Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima gave a presentation to investors this week, and some of the most interesting details revolved around the new Nintendo Account system and the related My Nintendo programme that'll replace Club Nintendo. Though it's succeeding a much-loved and retired loyalty scheme, My Nintendo represents the first step in Nintendo's drive to greatly expand and improve its approach to user accounts.
Registration for Nintendo Accounts will start - alongside the same process for Miitomo - on 17th February, ahead of a March arrival in 39 countries. It's a representation of why Nintendo invested a substantial amount of money and time in a partnership with DeNA; it's a deal that involves the creation of smart device apps and games, of course, but it's also about infrastructure. With experience in running sizeable online platforms and services DeNA clearly has a lot of expertise to share, and the My Nintendo service is essential to that.
In case you missed the core details of the My Nintendo programme in our initial article, some are below:
- It'll have two types of reward 'currency' - Platinum Points will be awarded for playing smart device games, accessing the eShop and when meeting other conditions. Gold Points are more conventional, awarded for buying Wii U and 3DS content from the eShop.
- Platinum Points - These will be redeemed on 'a range of digital content', covering multiple platforms. So those that pre-register for Miitomo will receive a Platinum Point to use in the app (odds must be short on it being a Mii outfit).
- Gold Points - This is a throwback to the Wii U Premium / Deluxe ID scheme; you buy games for gold points, then get an eShop discount to spend on more games.
- Platinum Points will only be earned on Wii U and 3DS for accessing the eShop, without the clever ideas we're likely to see in early smart device games (we suspect NX will use the feature fully, however).
- To get points on Wii U and 3DS you'll need to link your Nintendo Account to your Nintendo Network ID, just as we had to with Club Nintendo. There'll be no such requirement in Miitomo, remember, and the Nintendo Account is being established to be accessed and created with logins from the likes of Facebook and Twitter. In other words, you won't need a Nintendo Network ID (via a Nintendo console) to create a Nintendo Account.
In the current generation of hardware, Wii U and 3DS, we have what is a perfectly passable and acceptable bodge job - that term may be unfair, as it was probably quite a challenge to implement the programme. In essence it looks set to be like a mix of Club Nintendo and the now-defunct Wii U Premium / Deluxe loyalty promotion, albeit far more convenient and no doubt exceedingly modern compared to its archaic predecessors. We'll get money off vouchers for buying downloads, and we'll be able to enjoy the "fun" side of Platinum points (with downloadable goodies) just by logging into the eShop. If the concept slide below is any indication that could include exclusive 3DS HOME Themes, for example.
On top of that there'll be a global roll-out of online eShop purchases, at last, a feature that's long been available in North America and recently in Japan - read about a game on Nintendo's website, buy it and it'll automatically download to the relevant system, all using your Nintendo Network ID (via a Nintendo Account, in the new system). It's a nice idea, and our hope is that the current setup will be expanded to allow you to browse and buy any game on the eShop, not just major retail titles; every download has official game pages in each region, so that should be on the cards.
Where the system is set to shine, however, is in Miitomo and beyond. Pre-registering for the app will require a Nintendo Account to be setup, which (as a reminder) is the general name for the login you'll have for accessing and enjoying My Nintendo. Notably Nintendo isn't making a Nintendo Account mandatory with downloads of Miitomo after it launches, so that it doesn't scare away casual dabblers, but you can be sure the app will be showing regular notifications to encourage users to create one. The key point of the My Nintendo membership programme is that it'll be open to absolutely anyone, not closed off to those with Nintendo hardware. Nintendo's initial target of 100 million members may sound bold, but in this age of over a billion smart devices and considering the company's brand power, it's not too outrageous.
The core concept is simple - the My Nintendo service will be a bridge between Nintendo systems and smart devices. If the bridge is going to be a functional but rickety contraption in this generation, it's likely to be a construction masterpiece in years to come when smart devices and the mysterious 'NX' hardware come together.
The key slide for this is below. Coming in March are reward points, some neat features and custom offerings to suit individual members. But look to the right at the planned ideas - managing friend relationships, co-ordinating cloud data and perks at external sites such as retail stores.
The reference to cloud data is particularly promising, and immediately brings to mind a 2014 patent - unearthed late last year - for a 'supplemental gaming device'; that document was linked by some to a potential NX concept, in which a device would have its own capabilities but could also be boosted by utilising the Cloud - using online resources for improved performance and power. The sense from the patent is that using the Cloud - in all of its bandwidth hogging glory - would be optional, but could also enable an interesting approach to scaling up the system to deal with tougher programs and games.
The Nintendo Account reference to cloud data seems pertinent with the following image from the patent, however. It gives an example where you could make your device (and presumably some bandwidth) available on the cloud for others to use, and that doing so would bring its own rewards. In light of Kimishima-san's presentation and the idea of the Platinum Points that patent suddenly seems even more relevant, albeit it's purely speculative at this stage.
The other two ideas for the future are also promising - they hint at a potential friend system that's less fiddly and console-specific, and reiterate previous comments that stores, resorts and events could be tied into promotional My Nintendo giveaways and incentives. All the more encouragement to have the relevant Nintendo apps on your smart devices and relevant gadgets.
What this probably means, for the long-term, is an end for the Nintendo Network ID. We've loved the idea behind it since day one, but have equally complained about its limitations. Nintendo successfully integrated IDs across Wii U and 3DS, it's worth saying, but it never resolved the archaic - and potentially frustrating - reality of accounts being tied to hardware for consumers. What's made that requirement an irritation is that, in theory, the logins are in the cloud, as Nintendo customer services can move your data and games to other systems. For us, though, the end users, it's been an old fashioned and stubborn account system.
When we referenced a 'bodge job' early in the article we were highlighting the fact that Nintendo Network IDs will live on for as long as they're supported on Wii U and 3DS; there's no indication that current-gen hardware will see a major overhaul to their account system. The new Nintendo Accounts, and their My Nintendo memberships, will be joined up with the NNID's in a process that was probably concluded with the words "it'll do".
Yet in future for smart device apps and most certainly in the NX hardware, the likelihood is that they'll all come under the one banner. We'll have a simple Nintendo Account login, which automatically entitles us to My Nintendo membership and all of the related perks, and that will work naturally and flawlessly across all platforms and related network features such as online gaming, friend lists and more besides. It's likely that clever security measures (like those used on smart devices and other consoles) will be used that allow you to easily transfer your games and data to replacement hardware, for example, without physically moving SD cards around and using local wireless signals. We'll enter the Cloud Data age, and it'll all be very convenient and simple.
What's hugely promising about the Nintendo Account and My Nintendo programme is how Nintendo will be able to leverage such a broad range of users and use that to sell dedicated hardware. If huge numbers of people get free apps and enjoy them, the inevitable in-app marketing and promotions will point them to dedicated hardware - that circle of user numbers and up-selling has been at the core of Nintendo's goals ever since it hooked up with DeNA and started moving into smart devices.
The prospect of clever and dynamic Points incentives - and rewards - matched up to our profiles, along with convenient integrated services and cloud data, is certainly enticing. It could be a new age of user accounts with Nintendo, in which it not only matches up to the modern offerings of its rivals but explores new ideas and approaches that lead the way.
Nintendo having one of the most accessible and enjoyable user account systems? It's not as crazy as it sounds.