You’ve probably seen leaflets printed with seemingly random numbers and letters in various games Nintendo has either developed, published, or distributed. No, they’re not disposable coasters; they are codes that can be used to register products you purchased with Nintendo. You get “coins”, which are points that can be spent on Nintendo’s long-forgotten loyalty program just for registering a game or piece of hardware. Additional coins can be earned by completing surveys about products you’ve registered. The reward catalog for this program used to be chock-full of wallpapers for your desktop, screensavers, and buddy icons. Players quickly grew tired of these virtual items, especially when noticing the real-life swag that was being dished out to other countries, and Nintendo responded to these complaints by adding things other than digital doodads. Even when more tangible gifts were added, they paled in comparison to what was being offered overseas; while we in North America were getting Princess Peach key chains, players overseas were getting things like Wii remotes with television remote control capabilities. It wasn’t too long before Nintendo heard the angry snarls of their customers and finally offered real-life, tangible items to North American players.
The transition started out small with a rewards catalog full trinkets that only a 10 year-old would be happy with. The rewards catalog was filled with items like folder and bookmark sets, posters, and greeting cards. A cornucopia of DS Lite Accessories were listed, which unfortunately was never overhauled to include anything for the DSi. The list also included a couple of mostly worthless items for the Wii such as a remote holder that sort of looked like a square-shaped can cozy. Hidden deep within this pile of junk was the gem of a DS game, the Game and Watch Collection 1.
For 800 coins players could get the Game and Watch Collection 1, available exclusively via Club Nintendo. It contained Oil Panic, Donkey Kong, and Green House which were all rendered in their original LCD look from 1982. The oldsters (like me) who had previously felt so let down by Nintendo’s loyalty rewards finally had something to look forward to! Unfortunately, the game spent a lot of time being out of stock, and by the time they accumulated 800 coins, Nintendophiles had once again given up hope. A few weeks ago, Nintendo not only finally restocked this game, but added the new Game and Watch Collection 2, also for 800 coins. Game and Watch Collection2 contains the original versions of Octopus, Parachute, and a new game called Octopus X Parachute which combines the previous two games and set them at sea. Along with these two DS games, Nintendo released another Club Nintendo exclusive title, Grill-Off With Ultra Hand.
For a mere 80 coins, you can receive a download code which allows you to get Grill-Off With Ultra Hand via WiiWare. It is an arcade-style game that puts players in control of a gizmo known as the Ultra Hand, which is based on a product Nintendo’s founders sold before they were in the video game business. You use this device to snatch meat off of a series of grills before it burns. You are awarded bonus points if you grab your meat when it plumps up, which indicates it is perfectly cooked. Dropping your meat on the ground or allowing it to immolate on the grill results in a game over screen, and Grill-Off With Ultra Hand’s poor implementation of the Wii’s motion controls ensures you will see the game over screen frequently. If and when you get the hang of the gestures to extend and retract the Ultra Hand, you will still be tripping over the button presses that are required in conjunction with the poorly registered movements.. After seeing game over about 20 or 30 times, you will probably very happy you didn’t spend any real coins on this game.
All negativity aside, these newest additions to the Club Nintendo catalog prove that Nintendo has an interest in improving the program. I hope that this isn’t the last injection of goodies we see, and that in the future, more items such as games or apparel will be added. As Nintendo tries to broaden its demographic, they will need to broaden the range of items available for rewards. After all, what Nintendo fan who is finished with elementary school is interested in a set of Bowser folders with a matching bookmark, or a Nintendogs Greeting Card Set? Given these lackluster options, I’d rather play with my aforementioned meat.