F2P Pokémon Z: What could we expect?

Imagine there’s no cost, it’s easy if you try

It’s no secret that Free-to-Play games have become some of the biggest money-makers on mobile devices and the fact that 2015 has already brought us two Pokémon which cost nothing proves that both Nintendo and Pokémon have taken note. What if there was a step 2 to their F2P plan? What if it hinged on introducing gamers to a free-to-play scheme in the main Pokémon series… It wouldn’t make sense to risk testing it on the debut games of a new generation, or a long anticipated remake, but what if there was a third addition to an existing generation coming up, say, like, Pokémon Z (or whatever they decide to call it)?

If there was to be no upfront cost for the game, the most important thing to consider is how they would make money off the title. Please note this is speculation, not a news article.

Tick Tock Time Restrictions

  • Limit of 5 Pokéballs which replenish 1 per 30 minutes. Higher level balls purchase-able for real money and rewarded sparingly in-game
  • Pokémon Centers now heal Pokémon over time, so the more HP your team has lost the longer it will take to heal. This means that the time would scale up as HP increases with level, could be bypassed with micro-transactions.
  • Transportation limited to 5 uses of Fly per day, can recharge your Pokémon’s energy with cash shop item

Pokémon Shuffle took the time restriction system to the bank. Players who wanted to continue playing stages had to either wait until their “hearts” filled up or were forced to pay real money to continue. It was a polarizing monetization strategy in an otherwise amazing puzzle game, and the poor reception showed fans weren’t happy that what could’ve been a $10-$15 purchase now accepted coins in excess of $100 since you would be continually forced to pay if you wanted to play without setting your 3DS down.

The main series is ripe with opportunities to limit players via time, with three highlighted above. This would be a hard pill to swallow and a tough blow against the series if it were to be implemented. No one wants to wait for a time-gated resource to replenish during their journey to catch ’em all or become the regional Pokémon Champion.

Sweet, Sweet DLC

  • New locations added post-release
  • Additional Mega Evolutions
  • Cosmetic additions, including player outfits and hairstyles

Downloadable Content (DLC) is another way that Pokémon could profit from a free game. Players are always begging for more things to do once they beat the game and a steady stream of purchasable options could fit the bill. Want a Battle Frontier? Pay for it! Don’t care? Don’t buy.

The sixth generation also introduced something new to the series: player customization! What better way to make fans pay up than to tantalize them with dozens of flashy new outfits for their trainers. Even Cosplay Pikachu could get its own set of DLC costumes.

VIP Super Trainers

  • Increased catch rate, prize money & XP
  • Faster bike and walking speed
  • Bonus areas and features

No it won’t be just World of Warcraft you’re laying down $15 a month to play. You’ll need your monthly Pokémon Z VIP subscription to catch those elusive legendaries, access an expanded Safari Park or make more than a pittance off the other trainers you pummel on your path to victory. You won’t be getting the “true” main game experience unless you subscribe, because they’ve drastically lowered the amount of everything awarded for those cheapskates who don’t want to pay.

Oh yeah, and only battling is subscriber only. Sorry non-VIP Super Trainers.

One-time Unlock

  • F2P users limited to a smaller world and only the first 4 gyms

Perhaps the download is free, but that might not net you the whole game. Nintendo, in a bid to entice new players, could offer up the first half of the game as an unrestricted free download, but then make people choose to continue… and pay the full retail price… or stop their Pokémon journey halfway. Considering that Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire had a demo available before launch, this isn’t that Farfectch’d (lol).

For gamers planning on buying it anyway, this would be the least intrusive “F2P” option, although it would technically be free-to-try.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

So, if Pokémon Z were to be F2P, what do you think would be the best option? Do you have any ideas I didn’t mention? Will be looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts!

<3 PJ

FEATURED DISCUSSION: E3 2015: News & Opinions