Nintendo is in something of a quandary at the moment. Their handheld business is obviously doing very well, but at the same time the company can’t help but glance over at the millions made from cheap smartphone apps and their "free" alternatives and long for a slice of that lucrative revenue stream.
So, with full-blown mobile apps mostly off the table (bar the Pokémon trading card game, of course) what’s a Japanese gaming giant to do?
As it turns out the plan is to get us all horribly addicted to its own badge-collecting crane game and drain our wallets as we hurriedly exchange real money for the chance of decorating our 3DS home screens with adorable Animal Crossing stickers.
The Collectible Badge Centre is free to download in Japan, and the first five goes with the crane are also free. After that, players are required to spend ¥90 (approx. £0.50GBP, or $0.75USD) for another set of five attempts at snagging a shiny new badge. If that sounds like a sinister "free to play" cash grab (pun absolutely intended) to part gamers with money then it’s probably because it is, but in Nintendo’s defence it does go to reasonable lengths to make it clear during the tutorial conversation that this is real money you’ll be spending and not game coins or pretend in-game moolah. It is possible to earn three free plays a day if you get lucky on the practise crane machine, but obviously handing over money is the only way to guarantee a chance at earning real badges.
Once you've earned your badges (and a theme, if you collect a complete set) then customising your home screen with them is as straightforward as dragging the badge you want over to a free space and arranging them however you please. While the badges do look lovely in-game, when placed on your home screen they only really look like they belong if you’re teaming them up with a matching theme, or you use the 9x5 grid formation – otherwise they tend to either get in the way or are simply shoved off the screen, out of sight.
As the game has only just launched, all of the available badges are either Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, or Animal Crossing branded sets — which isn't unexpected but hopefully as new sets come around they’ll expand on Nintendo’s rich history and we’ll be able to slap F-Zero and Fire Emblem characters all over our home screens with abandon.
What do you think of this approach to gaming and theme customisation? Would you rather pay outright for stickers or are you pleased to see Nintendo turning even home screen decoration into a game? Would you be interested in seeing this title come to the west? Let us know in the comments section below.