Pokemon Shuffle passes 2.5 million downloads, proves Nintendo can do free-to-play

After last week’s news of Nintendo finally confirming its plans for smartphone domination with a move into mobile games it’s encouraging to see that its current free-to-play offering has been downloaded over 2.5 million times on 3DS. No mean feat in just over a month.

Pokemon Shuffle is a match three game at heart but with a catch ‘em all reskin and is free to download onto the handheld. Every day you get five battles - each represented by one heart - where you have the chance to capture a new Pokemon with your matching skills. Should you wish to play more it’s, of course, possible to purchase more hearts with Jewels. These are bought with something considerably less sweet sounding; your hard earned cash.

As someone susceptible to the Candy Crushes of the world, I can confirm that those five hearts are just a gateway drug but it’s important to note that Jewels can be earned in game and Nintendo has previously delivered some for free. There is also no impetus to keep playing other than the intense desire to match more Pokemon...

There are no figures for what people are actually spending but as discussed by Ninty CEO Satoru Iwata last week in an interview with Time, the focus when the company moves over to smartphones is to get as many people playing as possible, regardless of whether they are piling in money or not. Good news for those who were afraid Nintendo is aiming to be the next King.

“Nintendo does not intend to choose payment methods that may hurt Nintendo’s brand image of our IP, which parents feel comfortable letting their children play with,” Iwata reassuringly said. “Also, it’s even more important for us to consider how we can get as many people around the world as possible to play Nintendo smart device apps, rather than to consider which payment system will earn the most money.”

In the same interview, Iwata doesn’t deny the appeal of what he prefers to call ‘free-to-start’ and says it will be used when it fits the app but promised that Nintendo won’t be watering down its much-loved franchises with endless microtransactions. “The value of content generally tends to weaken in the digital world, and especially on smart devices, it is not easy to maintain the value of the content. We aim to explore ways where we will not devalue Nintendo IP and rather, we can further improve the value.”

It’s reassuring to know that Nintendo is aware of the fears of the gaming world. While the success of Pokemon Shuffle on handheld means that it’s willing to go down the free-to-play route, our smartphones shouldn’t have any Animal Crossing meets Dungeon Keeper-style disasters any time soon. And you thought Resetti was bad...

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode.