Okay, maybe ‘suck’ is a strong word – because Club Nintendo does have some cool rewards – but the items are highly subjective. Unless you’re twelve or otherwise into stickers, posters, and other Nintendo related swag, there haven’t been many actual games to spend your hard earned Nintendo coins on, aside from a few expensive Game & Watch DS titles.

But that all changed in December. Nintendo is now offering Majora’s Mask (Wii) 150 coins, Dr. Mario Rx (Wii) 100 coins, Kirby’s Dreamland (3DS) 100 coins and Dr. Mario Express (3DS) 150 coins. 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. There are other cool (depending on your definition of ‘cool’) 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, shoe laces and bags are all there, but 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) 100 coins, Fluidity (3DS) 150 coins, 3D Classics: Xevious (3DS) 100 coins and Mario vs Donkey Kong Minis March Again (3DS) 150 coins on the Nintendo club. Now, those are prices I can accept.

For the uninitiated, the Club Nintendo is basically a PR move on Nintendo’s part in an attempt to better it’s somewhat tainted image in the eyes of it’s hardcore fans and casual consumers.  Every first party Nintendo title you purchase (consoles too) comes with a Club Nintendo card insert that has a pin number on it. This pin needs to be entered on 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 Skyward Sword are worth 50 coins, Mario Kart 7 is worth 30 coins and downloadable titles like Pushmo are worth about 30 coins. (I downloaded Pushmo before creating my Club Nintendo account and can’t seem to find a way to collect my coins. You’ve been warned.)

If Club Nintendo wants to continue not sucking, it needs to keep releasing downloadable games.  It’s a valid public relations move and improves the company’s image in the eyes of their dedicated fans, especially in light of a terrible 2011 year for both the Wii and the 3DS. (Things might be improving for the 3DS, but 2012 seems like the year of “absolutely nothing” for 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 NES and 10 free Game Boy Advance games? The company created this initiative in an effort to appease early 3DS adopters that were angry about the 3DS’ 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 11th cut off date (some retailers dropped the price early). In part, the ambassador program was one of the main reasons I purchased a 3DS. This was another great PR move on Nintendo’s part and garnered them a lot of positive press in the gaming media as well as softening the blow of the price drop for hardcore Nintendo fans.

So if you’re looking for a few free games, you should probably take advantage of this opportunity as soon as you can (rumor is, the games’ offer is going away soon). 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.

  1. Perry Jackson says:

    It’s weird because in Japan, it was always awesome and we never had it here and had to be jealous of it. It took a long while for it to be good. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I both love and have Zelda posters, a Mario handkerchief, a calender and a little stand-up figurine but free games is just the icing on the cake.

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