Let’s just get this out of the way from the start: microtransactions are not easy to get right, and rare few games ever have managed them competently. It should come as no surprise then that Pokemon GO’s list of in-app purchases includes packages that cost up to $100 ($150 in other regions!). This is a problem in many other free-to-play games, and Pokemon isn’t getting a pass just because it’s Nintendo.
The packages available follow fairly standard practice for free-to-play mobile games, offering modestly priced packages such at 100 Pokecoins for a measly one dollar, with each subsequent package offering progressively “better” deals. For instance, if you get the $10 package, you’ll receive 1200 Pokecoins, which equates to 120 coins per dollar spent. More bang for your buck.
This is all fine and dandy up until a certain point. Spending a dollar here and there to help expedite things is a great option to have. Throwing ten or twenty bucks to get a stockpile of coins and support the game is perfectly fine. A package for $100, however, should be unnecessary, especially when Nintendo already perfected the free-to-play model last year, with another Pokemon game no less.
Last December, Nintendo launched the free-to-play 3DS game Pokemon Picross, which is playable from beginning to end without paying a single cent. Paying real money for Picrites in-game speeds things up by allowing you to unlock more puzzles, increase your energy bar and more, but I can personally attest that the game is playable from start to finish for zero dollars with enough patience.
The wonderful thing about Pokemon Picross is that once you’ve spent $30 on Picrites, you can purchase an unlimited amount from then on for free. That means you will never, ever spend more than $30 on the game, even by mistake. The amount of content is well worth the top-end price if you want all of it available from the start, but if you’re happy to just play a free daily puzzle until you amass enough Picrites to unlock the next area in a week’s time, you’ll be a happy camper like I was.
This is the model that Pokemon GO should have followed. With the prospect of future content updates to include new Pokemon to catch and presumably other fun events and updates, it might be difficult to put a cap on the in-app purchases. That said, it would make sense to top it at $60, the standard price for a current-gen game purchased new on launch. In fact, that would be fairly generous.
Spend a total of $60 in Pokemon GO, and have access to all the Pokeballs and Incense you need. You’ve earned yourself that luxury for footing the bill. Couple that with the $35 many people will undoubtedly be spending on the Pokemon GO Plus peripheral, and they’ve still got the potential to make nearly $100 per customer.
If you don’t have that kind of money to drop on a mobile game, that’s okay too. You’ll still be able to make your way through the game, just at a slower pace than those who have paid their dues.