Puz­zle & Dragons Z

Golden-egg-lay­ing goose de­scended



Some­times you get the feel­ing that Nin­tendo makes busi­ness de­ci­sions solely to ir­ri­tate its crit­ics. Barely a fi­nan­cial quar­ter goes by with­out an­other raft of calls for Nin­tendo to take its port­fo­lio to smartphones, where cheaply pro­duced games rake in mil­lions via in-app pur­chases ev­ery day. In­stead, Nin­tendo has done ex­actly the op­po­site, bring­ing Puz­zle & Dragons, Ja­pan’s most popular smart­phone game, to 3DS.

And we re­ally do mean popular. PAD, as it is of­ten ab­bre­vi­ated, has been down­loaded 32 mil­lion times in Ja­pan, a coun­try of around 127 mil­lion peo­ple. In the first half of 2014, it made GungHo On­line En­ter­tain­ment some ¥85 bil­lion (£463 mil­lion) in rev­enue. Most im­por­tantly, un­like so many other F2P suc­cesses, it de­serves it: PAD is charm­ingly pre­sented, smartly de­signed, and al­most in­fin­itely playable. It is, in its own way, a per­fect fit for a Nin­tendo plat­form, but for one prob­lem: a layer of mon­eti­sa­tion that, while never ag­gres­sive, puts up a wall in the endgame be­tween those who are pre­pared to pay and those who would rather not.

On mo­bile, PAD has three cur­ren­cies: coins, dropped by fallen enemies and used to level up mon­sters (in con­junc­tion with ‘feed­ing’ them less pow­er­ful crea­tures); Pal Points, earned when some­one on your friends list chooses your mon­ster to help them in battle, and spent on com­mon mon­sters at the ran­domised Pal Egg Ma­chine; and Magic Stones. The lat­ter is the pre­mium cur­rency, used one at a time to buy con­tin­ues in dun­geons, in­crease mon­ster stor­age slots or re­store play-lim­it­ing stamina, or traded in groups of five for a sin­gle pull at the Rare Egg Ma­chine. Skilled play­ers can do great things with sup­pos­edly low-level teams, and

Daisuke Ya­mamoto, Puz­zle&Dragons se­ries pro­ducer at GungHo

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