Before we get to Super Nintendo World, let’s review the far distant time that was the mid-2010s, by-and-large a tricky time for Nintendo. Their Wii U home console was struggling to sell, the 3DS handheld was approaching its twilight years and Super Mario’s recognisability with young children was on the decline. Elsewhere in society, mobile gaming surged in popularity – games like Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans and Game of War: Fire Age were gaining player numbers and dollar bills in the millions, day by day. With the Nintendo Switch still an unknown concept codenamed “NX”, criticism and pressure from critics, investors and consumers alike pushed Nintendo to put a new strategy into motion, and 2015 brought a few game changing announcements.
Universal Studios and Nintendo revealed plans to open a theme park area (similar to the Universal Studios Harry Potter areas) which has since become Super Nintendo World; featuring rides based on Mario Kart & Yoshi’s Island and wrist-bound “Power-Up Bands”. If a visitor presses their wrist against a special wall, or wallops a question block in Super Nintendo World, coins are awarded and tracked in the band, or a dedicated smartphone app.
Nintendo also partnered with DeNA, a mobile gaming platform developer, to help develop an online account membership service and original mobile games. These became My Nintendo, a site rewarding players for completing tasks within Nintendo’s ecosystem, and an initial cohort of five games: Miitomo, Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Mario Kart Tour. Separate to this, Nintendo also released Dragalia Lost and Dr. Mario World for smart devices.
The original aspiration for My Nintendo was to track and reward many types of player interaction with Nintendo products. I’m not talking about just buying and playing video games, at the outset players could gain platinum coins (My Nintendo’s currency which can be spent on rewards) for subscribing to their newsletter, linking social media accounts, logging into the Wii U’s Miiverse, etc. And according to former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé in an interview in late 2015, it would extend into real world interactions with the Super Mario creators too.
What’s different with My Nintendo, is that My Nintendo is meant to be the virtual hub for all of your consumer interactions with Nintendo IP.
Meaning playing a smart device app from Nintendo, it recognizes that you’ve done that and you’ll be rewarded for that activity. Purchase games for our dedicated game systems, My Nintendo will know, you’ll be rewarded for that activity. Play games, watch videos, conceptually go to Universal Studios, the thought process is that this is a more robust and sticky way for you as a consumer to interact with all things Nintendo, for it to be tracked, and then for you to be rewarded for all that activity.
Acts like bashing question blocks in a theme park, or (speculatively) attending an official community event or gaming tournament, would have been registered and rewarded. The opportunity to gain platinum coins would have acted as an incentive to attend the next My Nintendo-enabled activity. Coupled with an infographic (seen below) used in a Nintendo Financial Results Briefing, the service would have been accessible across a variety of platforms. That was the plan. But, what did we actually get?
My Nintendo: How bad can it be?
My Nintendo is bad. Quite bad. Bad like a primary school play bad. That special category of bad where its mother isn’t angry with it, but disappointed. In short, it’s largely a selection of missions within three of the mobile games (Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes) which grant the player ‘Platinum Coins’ upon completion. They can then use the coins buy bonus in-game paraphernalia, digital trinkets like phone wallpapers & 3DS themes, percentage discounts on digital game downloads and occasional exclusive items on the My Nintendo Store (which sometimes also needs real money).
The shortfalls range from bland to downright baffling. The quality of the rewards leave a lot to be desired, often being extra consumables in a mobile game or a desktop background you could find in a Google image search. Plus the super percentage discounts tended to be for older games which should cost less regardless, only if Nintendo believed in the idea of “degradation over time” like everyone else in the world. The rewards change every now and again, implying the existence of at least one Japanese office worker thanklessly plotting new rewards used by no-one. They deserve your pity.
Limiting My Nintendo to just actions within mobile games, and excluding the thousands upon thousands who simply don’t enjoy gaming in that way is one thing. But not even having missions for every mobile game is simply bizarre. Currently Dragalia Lost, Dr. Mario World and the ever popular Mario Kart Tour have no connectivity to My Nintendo. It’s worth noting their first game, Miitomo, has since shut down, and Pokémon titles such as Pokémon Masters and Pokémon Go are largely run by The Pokémon Company and their chosen developers.
My Nintendo is also kind of synonymous with a ‘Nintendo Account’, although I couldn’t reliably explain the distinction between the two online systems – there’s a ragtag inelegance in it all. New Nintendo Switch owners can create a Nintendo Account by signing in with an existing online social media profile; a useful option at times but allows the user to passively brush off a Nintendo Account, not really considering it something of value. Particularly when they never really explain what a “My Nintendo” is or any of its benefits.
And if you’ve owned a few Nintendo consoles over the years, you’ll be forgiven for forgetting the relevance of every Mii, friend code, console nickname and Nintendo Network ID you’ve been forced to create. Is it too much to ask for a username with words I can understand?
Super Nintendo World: How does it suffer?
The ramifications of a counter-intuitive, zero-motivation rewards program for Super Nintendo World is in the wasted opportunity in building a cohesive ecosystem of incentives for customers to invest more and more time and action into Nintendo. How many more people would go to a Smash Bros tournament, or an Animal Crossing community day, or a Super Nintendo World theme park if they could also get some platinum coins which could eventually be used to buy an extra outfit in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?
Microsoft is building an attractive ecosystem through synergy of Windows 10, Xbox games and all Xbox consoles, as well as services like Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft Rewards and Project xCloud. And outside the gaming industry, Apple is the champion at locking people into their products through simplicity of use and data being exclusively compatible with their services.
And have you heard of the Nintendo Switch Online app? The non-sensical app-in-an-app that currently only has functions with three Nintendo Switch games (Splatoon 2, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Animal Crossing: New Horizons) and tried to convince players to have multiplayer voice chat by using their phone, as a phone.
Similar to My Nintendo account missions, the scope it’s set out to achieve is woefully falling short, missing obvious first party game functions like online Mario Kart tournaments, ARMS tournaments, Pokémon Sword & Shield Max Raid rotations, Ring Fit Adventure fitness tracking, Super Mario Odyssey Luigi’s Balloon World, Tetris 99 Maximus Cups and Super Mario Maker 2 courses.
However it’s beyond mortal reasoning why the app isn’t combined with My Nintendo and Nintendo Account to display your platinum coins, buy games on the eShop, receive Nintendo news & Nintendo Switch Online bonuses…or perhaps track the coins acquired in a Universal Studios theme park, rather than create an entirely separate app to do that.
How it started. How it’s going.
Nintendo makes great video games. That’s the work they have set out to do, succeeding in making innovation after innovation in game design and product manufacture for many, many years. So despite my spending over 1,400 words articulating the disappointment of an idea poorly executed, Super Nintendo World and My Nintendo are bonuses. Additional extras that, if they were never to exist, shouldn’t impact Nintendo’s credibility. But remorse over the unrealised potential of that initial idea is strong.
Since 2015, the big Nintendo presidents have all changed. Nintendo of Europe’s Satoru Shibata handed over to Stephan Bole in June 2018. Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aimé retired in April 2019, letting Doug Bowser take the reigns. Nintendo in Japan and Global President, Satoru Iwata sadly passed in mid-2015 with Tatsumi Kimishima stepping into office in Sept 2015 and passing over to Shuntaro Furukawa in June 2018. Changes in leadership may have made that ambitious goal fade into the distance, and the many real-life Nintendo experiences like video game tournaments, community days, pop-up stores, clothing partnerships, Pokémon/Nintendo film releases, music concerts and theme parks can be enjoyable as individual prospects, but disparate, never contributing to a greater whole.