With E3 2016 now in the rear-view mirror, Nintendo’s upcoming NX console remains largely shrouded in mystery. We’ve heard a few fascinating rumors, such as that Nintendo is making a big push for virtual reality, and that’s the primary reason behind the console’s delay. We’ve seen lists of games and concepts that might accompany the console upon release (the new Zelda!), and inevitably there have been reported leaks of things like controller design. Really, though, we’re mostly in the dark regarding Nintendo’s next big move.
In addition to the console specs, gaming style, and specific titles coming out, one thing that will be interesting to see is what Nintendo does with its rewards program. With the release of the disappointing Miitomo app, Nintendo announced the My Nintendo reward scheme and showed how players could earn free credit for games and features. The program has replaced Club Nintendo and operates on a somewhat-odd combination of game purchases and social media to award players with points that can be exchanged for goodies. Frankly, for anyone who’s not a regular Nintendo user, the announcement of My Nintendo was obscured by the excitement and subsequent confusion over Miitomo. However, it’s actually a pretty fascinating setup.
That’s because, for the most part, gamer rewards programs these days are about VIP status rather than free rewards or handouts. The traditional format is actually best demonstrated by an online casino platform that pitches its VIP features by saying outright that special treatment is what makes a place worth coming back to. There, players can sign up (and pay) for VIP features that can include special games, unique prizes and jackpots, and even the personal touch of a VIP account manager who can help cater the gaming experience to the user. In short, if you sign up and spend like a VIP, you’re treated like one. This is a model that’s more or less been adapted by major consoles’ membership schemes.
Consider, for instance, that Xbox Live Gold memberships cost players $4.99 per month in exchange for an array of special offerings including free and discounted games along with access to what amount to VIP multiplayer communities. PlayStation Plus, which provides a similar range of benefits for users, costs as much as $9.99/month. Neither service is essential for enjoying the consoles, but both help to establish a sort of VIP rewards tier that can only be reached by paying.
By contrast, My Nintendo is currently free, aside from the fact that points are earned when you purchase video games (note: Sony and Microsoft have similar programs in place, though they’re not as widely advertised as Nintendo’s). Players don’t need to pay subscription or membership fees to participate, and they can still rack up rewards through the network. It may seem like a small distinction but it’s actually a fairly bold move by Nintendo to resist the trend toward paid VIP options (after all, even mobile games now offer special advantages to people willing to pay a few bucks here or there). It’ll be fascinating to see if Nintendo holds steady with its rewards structure upon the release of the NX and follows the lead of Microsoft and Sony.