The North American version of Club Nintendo launched on Monday with little fanfare, but that didn’t stop a veritable flood of Nintendo fanboys from bum-rushing the site, registering their Nintendo-published games, and fleeing off into the night, cackling with knowledge that their hard-earned Nintendo trinkets would soon be in the mail. I’m not proud to admit it, but I was one of those rabid fanboys. However, while I was there, I graded the new incentive program on everything from ease of use to the quality of the rewards. So without further ado, here is the Official TGR Report Card for Club Nintendo.
Ease of Use: A-
The idea of Club Nintendo is simple. Every Nintendo-published game you buy can be registered on the website. Once you have done so, you fill out a generic, brief survey, answering questions about where you heard about the game, why you bought it, and where. Since every survey is identical, it’s easy to simply rush through them, as you’ll most likely have the same answers for every game. Once the survey is completed, you earn coins that can later be spent on rewards. You receive 30 coins for a DS game, 50 for a Wii title, and 10 for a Wii Channel or WiiWare game. Since DS games usually cost approximately 30 dollars, and Wii games cost 50, it is in essence like getting one coin for every dollar you spend on Nintendo software.
The Club Nintendo site is easy to both use and navigate. Registering your account takes very little time (as long as the site works — more on that later), and it’s simple to move between registering products and checking out how many more you need for a desired reward. I only wish that the “Register Product” box was on every page, so you needn’t return to the “Earn Coins” page every time you wanted to enter a new title.
In order to receive points for WiiWare games, you need to link your Club Nintendo account to your Wii via the Wii Shop Channel. I wish there was a way to do this online, rather than having to turn your Wii on, but it’s hardly a deal breaker.
The site will also show you a “To-Do” list, which shows surveys that still need to be completed before you can earn coins. This is a nice touch, though I filled out all the surveys as I registered the games.
Site Stability: D+
You would think after selling 2 million Wii’s last month, Nintendo would have been able to predict the massive amounts of traffic their new site would have to withstand. Unfortunately, they did not prepare properly for it, and the site has been suffering for it. When I was trying to register for an account, the site would not let me past the “Enter E-mail” section for half an hour. Other people I spoke to during this time reported similar problems. Many couldn’t even load the site at all.
Once I finally did have my account set up, the site became a bit more stable. This could perhaps be because by then it was about 2 AM, but I won’t press the matter. I only had one more site error while I was actually entering in my games, and it was minor. After registering a game, the site logged me out. However, when I logged back in, the product was still registered so I had no need to re-enter the information.
FAQ Helpfulness: A
The Club Nintendo FAQ answered every question that arose during the process, including what games would actually give me coins if I registered them. You see, for whatever reason, not every Nintendo-published game has a survey attached to it, and you only earn coins for the surveys. After I registered Excite Truck and got no credit for it, I went to the FAQ and found my answer. I suppose there are just some games that Nintendo doesn’t care about (and to be fair, I think I’m the only person that actually DOES still care about Excite Truck).
The FAQ also answered questions I had about registering WiiWare titles, and gave a number you could call if you had any problems or further questions. Nintendo’s customer service has always been top notch, and it’s great to see that that is no different here.
Reward Quality: C
As of right now, there are only about a dozen prizes up for grabs in the rewards section. It’s kind of disappointing that there aren’t more, but at least we know more will be added in the future. What isn’t as easily forgivable is the mediocre-at-best quality of the current selection.
The top prize right now for 800 coins is the Game & Watch Collection for the Nintendo DS. At first glance, this seems like an awesome prize. However, upon closer inspection, the so-called “collection” only manages to collect three different Game and Watch games. I own the Game & Watch Gallery 4 for the Game Boy Advance, which contains about 20 Game and Watch games, not to mention a history of the series, and modern updates to classic titles. You may think to yourself, “well fine, but at least the DS game is free, right?” Well, that depends on your definition of free. True, you don’t have to spend any extra money than you already have to receive the game, but in order to get it you will have needed to spend $800 on Nintendo games. So an $800 DS game, and it doesn’t even include the Game and Watch version of Zelda? No thanks.
The other prizes consist of DS cases, stylus packs, and a glorified garbage can to store your Wiimotes in. I purchased one of the stylus packs with my points, since all of my current DS styli are chipped, and have been scratching the screen.
If you register enough games, you can become a Gold or Platinum level member. You have a year to earn this title, after which Nintendo will send you a surprise in the mail. Right now we have no idea what this prize will be, but I don’t have soaring expectations.
Despite my ranting, the reason why this category gets a C grade and no lower is that even if the quality of the current selection is questionable, there’s no denying that it’s far and away better than most of what was offered in the previous incarnation of the program, My Nintendo. Likewise, it’s a world above the program offered in Europe, which often charges 100 coins for a simple desktop wallpaper. However, it does still have a ways to go in reaching the quality of the Japanese program.
Future Potential: A
Although Club Nintendo is off to a mediocre start, there’s no telling what could come out of this in the future. The previous program, My Nintendo, once offered a collection of Zelda games for the GameCube that included the original NES classic, Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, Ocarina of Time, AND Majora’s Mask. There’s no reason why they can’t offer something of that calibre again, and frankly, I have faith that eventually they will.
Although not all Nintendo games published before December 2008 are worth any coins, Nintendo has promised that every game released after this month will count, and even offers bonus coins for new release purchases. As long as Nintendo actually puts out software that’s worth BUYING, there’s no reason why Club Nintendo couldn’t become one of the best things to ever happen to American Nintendo fans.
Overall (Not an average): B-
Once Club Nintendo has worked the kinks out of their website, there will be absolutely no reason why anyone should not sign up for the program. Even if the current rewards are slightly questionable, coins don’t expire for two years, which is plenty of time for Nintendo to add something worth spending them on. So go forth and purchase, my fellow Nintendo fiends — the time for consumer whore recognition is nigh.