Club Nintendo does have some cool rewards, but the items are highly subjective. Unless you’re 12 or into stickers, posters, and other Nintendo-related swag, you haven’t been able to spend your hard-earned Nintendo coins on many actual games, aside from the expensive Game & Watch Collection for the DS.
But that all changed in December. Nintendo is now offering The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Wii), Dr. Mario Online Rx (Wii), Dr. Mario Express (3DS), and Kirby’s Dreamland (3DS) — all for either 100 or 150 coins, depending on the title. I’ve never been interested in Nintendo’s points club before, but as soon as it started offering free games, I knew it was finally time to create an account and collect my spoils. Plus, you can find other cool (depending on your definition of the word) Nintendo items available through the club as well.
One of the issues that traditionally makes the club suck is price. Items such as Mario-themed screen savers, tote bags, folders, shoelaces, and bags are all there, but they cost a fortune in coins. Case in point, the messenger bag costs 550 coins. That means you’d have to purchase about 18 first-party Nintendo titles to get it, based on the average value of 30 coins per game. Back in December, Nintendo offered Super Mario Kart (3DS), Fluidity (3DS), 3D Classics: Xevious (3DS), and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again (3DS) on the Club Nintendo for no more than 150 coins. Now, those are prices I can accept.
For the uninitiated, Club Nintendo is basically a PR move on Nintendo’s part in an attempt to better its somewhat-tainted image in the eyes of its hardcore fans and casual consumers. Every first-party Nintendo title you purchase (consoles too) comes with a Club Nintendo card insert with a pin number. This pin needs to be entered on club.nintendo.com in exchange for virtual "coins" that can be cashed in for real world items. All you need to do is complete a rather-annoying customer survey and you are rewarded with the coins.
Different games have different coin values. For instance, more recent titles like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword earn 50 coins, Mario Kart 7 earns 30 coins, and downloadable titles like Pushmo earn about 30 coins. I downloaded Pushmo before creating my Club Nintendo account and can’t seem to find a way to collect my coins, so you’ve been warned.
If Club Nintendo wants to continue not sucking, it needs to keep releasing downloadable games. Doing so is a valid public relations move and improves the company’s image in the eyes of its dedicated fans, especially in light of a terrible 2011 for both the Wii and the 3DS. Things might be improving for the 3DS, but 2012 seems like the year of “absolutely nothing” for the Wii, a console with practically zero worthwhile new releases scheduled.
Giving away free downloadable games isn’t a new thing for Nintendo. Remember the reasonably awesome ambassador program that gave away 10 free Nintendo Entertainment System and 10 free Game Boy Advance games? The company created this initiative in an effort to appease 3DS early adopters that were angry about the the portable's price drop from $269 to $149.
I managed to sneak my way into the program by purchasing a 3DS this summer for $169 just before the August 11 cutoff date (some retailers dropped the price early). The ambassador program was one of the main reasons I purchased a 3DS. Again, the effort was another great PR move on Nintendo’s part and garnered the company a lot of positive press in the gaming media as well as softening the blow of the price drop for hardcore Nintendo fans.
Rumors indicate that the aforementioned game offers are going away soon, so if you’re looking for a few free games, you should probably take advantage of this opportunity as soon as you can. Club Nintendo might not be for everyone, but for the first time, you can get some free games out of it. In other words, it finally doesn’t suck.