Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars will be the first game for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS to include a cross-purchase feature in all regions. The concept of the cross-purchase is simple: buying the game for one platform also includes access to that game on the alternate platform. A cross-purchase title is the same game on both devices that may or may not have cross-platform communication. The physical copies of the game in Japan will sport this feature as will the Western eShop releases of the title. The activation of the game on the other platform is through a secondary download code as revealed in the European variant of the January 14th Nintendo Direct. While this concept isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination, it may allow for consumers to activate one version of the game and for their friend to use the other one.
In contrast, the Sony Cross-Buy feature limits distribution of the secondary copy of applicable titles to the Sony Entertainment Network ID that the game is registered to. For example, the digital copy of Sony Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, a title that came with an on-line pass, would only be transferable to a friend if the pass is initially activated on the recipients profile and bound to them. The original owner of the game would need to pay for a new on-line pass in order to fully enjoy the title after the activation with another profile. Many of the Sony Cross-Buy titles are digital release on both platforms and, therefore, automatically tied to an account at purchase. ‘Cross-Buy’ is a great buzzword and a decent way to build up a Vita digital library, yet it is a far cry from the Steam gifting service.
Nintendo hasn’t exactly implemented a ‘unified purchase ID’ model quite yet, as evidenced by the necessity of system transfers to move over digital purchases, which is likely the practical reason why the codes will be separate at the time of purchase. Unintentionally, this decision is very pro-consumer and even manages to eclipse Steam’s policy on multiple purchases of a title apart from the purposes of gifting. Given the discrepancy of Wii U sales to 3DS sales, this system of trusting the consumer marks a paradigm shift that could strengthen both consoles in the long run. Future titles supporting this feature could provide incentive for people on the fence to purchase a Wii U or a 3DS to fully experience everything a game has to offer.
However, all of those possibilities are empty sentimentality without discussing the game itself. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is the latest entry in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series of puzzle platformers. The Mario vs. Donkey Kong series itself is a spiritual successor to the Gameboy title Donkey Kong, bearing the same title as the 1981 arcade original, from 1994. The primary feature in this title is a Little Big Planet-esque level creation system where the player is able to rate other players’ puzzle creations on-line. The tipping stars name refers to the in-game system where the player unlocks additional components to build levels depending on ratings from other players. Tipped star come out of the player’s own star pool meaning little incentive exists to automatically give everyone the maximum tip and there is all the more encouragement to obtain more stars through playing additional user-generated levels.
This structure is meant to heavily encourage on-line play in addition to progressive refinement of one’s level creations in the pursuit of stars and utilization of the various unlocked pieces. The cross-play between the 3DS and Wii U means that someone could make levels away from home on the 3DS and then play them later on the Wii U or vice versa. It also means that people you can play a level that someone made on a 3DS on your WiiU, stopping the games online population from being split into two factions. Ultimately, the longevity of the title will depend upon how much any particular player is willing to participate in the game’s community. While this might be a small start for true Nintendo cross-play, it does open the door for many more options in the months and years to come.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars comes out on March 5th in North America, March 19th in Japan and March 20th in Europe.
What do you think of cross-purchasing? Is it something you take advantage of or is it something that goes untapped because of the choices in alternate devices?