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Pokemon Shuffle Mobile Stacks the Deck

by Donald Theriault - September 26, 2015, 7:24 am EDT
Total comments: 6

The mobile port of the 3DS title goes headlong into making you spend money

A few months ago, Neal lauded Pokémon Shuffle's ability to create an enjoyable, if time-limited, game without spending money. The CEO of The Pokémon Company, Tsunekazu Ishihara, recently gave an interview to Famitsu in which he mentioned that the 3DS version is aimed at middle schoolers, and that the recent mobile version of the game is designed for adults. As well, Ishihara said it is possible to clear the game without spending money - but what he left unmentioned is that it's way easier to do it on the 3DS than it is on mobile.

The biggest change made to the mobile versions of Pokémon Shuffle is in adjusted Pokémon catch rates. Although there are a few instances early on where the changes are usually balanced, such as in the second stage Sandy Bazaar where all adjustments in catch rate are balanced with higher/lower bonuses based on remaining moves, the generosity ends shortly after. By late in the Night Festival area, a key Pokémon (Volbeat) has had its base catch rate shredded from a base catch rate (winning on the last turn) of 30% to 0.5%, and the per-move bonus means you go from a potential 95% chance of catching Volbeat to 28.5%. And in case you thought it couldn't get any worse, one of the prized Pokémon in the game is Gengar, who has an extremely useful Mega ability but has an abysmally low catch rate on mobile. On the 3DS, his catch rate is a potential 58% (2% base, 14x4% if you get a one turn bingo, Flamingo.) On mobile, his catch rate starts so low the game expresses it as a question mark (it's 0.1%) and tops out at 28.1%... and that's if you manage to take it out in one move, which is 17% harder since they jacked up the score required to one-shot it from 6516 to 7819 (16.7% more). Suffice it to say, your chances of getting that major weapon without dropping coins are slim.

The mobile version's Mega stages - which serve as boss battles, essentially - have also been modified and not to the benefit of the player. Each Mega stage upon completion on 3DS gives the appropriate Mega Stone and a Jewel. Jewels are the convertible currency that can be used on hearts for level plays, coins for items, or a 5 turn/15 second booster if you're just a bit short in a stage. Mobile cuts off a prime source of these by making it so that the Mega stages just give five hearts. Sure, a level play is nice, but what if you want to cash that in for a few thousand coins or are saving up for a much larger coin purchase, especially since Mobile makes them more valuable no matter what you turn them into? The slight boost to coins or hearts on Mobile isn't enough to account for the fact that it's virtually impossible to get a Jewel. Plus, some of the challenge stages (Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza) require two hearts to play, and bonus hearts handled by StreetPass previously now require a Facebook account.

Once you get into a stage and find it can't be beaten itemless, the temptation is there to spend some coins on items. Unfortunately for mobile players, that's going to be pricier as well. The most egregious price increase (gouge?) is for the Exp 1.5x item, which somehow managed to cost 167% more than its 3DS cousin (800 coins v 300). Attack Power+, a near mandatory item to put up high ranks in competitive stages or to get anything approaching a usable catch rate, is 5000 coins on Mobile. The other important items (Complexitiy -1/Disruption Delay/Mega Start) all randomly went up 500 coins, while Moves +5/Time +10 are 1000 coins, up from 800. At this point, buying Jewels seems like the only sane thing to do short of deleting the app.

The in-app purchases themselves are slightly lower priced on Shuffle Mobile, but Mobile gives less Jewels to compensate. Since all versions have a spending limit of US$80/£80/€100 per month, someone who spent to the limit would end up a few gems short on the Mobile version (118 to 115 assuming you spend up to the limit). Both versions do block in-app purchases under a certain age, but Mobile lowers the limit to 13 while the 3DS version - which runs on the system's parental controls - blocks purchases completely if parental controls are enabled. Running it unencumbered on 3DS assumes the player is over 18. The 3DS had a "buy some get some" sale just before Mobile came out, and it's not known if these will be repeated, but they do represent a better value for 3DS owners overall.

So Pokémon Shuffle Mobile has a plurality of levels harder than the 3DS version, charges more than the going rate for some stages, requires an internet connection so good luck playing on an iPod Touch, and doesn't even give you as much value for in-app purchases. Clearly, The Pokémon Company is hoping to make it up on volume - and considering the 3DS version got 5 million downloads on a 60 million userbase, imagine what they can get on a few hundred million. If you want a better experience overall though, the 3DS version is the one to get.



TOPHATANT123September 26, 2015

$$$ I imagine the relaunch of the game gave them an opportunity to rebalance the game to be more exploitive. Kinda like how the Wii was priced too low but once the price was set they couldn't retroactively go back and make it higher. Suffice to say I find these kind of games where there is a direct negative correlation between difficulty and how much you paid for it, that use refined psychological techniques to pressure you into spending more, to be the cancer of the industry. I don't see how it is morally ethical to take upwards of 80 quid per month for a casualised cookie cutter puzzle game. I suppose rumble world is a step in the right direction where as far as I know there are no gambling features and that there is a reasonable upper limit that you can hit and not have to pay anymore beyond that, but the future of Nintendo is still bleak as hell.

EnnerSeptember 26, 2015

What Ishihara meant by the mobile game being tuned for adults is that it's paced to be played in short bursts multiple times a day for every day for many weeks or months. This is as opposed to the 3DS version where it is more likely to be played in one session per day at most.

Sad to read that the mobile version of Shuffle is so much more miserable.

jarodeaSeptember 26, 2015

Avast ye mateys, Nintendo be whale hunting now.

yoshi1001September 26, 2015

Some of this is probably also attributable to the fact that (I believe) in-app purchases on mobile also send part of the money to the platform owner (at least on iOS). That's presumably part of the reason Pokedex 3D Pro was more expensive on mobile than 3DS.

TonxSeptember 26, 2015

On mobile, I have yet to spend any money, and I have caught 'em all - at least those that are available. Didn't grind, just played patiently, spent some coins to get those really tough S-ranks, and a super ball or two on Mewtwo. But for me, the real game, the real challenge, is to "100%" the game without spending any money. As an added difficulty for myself, I've chosen to participate in all of the competitions without spending any coins or jewels at all. Never had a problem on the 3DS version, don't expect I will on the mobile version.

I agree that it's far harder and more gouge-y than the 3DS version, but I'm up for a little hard mode. And besides, you can spend money to get faster to where I am now - waiting for new content. I say enjoy it while it lasts.

ShyGuySeptember 28, 2015

After getting so many downgraded ports to its own systems, Nintendo decided to return the favor.

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