A little while back, Nintendo released Nintendo Badge Arcade for the 3DS. And goodness. It was the biggest money-grabbing scheme I’d ever seen from Nintendo. For only 90p, they’d allow you 5 turns at their virtual claw machine in an attempt to gain badges to put on your 3DS start menu! They promised the odd free play for whenever they made any large update, but other than that it was a completely microtransaction-driven enterprise, all for the sake of putting a picture – because let’s be honest Nintendo, it’s not a badge, it’s just a little icon – on your start menu.
It saddened me. It was the biggest, most obvious money-grab I’d ever seen Nintendo make.
Now, where do you draw the line? Because even before the Badge Arcade existed, Nintendo were selling themes for the 3DS. And I understand that a little more, because other consoles have been doing that for way longer, and the themes are pretty cheap and pretty snazzy. But even then, I don’t have to pay money to change the background on my PC, so why should I have to for my 3DS? In the end, I decided that I’d probably only buy a theme if I had some spare money from topping up my wallet and after buying a game.
Now, whenever you open Nintendo Badge Arcade you’ll be greeted by this overly-talkative, overly-cheerful pink goddamn bunny rabbit. He says quirky things and asks you questions (probably information for Nintendo to collect and survey for themselves), and is the most unshakable goddamn anthropomorphic rabbit I’ve ever met. He’s built to be a likeable character who’s just happy to help whether you’re buying plays or not, and reminds me of every shady dealer stereotype to ever exist. You want to buy some plays? Excellent, he can help you out with that? You don’t? Well, that’s fine! He’ll just be over here if you change your mind! Oh hey, by the way, there’s this great deal on, but nah, don’t worry about it, it’s cool, he understands and he’s on your side. (And when I say he talks too much, I’m not exaggerating. You can’t press left and right in the menu sometimes without him popping up with 10, maybe more lines of dialogue, most of it fluff.)
In the spirit of honesty, I’ll admit that I bought plays from the Badge Arcade once. I’d just bought Pokemon Blue and Yellow, and had some money leftover in my wallet which I was going to use on a theme. The arcade at the time was running a promotion that gave you an exclusive Animal Crossing theme if you bought 10 plays (which was essentially the same price as a theme anyway), so I did it for the theme. And it felt dirty…
Nintendo Badge Arcade recently got an update that allows you to earn real plays from the practice machine (playable once a day), and since then my stance on the Badge Arcade has changed. Now it legitimately does feel like a free-to-play venture, as I think that you earn at least one free play if you don’t earn the super bonus (from what I’ve seen so far). So that’s 1 free play a day, and as the machines are physics based, it’s easily possible to get more than one badge per play if you play your cards right. (And just as easy to get none.) Once you talk your way past that damn rabbit you’re good to go, and my badge collection has been steadily growing over the last week. (Today I got four!) Funnily enough, this has also given the badges less worth in my subconscious, so I’ve often forgotten to use my daily play anyway.
My feedback to Nintendo now would be to assign a rarity to each badge, so as to indicate how infrequently they’re available for grabs. Maybe even make some one-time-only badges based on anniversaries and such. Make the rarer ones harder to get to entice people to buy more plays, and you’ll probably be good to go. And maybe calm that damn rabbit down a bit…