Earlier this week, Nintendo announced its rewards for Gold and Platinum members of Club Nintendo, the gaming equivalent of the "free T-shirt" offer on the outside of a box of Pop Tarts. Platinum members, who have 600 or more points in their Club Nintendo accounts have a choice between receiving Doc Lewis's Punch Out, a downloadable companion to the recent Wii version of Punch-Out, or a replica of Mario's hat. Gold members of Club Nintendo will receive a 2010 Nintendo calendar as a reward for their company loyalty. In order to receive these prizes, Club Nintendo elite members must register to receive them at http://club.nintendo.com before August 11th.
Though Club Nintendo rewards are highly collectible and, in cases such as the club exclusive Game and Watch Collection for DS, fairly entertaining, the cost of these rewards is quite high. At the current rate of rewards points, which is 50 points per Wii game, 30 points per DS game, and 10 points per Wii Ware or Virtual Console game, the minimum number of games purchased required to earn the 800 point Game and Watch Collection is 16 Wii games if no post-play surveys are completed, which is very high, considering that all 16 of these titles would have to be included on the Club Nintendo eligibility list. Granted, many gamers involved in Club Nintendo will be purchasing games for both Wii and DS, as well as completing surveys for extra points, making it easier to buy the required amount of eligible games needed for rewards, but that doesn't reduce the money that must be spent on Nintendo products in order to receive these prizes. Adding to the immense amount of dedication required to receive these rewards is the fact that all points received expire after two years, placing a time limit on the spending spree that must be completed to receive many of the bigger prizes.
Admittedly, my family has achieved Platinum status in Club Nintendo, since nearly all of us are avid gamers that were able to gather all of the eligible registration slips for rewards points from games that we'd been buying for several years. Every Pokemon, Mario, and Fire Emblem game in the house had the nice little "Register Your Game!" paper ripped from its box so that they could work towards our goal of getting Game and Watch Collection, which my family did succeed at. After this year, however, it's doubtful that my family, as well as several others, will be able to replicate that feat, as elite member status is refigured annually. One year of Nintendo releases doesn't match up to a backlog of releases reaching multiple years, going through many of the company's most popular franchises and some impressive new titles as well. I'm sure that Nintendo releases enough games to make it possible, but the exclusion of third party games from the list makes things more difficult, as a gamer (or family of gamers) needs to be very dedicated to Nintendo and only Nintendo to buy at least one eligible Wii game a month for an entire year in order to achieve Platinum status for a second time. While Nintendo does seem to spend a lot of their time focusing on casual gamers, they've made inclusion in Club Nintendo as a Platinum member a feat that would prove difficult and expensive for many hardcore gamers.
The biggest argument in favor of the difficulty of receiving Club Nintendo rewards is that Nintendo doesn’t really owe gamers anything, aside from the fact that this is the first year of the program in North America, in contrast to its longer standing Asian and European counterparts, and I can't really argue with that. Gamers in the US went for years without receiving any of the rewards available to Japanese and European gamers, including multiple exclusive DS games and other Nintendo related trinkets. Plus, as a piece of Nintendo history, it is nice to see the way that Game and Watch Collection mimics the graphics of the original devices, and, as the sort of girl who's sat down with her sister to discuss the feasibility of recreating hats from early-90s fighting games, I have to say that I am excited about the Mario hat.
In the future, however, it would be nice if Club Nintendo's North American branch matched the prizes of Japan's branch, which includes things like game soundtracks, SNES style Wii controllers, and entirely new portable games, considering the difficulty of attaining the program's best rewards.