If there’s one thing human beings like, it’s getting free stuff. Time and time again, you’ll see eager people at a fair lined up to sign up for a banking account they don’t need to get a free mini football. So when the prospect of getting free stuff simply for buying game arises, it’s something hard to overlook. Nintendo’s ‘Club Nintendo’ program is the only true loyalty program in gaming that actually offers free physical items, so it’s been a great boost to Nintendo’s image these past five years. Unfortunately, however, we’ve seen the decline of the program the past year.
While it’s always been inferior to its Japanese counterpart, there were some great strides a few years ago with the ongoing addition of interesting physical items. Whether it was the gold nunchuck, Wiimote holders or Game & Watch games, there were some great items that truly made you excited to be invested in the Nintendo brand. Unfortunately, there’s been a decline in both how much the store stocks and new additions since beginning to offer digital rewards two years ago. Nowhere is this more evident than the Elite status gifts.
Of course, nothing will ever live up to the Super Mario Characters Figurine that was offered three years ago. That was an odd fluke and we get that. But there’s been an obvious decline since then, first with an admittedly neat pin set and then either posters or thinly printed and packaged playing cards. This year the bar has been dropped even lower with the Platinum rewards simply consisting of either a Majora’s Mask soundtrack or a three poster set. Posters are, well, posters and these are small with the Luigi and Zelda posters measuring at 22″ x 28″, and Pikmin 3 measuring 25” x 12.8.” Coming with 2CDs in a hard jewel case, the Majora’s Mask soundtrack should be substantial, but it’s a item that many have had for years. While this exact release hasn’t been seen before, the soundtrack has been released on CD format multiple times. If you’re going to do a CD soundtrack, why not make it something special like a 2-4 CD box set of “The best of Nintendo” or something along those lines? Something that can be had elsewhere does little to make you feel part of an exclusive “club.”
While many would argue that you’re getting things for free so have no right to complain what they are, they’re glossing over the point of the program, which is an incentive to buy new games. As much as some may deny it, seeing that Club Nintendo logo on a box or knowing a fresh code is inside may be enough to push people over the edge to buy a Nintendo published game, or more likely, buy it new instead of finding it on the used market. Spending around five-hundred dollars and getting some posters or CDs as a reward does little to inspire loyalty, and the encouragement to seek out games that supposedly offer it may be over.