Overall, fans are excited for Pokémon GO. The idea of catching Pokémon in the real world through augmented reality is thrilling, and mobile devices are the only platforms that could feasibly handle such a game.
But with mobile games come players’ dreaded fear: microtransactions.
Once, the idea of in-app purchases in a Nintendo game would have felt bizarre and out of place, but times have changed. Back then, even the thought of a mobile Pokémon game was an impossible dream. Nintendo has already experimented with free-to-play games on the 3DS that use similar systems to mobile games’ in-app purchases, and the official page for Pokémon GO says “in-app purchases will be available.”
So, how will Pokémon GO use microtransactions?
Normally, we’d look to Niantic’s other augmented reality game, Ingress, as an example of what we should expect, but Ingress has no in-app purchases of any kind. It is entirely free. A common belief is that when Niantic was a part of Google, data from Ingress was used to improve Google Maps. This allowed Ingress to remain free. Niantic is now an independent company, which is a likely reason for why Pokémon GO will use in-app purchases.
It’s easy to fear the worst, a Pokémon GO where you have to spend real money to buy Poké Balls, or where you have a time limit each day and have to pay money if you want to keep playing instead of waiting.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Like DLC, microtransactions aren’t inherently evil. Perhaps Pokémon GO will have aesthetic items or skins you can purchase. Players can safely ignore them, but some will buy them. There are fans out there who would pay to give their Pokémon a cute hat.
Another possibility is that there will be an in-game currency to purchase items such as Poké Balls, with in-app purchases available if you want it quickly. For example, some players have suggested a system based on the steps you take, like the old Poké Walker. As you walk with your mobile device, you’ll earn the in-game currency. If you don’t want to walk long enough to get the amount you need, you could spend money instead.
Do you have other ideas for how the game could use its in-app purchases in a fair way that doesn’t damage the experience? Let us know in the comments.