Nintendo ventures into freemium gaming with Pokemon Shuffle

When Nintendo introduced Pokemon Shuffle last week, it looked like we were getting another cute Pokemon puzzle game along the lines of Pokemon Trozei!. Instead, it looks like the company is using its little monsters to test out a freemium strategy that is more common in the mobile games market.

Almost anyone who has downloaded a free mobile game has seen the strategy in action. The game is free to play for a while, but in order to acquire certain items or play a certain amount of rounds in one day, the player has to fork over some real world cash.

While Nintendo has stuck with the old-school “pay money, then enjoy game” strategy for a while with the 3DS, it looks like now is the time to test freemium gaming on the 3DS. From the press release:

Players start the game with five Hearts, and one is used up for each stage played. When players run out of Hearts, they’ll need to wait for their Hearts to replenish in order to re-enter battle. Optionally, players will be able to keep playing immediately by using items earned in-game through regular gameplay or purchased at Nintendo eShop. Other items that players might find useful will also be available via the same methods.

Will the same strategy that has set the mobile gaming landscape on fire work on the 3DS? Fans of Nintendo’s portable hardware are more accustomed to spending $40 on a game and then enjoying it for months on end. Now the company is trying to engage customers that don’t feel like making that big commitment. However, a lot of those people are already playing free games on their phones that they didn’t spend $200 on just to play games. We’ll see how Pokemon Shuffle works out when it’s released this February.