-play fixed prices subscription model

As a Bloomberg article relates, game design mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto has voiced his opinion that selling high-quality products at reasonable, fixed prices is the best way to sell video games. This means he’s not a big fan of the free-to-play model:

“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) on Wednesday in Yokohama, Japan.

As we all know, Super Mario Run eschewed the free-to-play model upon its release for mobile devices, and its sales ultimately fell below Nintendo’s expectations. This was in part because people didn’t think the game’s price tag justified its content, so does that put Miyamoto at odds with himself?

Furthermore, Fire Emblems Heroes seems to be doing quite well with its free-to-play model, so again, one has to wonder what Miyamoto thinks of these phenomena. At the very least, he concedes, “I can’t say that our fixed-cost model has really been a success,” before reinforcing his vision that he wants to see the fixed-cost model “entrenched” in mobile game development.

Miyamoto also likes the concept of subscription services–paying a little bit regularly for the guarantee of trusted, high-quality content. That model is certainly working well for the likes of Spotify, but it’s not an idea that has garnered much traction in any aspect of the game industry quite yet, outside of paying for online services.

Ultimately, this is a big a topic, so I think it’s hard to say if Miyamoto is just being stubborn and antiquated or if maybe he really is seeing risks/opportunities down the road that other developers aren’t. The most likely case is that it’s a bit of both. But what do you guys think about free-to-play, fixed prices, and subscription models? Give us your thoughts!

And if you’re hankering for more insights from the Nintendo legend, here are Miyamoto’s recent thoughts on MMOs (and why he’s not a fan of those either).


John Friscia
Head Copy Editor for Enthusiast Gaming, Managing Editor at The Escapist. I'm a writer who loves Super Nintendo and Japanese role-playing games to an impractical degree. I really miss living in South Korea. And I'm developing the game Boss Saga!