News Article

Talking Point: Nintendo's Year of Giving

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Making Santa look bad

As we approach the Holiday season, it seems appropriate to reflect on the act of giving. Although it’s nice to say that the real pleasure is in giving gifts, 3DS owners can be honest and say that receiving them is also rather enjoyable. Nintendo have provided a lot of free content since the handheld’s launch, in a variety of ways, and we’re going to outline a few examples. We’ll also look at complimentary content given to Wii owners; that won’t take long.

So many freebies

The launch of the 3DS was lacking an all-important application: the eShop. As compensation for this, Nintendo provided two free downloads when the store launched, Pokédex 3D and 3D Classics: Excitebike. While Pokédex 3D provides lovingly detailed statistics and 3D models, Excitebike features the original NES gameplay with newly enhanced 3D visuals. They are both solid examples of how the handheld’s 3D capabilities can enhance apps and games, and as a result these are probably seen by Nintendo as a useful form of marketing for digital releases on the 3DS.

Another free download available to all 3DS owners is The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary, with this title also free via DSiWare. Arriving on 28th September, this release has a substantial amount of content and is free until February 2012. This was a notable step-up from the initial free eShop titles, with significant replay value and well implemented local online gameplay. As part of the Zelda 25th Anniversary celebrations this is perhaps another example of clever marketing, but also represents a shift towards providing significant content as an incentive to console owners. Considering the oft-repeated Nintendo mantra that software shouldn’t be devalued, it’s interesting that a well-crafted remake, with additional modes and stages, was given away for free.

In terms of Nintendo providing complimentary 3DS content, we feel obliged to acknowledge the firmware updates that Nintendo have been providing, which we covered in our evolution of the 3DS feature. While system updates on the Wii and DSi have been infrequent and often used as a means to make adjustments behind-the-scenes, the 3DS updates have added a range of new features and applications: improved friend list functionality, 3D video recording and new StreetPass content, to name a few examples. It may be common amongst its competitors, but Nintendo is moving into a brave new world of regular, meaningful firmware updates, with all 3DS owners enjoying the benefits.

It may be common amongst its competitors, but Nintendo is moving into a brave new world of regular, meaningful firmware updates.

There are more freebies to consider, of course, though they’re not available to all 3DS owners. The Ambassador virtual console games are an apology from Nintendo to 3DS early-adopters, following the drastic price cut of the console in the summer. With 20 free games in total, including ten rather impressive Game Boy Advance titles made available on 16th December, it can be argued that this is a magnanimous offering from Nintendo. There is plenty of debate about how generous this package actually is, though it should be acknowledged that Nintendo didn’t necessarily have to provide so much, if any, complimentary software to early-adopters. It was a gesture that matched the contrite language at the time of the price drop; an attempt to make amends.

The free content promises to keep coming, with more firmware updates slated for 2012 that will include eShop demos, DLC (downloadable content) and a messaging service. 3DS gamers with particular retail purchases will also be able to claim a free copy of 3D Classics: Kid Icarus, while Club Nintendo members in North America can trade accumulated coins for free downloads across all current Nintendo consoles. It wouldn’t surprise us if incentives like these continue through the coming year.

Wii have nothing for you

While the 3DS has boasted such a significant volume of updates and complimentary content, the ageing Wii is at the opposite end of the scale. Aside from the already mentioned Club Nintendo promotion there has been very little goodwill on the Wii, with DS demos – via the Nintendo Channel – and Wii Shop demos representing the only free gaming opportunities. The Kirby TV Channel, providing access to the pink one’s cartoon series, was a nice extra for fans of the franchise. Over a period of 12 months, however, those are slim pickings indeed.

It will be interesting to see what content is provided to Wii U owners to encourage them to make the most of the shiny new console and, in particular, its potential online capabilities. The 3DS has certainly set a benchmark, and Nintendo face a challenge in balancing complimentary gifts with the need to sell content and make a profit. Only Nintendo can truly judge the success of these initiatives, though we certainly hope that these promotions have boosted the number of 3DS owners going online and using the handheld’s various functions. One thing is for sure, it’s been a bumper year of freebies.

What do you think?

We’d love to hear your opinions about the freebies from Nintendo on the 3DS this year: which have you enjoyed the most, and do these updates and free games tempt you into using features such as the eShop more often? Are perks and incentives like these important in the developing success of the 3DS and, in future, the Wii U, or are Nintendo selling themselves short? Let us know in the comments below.

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User Comments (46)



grumblegrumble said:

I am so very grateful. You have no idea These gifts are very important. They just reinforced why I am such a loyal Nintendo gamer and customer. Nintendo is the best...



Cengoku said:

It was seething to not see major updates on Wii and DS while they were selling like hotcakes but now, I feel like "yeah the 3DS isn't selling well, so let's do some updates until it's sell like hotcakes and then sopt them". I hope I'm wrong.



Wolfenstein83 said:

Why does the Wii, which has made such a huge impact in the gaming world, get pushed aside?
I want more Wii stuff, you hear me Nintendo!?
Oh, and Merry Christmas everyone!



Aviator said:

Great read Thomas.

It's difficult to praise Nintendo across the board in terms of giving. Early adopters get 20 free games while those who bought the system after a price cut either miss out or have to pay for them.

NOE gives out Icarus for free while no word on other regions.

At the end of the day, it is nice what they do give out, as they have no obligation to do so. It would be nice to have some sort of consistency across the board, but hey, what are you gonna do?

@Wolfenstien Because it's still running on last gen hardware. Because the Wii U has been announced.



NintyMan said:

I have a hard time figuring out why someone would be disappointed getting 10 free NES games and 10 free GBA games, much less a free Zelda and free 3D Classic of Excitebike. This was an incredibly generous offer from Nintendo, and they could have easily given us less but chose to give us twenty free games.

So as you can probably expect, I like the Ambassador games the most of the free offerings. While I own some of them in their original forms, it was neat to get to play them on my 3DS. They further helped solidify the 3DS as my favorite Nintendo handheld console. The eShop was given a plus when they were offered there.

If Nintendo wants to do more freebies in the future, I say go right on ahead. It'd be better yet if the Wii U does it as well, because while it is Nintendo giving us gifts, it also motivates us to buy more software.



Djrr-ific said:


They gave us 20 free ambassador games =P

But I think Ninty is incredibly generous with free stuff this year, 23 free games, and another one on January 5th(Kid Icarus)...
And of course Nintendo has marketing reasons for the free stuff, but still... free games! And if it means more people will use their 3DS online so we can get more quality 3DS e-shop games it's a plus-plus situation right?



IronMan28 said:

Nintendo did an awesome job of proving why it CAN provide some of the best customer service and products in the best way. While many posit that free NEW games could have been given in the place of at least the ambassador games, with the line up we ended up receiving, it seems like only haters would make such a ridiculous assertion. One has to realize that most companies wouldn't provide customers with those products if they weren't at least showing them some form of gratitude for their years of continued support. Of course, most cynics won't be convinced but there could be those that are willing to look at things from various perspectives that at least see the weight to the opines of fans....regardless, I personally am pretty impressed with what Nintendo have provided me.



daznsaz said:

the wii is pushed aside now its near the end.the 3ds is just started and nintendos new way of doing things is tied in with 3ds.and it will be tied in with wiiu aswell their not gonna be doing the new good stuff with the old consoles.ive got to much stuff to do on my 3ds ive got the most games at once ive ever had+all the videos etc been glued to 3ds since launch.looking forward to the wiiu aswell.



Chris720 said:

I like the way Nintendo are going with the 3DS, meaningful and proper updates rather than what they did with the Wii. They either released random updates to give you new channels or it was to fix hacking issues and brick hacked Wii's.

Nintendo have moved far away from the Wii now, I just hope they could do it right on the Wii U. 3DS has a bright future ahead of itself, hopefully Nintendo can give consumers the same bang with the Wii U.



kyuubikid213 said:

I'm oh so grateful for Nintendo giving us all these free titles. I mean, mostly it is because I am an Ambassador, but I am thankful that they did because they didn't have to.

My NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION is to get a job so I can afford a Wii U. I still love my Wii to death, but if nothing new is going to come out for it, I can at least have it on the side. I will still need it to play all of the GameCube and Wii games that will drop below $20.



misswliu81 said:

i think what nintendo did was great- the idea of giving away free games not only was a great ploy to get more people playing them, but the fact they were free meant that for once, money was no issue. nintendo were not charging people to download these games.

can you name any other hardware company today who've done the same thing today? or can you imagine any other company doing what nintendo have done and repaid their fans and customers, who have shown loyalty to their brand over the years by giving away free games? many would doubt it.

it would be great if this ambassador scheme carried over to the wii U as well. anything like this that will propel sales is always a good thing.

the only side issue i have, is the wii virtual console, which really needs updating and new retro titles added. but other than that, i don't have many qualms with nintendo.



6ch6ris6 said:

i have way to many games on my 3ds now.
and all download-games. only one retail game right now that i am playing and that is mario kart 7.
zelda 4 swords
10 NES games
10 GBA games (+mario bros which is in yoshi's island)
excitebike 3D classic

pokedex is boring and it is not a game



Dodger said:

All that and Nintendo Video. My home menu can't take it.

The Ambassador games may not take a lot of work to make but they are a blast. Sony gave two games from their back catalogue for losing credit card numbers and we got 20 (mostly) classics for a price drop when they have the right to drop the price of their product and early adopters expect it to some extent (although not an $80 price drop that early). I don't see a reason to complain.

All this on top of the Club Nintendo rewards I've gotten (Super Mario Kart and Game and Watch Collection 1) which are sort of not free but you still get extra stuff on top of money you were spending anyways, my game library has grown much this year and it includes a lot of games I wouldn't own otherwise like Fire Emblem and Fzero.

I think the free stuff is also there to make you forget that we had a poor launch, next to no good retail games that weren't remakes until SM3DL and MK7 which have to last us until next Summer because Kid Icarus and maybe Rayman Origins are the only major games next Spring.



dizzy_boy said:

what seems to be forgotten is that the wii has had quite a few updates since launch, and a few freebies aswell. here are a few that i can think of
the use of usb keyboards
saving downloads and game saves to an sd card.
being able to start up downloaded games from the sd card via a temporary move to the wii memory.
being able to move miis too and from the plaza and parade easily.
giving away the beta version of the internet channel.
after people paid for the internet channel nintendo give away free nes games when they permenantly made the internet channel free.
the european club nintendo can exchange star points for eshop points across all platforms.
people can send frends games as gifts via the wii shop.
wiiware demos
free channels tor the wii, although really time wasters, but free none the less
updated the mii contest channel so you can view your uploaded miis easier
updates to the nintendo channel to add extra content and changed the look of the channel
the internet channel had some updates to accomodate newer file formats (although it does need updating again)
update to the photo channel that included different music formats, and the ability to have your own choice of picture for the channel on the wii menu (people with wiis before this update have the choice to download it, if they don`t like the update they can remove it. people who bought wiis after the update don`t have that choice)



alLabouTandroiD said:

Thanks for all the free stuff this year, Ninty. Now if you give us the option to gift games like we could with the Wii's VC you might get back more than you'd expect this Christmas.

Aside from everything you mentioned Nintendo Video, the Eurosport channel, videorecording, their official preorder bonuses, Club Nintendo products and post-registration soundtracks deserve a mention too. While neither Pokédex 3D, the Ninty Video nor the Eurosport Channel feel groundbreaking or essential they still make me feel better in owning the system. The cute little cotton Kirby for preordering Epic Yarn is outstanding as well.

Loved the Kirby TV Channel and it was cool to play some original Excitebike after the NES days. I wished it would support more features though. StreetPass would have been great. It's strange not to see multiplayer in such a game these days but i'm not sure it would have felt right in this one.
Can't say much about Four Swords since I want to experience it in multiplayer. Sadly i haven't had that chance yet. But it's amazing they added so much new content. The same goes for the recent update. I thought they'd “only” add more puzzles of the same size and some slightly different StreetPass Quest enemies since the StreetPass games aren't a major draw to get the system. If they go on with updating in the same way they could become though. More variety in your games nearly always is a good thing. Very Nintendish.

The Ambassador games are nice too. I'm not sure about NES games on the 3DS though since I don't want to pay the price of the Wii version again just to have it portable. With getting Kid Icarus 3D for free I couldn't help but think how amazing it would have been to instead get the 3D editions of Xevious, Kirby, Twinbee and Urban Champion [hey come on, it's acceptable as a gift], maybe even Freakyforms, Pullblox, Link's Awakening, Donkey Kong '94 and Mario's Picross instead. I don't want to be complain or be greedy here though and it's too late now anyway.

I don't think it will continue though since I see these actions as more of a promotion to make us spread the word. Can't say it doesn't feel great, though. They're not trying to push the boundaries of the Wii anymore (and I don't say they should anymore) but on the 3DS it could be a great idea to give away a free game per system they'll make available on the VC (i'm looking in your direction SNES, GameGear and TG16). More free apps could make the system more appealing too. (Again, my pedometer is really jealous when it looks at Personal Trainer: Walking / Walk with me! on the DS.)

PS: Amazing picture. Toadsworth would make for a great little Santa as well. If I weren't that lazy i'd take the time to learn about graphical editing now.



espinozac7 said:

Im grateful for all the free downloads and ambassador games. Maybe they could give a free download every 2 or 3 months so people will go to the eshop more often



blackknight77 said:

Actually by giving you WarioWare Mega Microgames your also getting 2 Dsiware games in Paper Airplane and Pyoro/Birds and Beans as well as a Dr. Wario



NintyMan said:

@18: Not only that, but you also get the Wario version of Sheriff and the Mario Paint flyswatter game along with the remaked Mario Bros. in Yoshi's Island. I guess a reason why Superstar Saga wasn't included was because it also has Mario Bros. and it would have been redundant to have two versions of the game.



shredmeister said:

Haha, I see a few complaints about having way too many games on our 3DS's. It IS rather overwhelming. I have also bought quite a few from the e-shop and now have about 45 games loaded on the system (including all the free downloaded games plus Face Raiders and AR Card game). My only gripe is that it can be a little troublesome to organize all the games and other features I have on a tiny little touch screen. I would love to be able to organize everything into separate folders.

For you ambassadors who are also Club Nintendo members with the twenty free games, I believe we've already earned 100 coins for doing surveys for the first ten games after 7 days. I'm still waiting to see if we get another 100 coins for the latest ten. But that's enough to for me to get a free 3D Classics: Xevious and Super Mario Kart (for Wii's VC) as a bonus right there. 200 coins earned for FREE in addition to the free VC games! What a treat!



Tasuki said:

Dang you need to fix in your article that only Europe can get Kid Icarus for free. Thats the first time I heard of it and I got all excited so I clicked on the link and saw that it was only for Europe.



Morpheel said:

24 free games (counting Xevious from Club Nintendo) are always good!
Not to mention what @18 and @19 already said.
Now, excusemeI'mplayingwariowareinc.



LinkaHolic said:

I have been lovin' on Ninty ever since 1987 and now I just love them even more for showin' ME some love!! You keep makin'em and I'll keep buyin'em!!!



tweet75 said:

the ambassador program was a great thing nintendo did. To my memory a gaming company has never rewarded gamers for being early buyers of the systems and/or reinbursed them someway for a price drop on the system.



punchout87 said:

I think the Ambassador titles are great and early adopters definitely deserve them for free, but since I just bought my 3ds recently I'm completely out of luck. Myself and all the other new 3ds owners should at least have the option to buy these titles on the E Shop. Lots of folks feel left out of all this new game excitement. It is a real missed opportunity by Nintendo. I hope they fix it.



Link79 said:

Not to sound fanboyish but clearly Nintendo is where it's at.
If you don't think they are the best gaming company around I feel sorry for you. They are why I love videogames in the first place.
Santa clause, you got owned this year.



sinalefa said:

I am incredibly grateful with the Ambassador games, particularly the GBA games that I could never play. Metroid Fusion alone was great news, but adding Minish Cap was definitely appreciated.

So besides the 23 free games, I got the Platinum reward (which almost arrives), not to forget the amazing Skyward Sword that includes a free CD. The option of exchanging coins for games is a great thing too.

Of course the 3DS gets all the love, as it is the new kid on the block.



Ren said:

It's unfortunate that Nintendo seems to have given up on the Wii download features. With the lessons learned from the 3DS service and games it really isn't too late to get people interested in the download service at least as a Nintendo platform for the upcoming WiiU, then the change-over would be that much more appealing. Maybe they want to signal a clean break from the lack of attention it got and introduce a better supported shop with a bang but they still need to just repair their reputation for online support and it's never too early for that.
I can't praise the 3DS features enough, it's all fantastic, what a great save. Next up is the WiiU, it'd be harder to bounce back from a bad launch there considering the competition already has great HD systems with massive libraries. Nintendo already rules the handhelds in almost every sense. I hope 3DS sales numbers reflect the improvements and promotions they've stepped up so they can continue the good services.



Radixxs said:

@14: Very good points. To me it seems the only difference between this year and years previous is the Ambassador program and the slightly larger than normal update.



ninmcg said:

Despite the late release, I love what Nintendo has done with the 3DS market, and I'm not one to argue about free games either. The eShop presentation is certainly leaps and bounds above what is available for the Wii, but then again the console marketplace was still a (somewhat) new idea back when the system launched.



Token_Girl said:

I am happy with the ambassador games, but I also hope (and feel it's quite likely) that the games are all eventually released to everyone to pay for. It's really such a great selection of GBA titles, I would hate for anyone to miss out on the opportunity to play them. I also hope they eventually release more GBA titles too, because while the ambassador games are great, they're certainly not all the great games in the library.



dizzy_boy said:

tbh i think some of the major updates on the on the 3ds should have been standard from day one. for nintendo to have to add so many firmware updates in such a short time of release shows (in some part) that they rushed it`s release.
although what they have done are nice additions, it`s kind of left me wondering that future updates may just pale in comparison.



tripunktoj said:

I was thinking this morning about this, with club.nintendo and 3DS free content overall, I am so very grateful. Wii freebies? NA didnt even got the Kirby channel and demos are a good step up, but they are limited time downloads, I understand a demo is just a teasing, not a game but limited time downloads hurt the potential promotion, they could limit demos otherwise.



Bubbab5 said:

That pic at the top was my avatar before you guys used it for that. whats up with that JK I'm surprised Nintendo is catching up to Xbox and PS3 online capabilities so it's nice to have all the free fun stuff merry CHRISTmas everyone!



blackknight77 said:

Actually when I think of all the free games I got from Nintendo this year and add in the 2 PSN free games its been a good year for freebies.



StarDust4Ever said:

You forgot to mention all the free downloadable preview videos, starting with e3. I've currently got 96 icons on my 3DS - That's an 80% stuffed home menu!!!



Disorientator said:

Nice article and I'm thankful Nintendo decided to compensate the early adopters.

My only complain is the irritating limitation of some 3DS channels to work in my region.
It shouldn't matter in 2011 for god's sake.



B-dUbTHEking said:

I am so glad i didnt get the 3ds at launch. but i do give nintendo credit for not just forgetting about the early adopters. so keep it up nintendo



TheAmazingRaccoon said:

I thought that Kirby TV was generous it was sad to see it go, but the ambassador scheme (yes I called it a scheme) blew it out of the water. I was content with receiving nothing when the price cut occurred, so even one game would have been more than enough. 20 games is beyond awesome and it makes me love Nintendo even more. I was going to buy MK7 but I will be holding off until I have a chance to put a dent in the GBA games (I played Minish cap for over 10hrs yesterday, with a 6hr straight session.) It might provide the money I need for that gorgeous 25th Zelda console [drools].



milkman12 said:

nintendo has been very gererous this year.ambassadors got MORE THAN 20 games included with them(some ambassador games came with more than 1 game.).great game lineup, not to mention. much needed updates, EARLY released ambassador games.

but then again, nintendo has made a LOT OF DELAYS, but the payoff is all worth it, with great 3D titles in the eshop.

merry christmas and a happy new year to the big N!



alLabouTandroiD said:

Again, it’s been really great to get all this stuff for free and I don’t want to be ungrateful or cynical here. But I couldn’t help but think about what Cengoku (2.) and my_point_is (33.) mentioned either.
I mean the recent updates, free apps and games just show you how serious Ninty is with what they’re doing. When you get a great update for something you like you can’t help but being excited about it again. When you’re excited you’ll talk about it. Most likely even to people that don’t own a 3DS yet. So this is some of the greatest promotion a game system can get. I really hope Nintendo realizes this.

Imagine getting a free SNES game when / should they become available or a free multiplayer VC title if they update them one day. Wouldn’t it send a clear sign to you that Ninty really wants you to try these ? Wouldn’t you be more likely to download more of them ?



tanookisuit said:

Ambassador stuff aside it has been a weird change of pace with them. I think it is just a mix of smart marketing is all. They want to keep focus on them and get people to shy away from less quality touch only itouch/android type junk saddled like mad for cheap on phones, but they also want to keep who is already around from going that route too. I think it's a good idea, to a point could and should work, but also short of buying addon parts for a phone and hoping the software supports it, fake direction control/button stuff on a touch panel is awful in comparison to the real deal. So, whatever it takes to keep people coming back — do it.

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