Fire Emblem Heroes, the mobile take on Nintendo’s long-running strategy series, just turned three years old. The game is celebrating the anniversary in all the usual ways: free in-game currency, summons, and challenge maps. But it seems the fanbase is far from thrilled. The sticking point? A subscription service called “Feh Pass.”
A Feh Pass subscription will cost $9.49 a month and will include a handful of new features, some expected, some not. Purely cosmetic skins for existing characters? A handful of bonus quests that can only be completed by subscribers? Sure, that’s fine. But the Feh Pass goes a lot further than that, with statistical boosts awarded only to those who pay up. A handful of gameplay-impacting upgrades (mostly centered around boosted stats) will give subscribers a slight edge in competitive modes.
Beyond that, Nintendo and Intelligent systems are locking quality-of-life upgrades behind the subscription paywall. Two useful gameplay perks – the ability to rewind time back one turn and Auto Start, which allows players to have the AI start multiple matches in a row – will also only be available to subscribers.
Players on the Fire Emblem Heroes subreddit haven’t been bashful about sharing their disappointment over the game’s shift to a subscription model. The subreddit is now flooded with memes complaining about the new feature.
The shift to a subscription model follows in the footsteps of Mario Kart Tour, Nintendo’s mobile take on the popular racer. In that game, Nintendo charged $4.99 for access to an exclusive mode, challenges and bonus rewards. Nintendo also introduced a subscription service to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, with similar quality-of-life functionality features locked away to subscribers.
Fire Emblem Heroes has been viewed as one of the more generous free-to-play mobile games, offering quite a bit of content, even to those who aren’t able to spend a dime. Over the past three years, the developers at Intelligent Systems have also earned a reputation for being willing to adapt, fixing the game’s faults with dozens of quality-of-life enhancements, for free, as a way to maintain the player base.
But this shift towards a $9.49-a-month model, which only rewards subscribers with gameplay and quality-of-life enhancements, seems like a major strategic shift and a disappointing turn for Fire Emblem Heroes.
We’ve reached out to Nintendo for comment on the fan reaction to Feh Pass and will update this story if we hear back.