When Microsoft launched the Live Arcade, I was very sceptical about the Points system. While in theory it makes transactions easier, being forced to buy in set amounts puts the purchaser at a disadvantage. It saves them money on organising small credit card transfers, and lets them keep your money for longer. Nintendo then adopted a similar scheme for the Wii, which did not amuse the hardcore Nintendo fans.
Like a lot of Nintendo users, I am a Club Nintendo member and have been frustrated by the service for a long time. First there was the short length of time the good stuff was available. But then, did I really need a Zelda statue or a storage rack shaped like Mario’s cap? (Ignore that small voice from inside me; I call him the Collector and often have to over-rule him). Then came the announcement that points earned from visiting the website (a massive five per day) and adding games to your collection would expire.
I lost a fair few points at the end of that fateful first month, but when I purchased a Wii I had enough left to trade in for some Wii Points. I had even been lucky to pick up some extra points from second-hand purchases. Fair enough, Nintendo set the exchange rate quite high and in its favour – 4 Club points to 1 Wii Point. That makes each first-party game with the little silver panel to scratch off worth a staggering 62.5 Wii Points. But then came the trials and tribulations of actually purchasing the Wii Points, with only a limited number of “cards” available each day.
So it’s scratch, type, print out, point and press to fill out the form with that little string of numbers that represents virtual cash. And what did I do with my new-found wealth? Invested in two of the Art Style titles, Cubello and Rotohex. With the Wii’s rapid start-up time I can be playing them in seconds, enjoying the style and the pure gameplay. Getting them for “free” does not change my opinion – this is the sort of pick up & play title that Wii Ware is made for.
The scheme is undergoing a re-design, with the cards now branded Nintendo Points and available in different amounts. But once again, the corporate decision is to make life more difficult for the user. Yes, the Points can now be used on DSi or Wii – but once they are allocated to one machine they cannot be transferred. The region locking had already put me off the DSi to some extent, anyway. Of course, that small voice is back to tell me that I will miss out on DSi exclusives such as Wario Ware Snapped (announced at GDC 2009 and making use of the built-in camera) and the next wave of Art Style games. The other big announcement at GDC – the system update allowing games and channels to run from the SD card – is very welcome. It makes me more likely to invest in Virtual Console titles.
Why oh why haven’t Nintendo released a new Duck Hunt title for Wii? If ever there was a title crying out for an update, it’s that one. Or at least find a way to make a Virtual Console version work!