As a society, we tend to focus on comparison. We compare ourselves to other people as a means to judge how good or bad our lives are. We compare products in order to decide which brand or model of something we should buy. And of course we compare forms of entertainment such as games and movies in order to decide which one is better. I’ll go as far as saying that every single game I have ever reviewed was reviewed in comparison to other similar games. It’s just the way we do things. And rightly so in most cases. In a world where we have a limited number of dollars to spend and a literally unlimited number of things to spend it on, it only makes sense to compare things.
The problem with entertainment products such as games and movies is that we have to experience them firsthand before we can really be sure of which one is actually better. Someone else can tell you that Devil May Cry is better than God of War, but the reality is that both franchises are so similar in tone and style that the only way to truly know which one is better, which is a subjective idea to begin with, is to play them both. And there’s the catch 22. I only want to play the best games, but I can’t know which games are the best for me until I’ve personally played them. At the end of the day it’s an impossible situation that ultimately leads to consumers buying a lot of crap and occasionally getting something good or hopefully great. Yet at the same time it’s only one game which amounts to a practical average of $30-$60 and 10 – 40 hours of time in the case of most modern games. In the grand scheme of your life the repercussions of buying and playing a bad game aren’t too serious. And at the end of the day you had a choice and making the wrong choice was your fault so you can’t really blame anyone but yourself when it comes down to it. But this line of reasoning only works in the case of single games and assumes that you actually have some license in which games you play. What if instead, we’re talking about a service, and what if you had no choice?
Because it is our nature, we choose to compare the value of services in basically the same way we compare single products. We say Netflix is better than HBO GO. We say XBOX Live Gold is better than PlayStation Plus. People make these comparisons because it’s an easy way to think about things and it helps justify paying for whatever service you ultimately choose. The reality is that in all cases you are getting taken advantage of and you truly have no choice. The problem with all current entertainment services is that they are all heavily flawed in a number of ways. Netflix is great. By which I mean it’s the best film/television streaming service currently available and thus if you can only afford to use one it’s the one most people go with. But it’s by no means perfect. It updates content slowly, has region locked content, and periodically removes content that many paying customers don’t want to see removed.
It’s a boldfaced lie to say that it’s a perfect service if you look at it in a vacuum, but we don’t look at it in a vacuum. Instead we justify easily fixed flaws by telling ourselves “at least it’s better than the alternatives” which currently amounts to Amazon Prime Video, HBO GO, HULU Plus, and a bunch of other crap not worth mentioning. You choose Netflix because it’s the best option. Not because it’s the service you actually want. But even that’s not actually true because really we don’t have a choice. If you’re a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan for instance, then you have to have Netflix. You do not have a choice in the matter. You can go to the theater and watch every Marvel film. You can get cable and watch Marvel’s Agents of Shield. But if you want to get all the other live action Marvel content then your only option is Netflix because Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and a number of other currently in production Marvel shows are Netflix Original exclusives. You have no choice and that’s exactly why comparing competing services based on a dollar value is pointless.
You will watch what you want to watch regardless of what company is streaming it. And you will play what you want to play regardless of which console is actually better. That’s why people bought XBOX ONEs. Not because they genuinely believed it was better than the PS4, it was simply because they wanted to play HALO and it’s currently a platform exclusive franchise. If you want to play Pokken Tournament you have no choice but to buy a Wii U no matter how much you don’t want one. There is no such thing as platform/service choice in modern day entertainment. Especially when it comes to gaming. Of course I’m assuming piracy is not an option. It’s this lack of actual choice that makes comparing competing services all but pointless other than as a means to make demands of services you’re already being forced to use. The only scenario where it makes sense to compare services is when comparing a current service to its predecessor from the same company because then you have at least some legitimate grounds to complain. If you have been supporting a service through use and suddenly the company changes it to be worse than what you were already getting, you have every right to challenge that in whatever way you find effective to get changes reversed or improved to get at least the same quality of service you were already getting before said changes took place. So after that long winded introduction, let’s talk about rewards programs.
Rewards programs are important because they, more than any other type of service, offer you no choice. If you own a particular platform or play particular games, you will use the rewards service tied to those specific products. So again comparing them is kind of pointless, but at least you can use comparison to figure out what’s being done right and what’s not. I know off the bat a lot of people disagree with the idea of complaining about rewards services because technically they are free services and technically there is no legal argument for why a company has to reward you for buying their products. We’re not going to get into that debate today. If you read my posts on Gaming Rebellion and my blog regularly then you know that I do believe that developers/publishers owe loyal customers something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be physical products and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a dollar for dollar rewards system. But I do believe committed, loyal gamers are owed something by the companies they keep afloat and I do believe that when done correctly a rewards program is an easy and effective way to do that. I won’t say any more on the topic.
What I will say though, is that regardless of the fact that companies don’t actually have to have rewards programs, Nintendo and certain other companies choose to have rewards programs. I believe that if a company is going to choose to do something then they should choose to do it as best as possible. I would say the same thing about developing a game. Whether it’s a tiny indie or a huge multi-year triple-A title, a development studio should always work to make the best possible game for users they can. There is no justification for intentionally making bad products. There is no justification for releasing an unfinished game and charging for it. When you do something, you do it to the best of your abilities and you hold your head up high because you know it was the best you possibly could have done regardless of other people’s opinions. The problem is that’s not what we’re getting with current triple-A game development and that’s certainly not what we’re getting with Nintendo’s new replacement rewards program.
In my opinion, Club Nintendo was the greatest gaming rewards program ever and quite possibly the best one that will have existed based on the new My Nintendo replacement and what other companies are currently doing. Club Nintendo (2003 – 2015), which was not perfect, tried it’s best to make players happy to support Nintendo. And in a lot of ways it worked. This was a program that gave you points just for purchasing games. There were no achievements or trophies or any gameplay based prerequisites. You just bought games and Nintendo thanked you for it. And then they also rewarded you a second time for taking the time to leave simple feedback about the game you purchased, giving you more points. What was more important is what you could actually do with those points. Club Nintendo points, of which there was only one type, could be used to buy real rewards. Posters, playing cards, t-shirts, backpacks, and lots of other physical prizes that were shipped for free. I still have my Nintendo themed Hanafuda card set.
But you could also get games. Digital download versions of real games, both retro and modern. And while yes most were games from past generations that you probably had little interest in at the time of Club Nintendo’s discontinuation, they also did have some current gen titles available that were actually good. I would cite the highly under appreciated The Wonderful 101 as a good example. And to top it all off, if you earned a certain amount of points in a given year Nintendo sent you a special extra gift that year as an extra thank you for your loyalty. Claiming points was very easy. Games had an insert with a code that you just typed into the site and instantly you had the points. Your rewards profile was linked to Nintendo Network, so any digital purchases you made automatically added points to your account. That’s a rewards program. That’s a company showing gratitude to consumers for supporting them through the good times and bad. That’s what every larger, long standing publisher should strive to be.
People were pained by the news that Club Nintendo was ending. I remember the real emotions I felt over the news: loss, anger, and sadness just to name a few. We believed in Club Nintendo. It was like family. And like family it wasn’t without its flaws. The prices of rewards you actually wanted were way too high. Game & Wario, which I did end up getting due to a lack of current gen options I didn’t already own, was 600 points. You only got 50 – 70 points per a home console game purchase. That means that to get what amounts to an okay sized collection of mini-games, you had to buy around 10 new titles to get enough points for one game that you only got because you didn’t really want or couldn’t afford anything else.
Often the modern games available were several years old and you had already played them, and you didn’t get rewards for every game purchased. Only in house, core Nintendo titles gave you points. The very limited third party options available on the Wii U didn’t get you anything. Points had an expiration date, which is extremely common even to this day and extremely stupid. There’s no legitimate justification for why digital rewards/points should ever expire, but they did. But they lasted for two years, which isn’t horrible. Or at least it wouldn’t be if Nintendo had a healthy core release schedule like its competitors. 10 games in 2 years isn’t a ridiculous demand money wise, but honestly looking at my collection of Wii U games, I only own a total of maybe 15, both physical and digital, that would have even counted for points. I’ve owned that console for going on three years. I just got my PS4 in November and I already own 8 physical titles plus another 7 digitals, not counting all the ones I got from PlayStation Plus. Now maybe not all of those would count in the Nintendo core system, but the point stands that Nintendo doesn’t release nearly enough games to limit which games get you rewards and to have points expire and they haven’t for at least the last two generations of consoles. But at the end of the day, Club Nintendo was still the best gaming rewards program we’ve ever seen.
The SONY Rewards Program is laughable. You only get points for buying things from the SONY store or PSN, but getting credits for digital PSN purchases is extremely unreliable. I have no idea how many points I currently have and never know if I’m getting credit of not. The rewards, which are worlds better than anything anyone else is currently offering, are way too expensive. You can get new physical games, cameras, and other great stuff but you’ll never get enough points to actually be able to afford any of that stuff. XBOX Live Rewards is nice because you can get rewards for all kinds of stuff like buying things, completing surveys, and actually playing games and the rewards convert directly to real currency which can be used in the XBL store for whatever you want. This is really nice and convenient at face value, but to get $1 of credit you need 1000 XB rewards points and you can only convert once you have earned 5000 points for $5 in credit. Just to give you some context, the monthly survey nets you only 250 points. That means getting one dollar’s worth of points will take you 4 months but access to it will take you 20 months of surveys because again you can only convert in 5000 point blocks. Points are also not freely distributed for all purchases and are mostly limited to digital purchases. For example: you can get 2000 points if you buy $10 (10000 points) worth of add-ons for a Games with Gold title. There are admittedly lots of ways to get points but often you will have to go out of your way and buy things you don’t want to get any legitimate amount of points.
Ubisoft Club is one of the nicer and more convenient rewards programs out there, but it’s ultimately useless. You don’t technically have to spend any money to get rewards. You get rewarded for playing games and accomplishing certain things in them. How you acquire the games is never verified. Points are freely and for the most part easily given, but the rewards basically all suck. You can’t use them to get games or even DLC for games, much less any physical rewards. All UPLAY points are really good for is cosmetic game add-ons and in game gear which is never as good as what you can get from actually putting work into the games you’re playing. More often than not the rewards are useless or redundant if you don’t buy them at the start of a game with points you earned from the last Ubisoft game you played. Other than the occasional theme or “should have been included” add-on such as songs from previous versions of Just Dance, none of the rewards ever have any great effect on your experience. The program is very convenient in the fact that it works across all platforms, updates instantly, has a very convenient website, and gives an even amount of possible points and rewards for all games regardless of how much they cost. You aren’t rewarded any less for playing Child of Light than you are for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. But when it’s all useless crap, who really cares? It would be great if I could use my UPLAY points to get something I actually want like other games or at the very least expansions. I wouldn’t ever pay $15 for Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, but I would be willing to give a ton of my points up for it.
Steam rewards is interesting because it’s multi-variable and puts all the responsibility on users. You get items for buying and playing games and accomplishing achievements which can then be sold to other users at whatever price you choose. Putting stuff on the market is extremely convenient and you can choose the price. You need only to set a price that people are willing to pay. Steam takes a cut and the rest goes directly to your Steam wallet to buy games. It’s technically the most democratic and fair system available, but it’s not really a rewards program and the amount of stuff you have to sell to get enough money for even the smallest not crappy indie title is monumental. I’ve sold more than 40 items for a grand total of $5.14 because most items go for less than 10 cents. The point is that all rewards programs are and have always been okay at best with most of them leaning towards disappointing, but Club Nintendo was the closest to the right way and it was hoped that My Nintendo would be a step upward from its predecessor. This is not the case.
My Nintendo is riddled with flaws. To start off, it’s very apparent that the service is much more app driven than proper console gaming driven. And that’s including handheld consoles. This new system has three different types of points. For some reason it was decided that you now have to do multiple things to get multiple currencies which are only good for specific rewards. The platinum points, which work the same way as Miitomo platinum points, can be used for a bunch of useless Miitomo cosmetic crap that are of no real consequence, themes for your 3DS, and discounts for certain games that you should already own. These discounts are only for 15% so they aren’t even that valuable. You get platinum points from using Nintendo apps which right now are limited to Miitomo and the eShop.
The much more useful and thus important currency is gold points. Gold points, which you get from making only digital purchases of games on the Wii U or 3DS of $5 or more, can be used for larger discounts (30%) on games you should already own like Splatoon, some very limited DLC you don’t want for games like Pikmin 3, and of course games from multiple gens past like Super Mario 64 as is tradition. There are no longer any physical rewards such as posters and card sets. Additionaly, you can’t get any current generation games other than a few odd 3DS titles like My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which amounts nothing more than a Zelda themed pixel art maker. Compared to Club Nintendo, this isn’t even a rewards program. This makes Ubisoft Club seem valuable. All this “service” really does is reward you with the ability to purchase more things and forces you to use Miitomo, which is just God awful. I’ve had it since day one and it is just so annoying and pointless. It’s just Miiverse mixed with Twitter while connecting to Twitter except it’s harder to get people to see you posts and gaming is in no way involved. For some reason every one is hooked on it which is just going to motivate Nintendo to make even less quality games because they can make more money on pointless crap like this with microtransactions. And in true free-to-play style you have to “play” every day, which I haven’t, to get any semblance of “good” rewards, which amounts to cosmetic clothing for your Mii. And to top it all off, while Miitomo app points will never expire, My Nintendo points are gone after a mere six months.
At this point, that’s really all that can be said about My Nintendo. It’s just a bad service which subjugates players to wasting their time and money for no real rewards only to remind us of what we lost. To not even include physical purchases is just insulting. It does technically make sense to buy digital from Nintendo since their physical prices never drop anyway saving you no money as is the case with physical vs. digital pricing on other platforms. But last time I checked, my Wii U only has a 32 GB HDD so that’s gonna be a problem too. Sure other apps will be released in the future and those apps might be better than Miitomo, but this rewards system will remain garbage. There’s no grand point I’m trying to make or call to action as with my usual posts, this is simply a statement of fact. We lost. Proper Nintendo rewards are gone and everything that was once good in the world has disappeared. This service in no way compares to its predecessor and we will all suffer for it against our will because other than never buying another Nintendo game/console, it’s what we’re stuck with. This is certainly someone’s Nintendo, but that’s not “My Nintendo” and I choose to believe that it’s not the Nintendo desired by the late, great Satoru Iwata either, God rest his soul. My Nintendo is an insult to all long time Nintendo users and such a system should never have been allowed to be released in its current form.