Reciprocal Love

You may well and rightfully ask what a grown man does calling himself a “Nintendo fanboy”, as I somewhat ashamedly do. Is it the quality of the games, the general fun-factor or the IPs? Well, yes, it’s all of those. But what delivers the icing on the cake is that Nintendo of Japan knows how to treat its loyal fans.

I am under no misconception that Nintendo is a massive corporation with a single aim: to make money. And boy, do they make money. But since hard-edged Yamauchi made way for lovable, cuddly Iwata as the reigning head of the company, since the launch of the family hit console Wii and the proliferation of fun, often highly polished titles Nintendo more than ever comes across as your best friend (unless you’re one of these uber-hardcore types). Never moreso than this evening when I, as a platinum Club Nintendo member, was presented by mail with this year’s special free gift that they send out around each spring. Last year it was a special calendar and the interim gift of a golden Mario statuette, which, considering it was totally gratis and unasked for, is much better than a slap in the face. This year it was, good golly, a Wii Classic Controller shaped exactly like a classic SNES pad (pictured above). Oh my! And remember, the only thing I had to do for this was to register my special codes that come with the many software purchases I make over the year, which gives me points which I can still, above and beyond this gift, spend on other free items.

Sony too have their little odes to its fans, though in a different way. They usually produce limited edition themed items, for sale, to the hardcore fans. Be it special editions of consoles or game-themed peripherals, it’s not quite in the same generous league as Nintendo, but still.

The real villains in this picture are of course Microsoft, with their inability to break through in the Japanese market in any significant way. What did they give me after they fixed my unreliable console? A free month’s subscription to a service I would rather not pay for at all in the first place. Aside from that? They offer their tiny band of crazy loyal fans with absolutely nothing special. If they want to understand the inscrutable Japanese gamer, free gifts and fan service is a very big deal here.

I am well aware that the global score of Nintendo’s fan service brings the average down somewhat. Just remember that the regional offices operate fairly autonomously so it doesn’t prove Nintendo loves Japan more, but merely that Nintendo of Europe doesn’t like Europeans all that much.

I can’t wait to try out my new controller, but it will have to wait till after I finish Metroid Prime 3, which, thanks to the surprisingly effective Freeloader I can now enjoy without the aid of a dictionary. Hurrah!

12 comments:

  1. On one hand, I envy the Japanese for the special-edition/first-press/early-adopter gifts and bonuses and such that have integrated themselves into mainstream retail culture. Additionally, there's so much more in terms of related media, with rampant soundtracks and drama CDs for games, anime, and even manga. Unlike the west, if you enjoy an IP, you stand a solid chance of being able to enjoy it in many more facets.

    On the other hand, I would require a top-tier job with a heavy salary to afford all the things I'd want to buy if I had that sort of thing available to me here. Truly, the Japanese market seems to try much harder to see that your average schoolkid's allowance and salaryman's paycheck are spent before they ever receive them.

    The fact that Nintendo's just giving stuff away to its faithful, though? That's pretty damn cool. I'm frankly surprised that Microsoft hasn't followed suit; it's not like there are so many fans there that it would set them back much, and I'm pretty sure they've consulted with experienced Japanese companies to learn how to appeal more to the local consumers.

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  2. Oh how much your love would be tested if you'd have to deal with NoE again.
    Only recently they included regulary feature t-shirts and stationaries in their bonus program. Of course it's normally sold out after a few days/hours.
    Before that they had almost just screensavers and wallpaper.

    Don't forget the delays for most games.

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  3. You really know how to make us North American overgrown adolescent Nintendo fanboys jealous. Why do I lust after that SNES-style classic controller? I don't need it. I probably wouldn't use it. I'm like a child who sees his sister get an ice cream cone. I want one too!!

    I can think of a few American companies who treat their loyal customers this way...but none of them make video games. I've heard Microsoft occasionally sends Live Arcade vouchers to its disgruntled customers, but only after being repeatedly pestered with whining. It's difficult for me to understand the warm feelings many U.S. gamers feel for this corporation, but maybe I've seen too many red rings of death.

    Enjoy Metroid Prime 3!

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  4. Yeah, too bad I live here in America and can't get any of that good stuff...

    ... Oh wait, I do!

    That's right, I get free stuff all the time, and not worthless gewgaws, but videos, pictures, music, demos and even FREE games.

    For my Nintendo Wii? No, Nintendo gives me jack. In fact, I usually have to buy a million tiny bits and pieces so me and my friends can play Pokemon together and send disturbing sexual messages through Nintendo's WFC to underage children.

    No, I get all this stuff on my handy-dandy, tough-and-manly Xbox 360. The one I've owned for months and hasn't shut down on me.

    The only bad thing they've done is removed that half-naked Xbox girl theme. www.joystiq.com/2007/05/02/microsoft-bans-sexy-xbox-360-theme/

    Then again... I have a USB drive :D

    (At best I think I can try and draw explicit female anatomy unto the face of a Mii...)

    Basically, NoA:fans as M$Japan:Users. Not nearly has harsh, but the point stands: those in the country where you get your product are getting the better end of the stick. You had to deal with shyte service when your system continually died on you. It totally sucks (and I for one can vouche for Nintendo's sterling silver returns policy: "What? Pokemon Blue won't save your game? Well send it in, we'll give you a free Gameboy Color as well because we feel like it!") However, just because Microsoft isn't giving you gold statue Master Chief's in the mail for sending in Kool-Aid points does not warrant them as the villain.

    Further to the point, if Nintendo or Sony would like to influence American gamers more there's more to be done on their end as well. The Wii is still top dog over here in the states, but it's mostly coasting on the polished but completely underwhelming "Smash Bros. Melee 1.5." And I fully expect that after it's sales die down it'll slowly sink to the bottom of the pool.

    Further still, would giving Japanese gamers small trinkets really improve sales?

    Really...?

    If so, I think it says something about the depth of Japanese marketing.

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  5. Damn, that controller rules...

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  6. Actually, Ixis, yeah, gift giving is not the be all and end all of marketing but it is an important part of Japanese culture. Microsoft would do well to realise that. It may sound as stupid to you as it at first did to me, but Hell, this is how things work here.

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  7. I'd join more clubs if gifts and loyalty to service were part of the package. alas , I'm another disgruntled American. Congrats on the awesome controller!
    -marlo

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