Nintendo's New Rewards Program Is Actually Pretty Good

Image: Nintendo (New Super Mario Bros 2)

Last week Nintendo finally rolled out its new rewards program. After a year of only letting players redeem coins for discounts on Wii U and 3DS games, people can finally start leveraging their purchases to save money on Switch games. Compared to the rewards programs elsewhere in gaming, it's actually pretty good.

Editor's Note: Many of the rewards programs mentioned in this article are not available in Australia. They have been left in for comparative purposes.

The updated version of My Nintendo rewards lets you collect coins for purchases and use them directly for discounts on whatever's in the eShop. Previously, you could only redeem them for specific coupons (50% off Earthbound on 3DS) and, once upon a time, physical merchandise (I'll always cherish my Mario-themed stationary). The new program has come under a lot of scrutiny, in part because since rewards expire after a year. Switch early adopters who already bought a bunch of physical stuff during it's first year have also been left in a rough spot (more on that below).

Curious about how Nintendo's program stacks up with others, I decided to do a quick comparison between all of the major rewards programs for digital and physical game purchases. No one's going to get a ton of free games using any of them, but some are still better than others.

Since you'd need to buy 20 games to get one free one using Nintendo's program, I'm using that as the basis for comparison, with the savings noted at the end of each section. With that in mind, here's how they all measure up, starting with Nintendo.

Nintendo

Unlike some others, the My Nintendo rewards program is pretty simple. Every dollar you spend in the eShop gives you five gold coins worth a cent each off other purchases. When you purchase physical games, you have up to a year to redeem them on the store for 1 per cent back in coins. For reasons beyond my comprehension, coins expire annually, but since you can redeem as many of them as you want with every digital transaction, that shouldn't ever really be a problem.

Some fans have bemoaned the fact that this only cashes out to one free, full-priced game every 20, but 5 per cent back is 5 per cent back, and still better than most other rewards programs. In effect, you only need to spend $US1,200 ($1,528) to get 21 digital games instead of the $US1,260 ($1,605) it would cost without the rewards discount.

Personally, I prefer physical games, so the bias toward savings on digital purchases is kind of a bummer. That said, 5 per cent back is on par with many of the most competitive credit card rewards programs. Do I miss Club Nintendo posters and calendars? Yes. Compared to the other video game-based rewards programs currently out there, though, Nintendo's could be a lot worse.

Savings after buying 20 new digital games: $US60 ($76).

Sony

Sony Rewards gives you one point for every dollar you spend. If you insinuate yourself into the Sony ecosystem you can earn even more: Subscriptions to PlayStation Vue, Playstation Now, Playstation Plus, and Playstation Music each add another multiplier. If for whatever reason you had all three, you'd be getting four points per dollar. But wait, there's more! If you get the PlayStation credit card, you'll automatically be bumped up to the 5x multiplier.

What do all these points get you? Basically, every 1,000 points nets out to $US10 ($13) in PlayStation Store discounts. That amounts to 1 per cent, which isn't great. Although with the credit card in hand, you can start racking up 5 per cent back on all digital purchase. You can also collect points in other ways, like redeeming the trophies you earn playing games, but you'd need 10 platinums to get $US10 ($13) back that way. When you compare Sony Rewards to how much you probably save through PlayStation Plus discounts on select games, it's pretty paltry.

Savings after buying 20 new digital games: $US32.60 ($42).

Microsoft

Xbox Live Rewards is a somewhat convoluted program so hold tight for this section. There are two mechanisms for savings on Xbox One, the first being rewards credits and the other being MyVIP gems. You get rewards credits and MyVIP gems for things like increasing your gamerscore, taking surveys, and completing challenges (like, say, buying eligible horror games close to Halloween). 1,000 rewards credits translates to $1 in credit on the Xbox store. Meanwhile, gems can be cashed in for prizes like shirts and controllers as well as discounts, but they also unlock higher MyVIP ranks as you earn them. MyVIP ranks determine how many rewards credits you get back with every digital game purchase, so gems are actually the key to taking advantage of the program's real savings. You start at rank 0. From there rank 1 will get you 1 per cent back on digital purchases (2 per cent if you're a Gold member) in the form of rewards credits, all the way up to rank 5, the highest, which gets you 5 per cent back (or 10 per cent with Gold).

If you're able to max out your MyVIP rank, 10 per cent back on digital purchases is pretty good. You only get one gem per dollar spent on qualifying stuff, however, and $US1,800 ($2,290) in digital purchases is the minimum threshold to reach rank 5. Plus, your rank only gets calibrated annually based on the previous year's expenditures. $US150 ($191) a month isn't a ridiculous amount to spend on the Xbox store, but it's still a lot. Unless you are committed to doing challenges and trying to game the system, most players probably fall into the 4-6 per cent money back range of the MyVIP system, assuming they have a Xbox Live Gold subscription. For comparison's sake, this would put it on par with what Nintendo offers, though it's also more complex and a bigger pain in the arse depending on your perspective.

Savings after buying 20 new digital games: approximately $US60 ($76).

GameStop

The PowerUp Rewards program recently added another tier. There's now "player," "pro," and "elite pro," the last two of which require an annual subscription of $US15 ($19) and $US30 ($38) respectively. A pro membership yields 10 per cent off pre-owned products and 10 per cent more store credit for trade-ins, while the elite pro is twice that. You also get points, 30 per dollar spent at the elite pro level, which amounts to about 3 per cent back, although you can only use the points to redeem specific coupons, rather than a direct 1:1 discount. Plus, the whole program is geared toward used games, so it won't really help you with purchases of new games.

Savings after buying 20 used games (at $US55 ($70) each): approximately $US121 ($154).

Best Buy

To compete with GameStop, Best Buy introduced the My Gamer's Club program a few years back. It's $US30 ($38) for a two-year membership that offers 20 per cent off new games, 10 per cent extra trade-in credit, and 10 per cent off pre-owned games. It's basically the PowerUp program except half the price and with a steep discount on new stuff. It also gives you two points per dollar spent on new games, which equates to about 2.5 per cent back. That discount (400 points can be redeemed for a $US5 ($6) off coupon) can be applied storewide, not just on games.

Savings after buying 20 new games: approximately $US252 ($321).

Amazon

At $US100 ($127) a year, Amazon Prime is much more expensive. If you have an Amazon credit card, you normally get 3 per cent back for purchases at Amazon, but Prime bumps that to 5 per cent. In addition, Prime also offers release-day shipping for new games (if you don't mind getting them late in the day) and 20 per cent off pre-ordered games.

Savings after buying 20 new games: approximately $US203 ($259).

Target

Target doesn't really have a conventional rewards program, or one specific to video games, but the REDcard, which can be either a debit or credit card, gives 5 per cent off on all purchases minus other discounts.

Savings after buying 20 new games: approximately $US60 ($76).

Walmart

Walmart only offers a credit card and its points program is only 3 per cent back.

Savings after buying 20 new games: approximately $US38 ($48).


So the good news is that 5 per cent back on eShop purchases is pretty decent on Nintendo's part. At the same time, console rewards programs in general remain a little obtuse and underwhelming. Digital storefronts like Steam don't even have them (although they do have big sales several times a year). I miss the days of getting an annual Mario poster or some other rare and esoteric Nintendo artifact thanks to the Club Nintendo program, but finally getting discounts on Switch games, though long overdue, is a decent alternative, all things considered.


Comments

    I’d like to be optimistic about Australia getting the same thing but I know Nintendo of Australia too well (we worked together for a few years in the early 00’s, an it wasn’t what I would call Nintendo magic).

      Australia already has access to the same "gold coin rewards" program and it has the same value in AUD. 1 Gold Coin = 1c. It's not a bad deal, especially if you can stack 15% off Eshop vouchers that come up every now and then.

        The items on sale need to have a substantial value factor in order for it to be useful. I can still buy a lot if games cheaper physical retail than eShop, which is just redonk.

    I'd say it's decent in comparison but considering that a lot of games which have both a physical and digital release seem to be significantly more expensive on the e-shop, buying digital doesn't make any sense at all. This is solely from the rewards perspective. Obviously there are benefits to going digital but the extra 4% cashback you get doesn't make it worthwhile at all.

    Whats utter bullshit is that they dont back pay you for games you have already redeemed. I have nearly a dozen games redeemed under their old system with only 300 or so gold coins to show for it. So they just fucked over people who did it early.

      I also got stung by that ☹️. The gold coin allocation for registering physical games before the scheme changed was dramatically lower. For example, I got 14 gold coins for registering botw. If I had waited till today to register I would have received 90pts (maybe 89 if they round down).

    Nido the My Nintendo rewards program is not utter bullshit. Because with the Pokken Tournament DX Wave 2 Battle Pack coming out later this month I will be purchasing that DLC and earn some gold points and hopefully use those points to purchase digital games from the Nintendo eShop.
    You are doing a great job Nintendo keep up the good work 20 million Nintendo Switch units is upon us.

      I think you missed my problem. It is a really cool idea but because I have redeemed games early I missed out on a lot of the currency. Now a $60 game gets you 300 coins but for all the ones I have already redeemed I only gained 30 coins.

    So are Silver points useless now? Can we swap Silver points over for Gold points?

    One other thing is that after a year points begin to expire, so they introduced this just as people would have bought the Switch 1 year ago to shaft those who bought early.

    The information regarding the rewards program from Microsoft is quite out of date. Xbox Live Rewards was changed and revamped into Microsoft Rewards at least a year or two ago.

    You lost me at needing to buy 20 games for a game free. Does the switch even have 20 games yet? I just bought zelda, beat it, and boxed the switch up until Smash or Zelda 2.

      It has 865 games, after a quick Google search. Admittedly most of that is indie titles and ports, but it's library is pretty massive. Switch has one of the best software launch years in memory.
      Notables:
      -Zelda:BotW
      -Arms
      -Splatoon 2
      -Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle
      -Fire Emblem Warriors
      -Mario Odyssey
      -Skyrim
      -Doom
      -Xenoblade Chronicles 2
      -Bayonetta
      -Bayonetta 2

      There's a whole lot more than that, but really just picked the 1st party/big ticket games to prove my point.

      I've got a 200gb microSD card in mine at the moment and I keep having to shuffle games because I've got too much to play. If all you've played is BotW, I have to say you're missing out pretty severely. Depends what you're into, but you really should look into it - there's some amazing stuff on the system.

        Whoa whoa whoa. Skyrim came out already?!

    Or just wait a couple months after release date of a game and get a physical copy for like 30% off because of some random public holiday blow out sale...

    Or like me, wait like 2 years and get the games 2nd hand for about 15-20% of the original price, then instead of only affording to buy 1 game, I buy 5 at a time and still have a heck of a lot of fun :)

      yeah im going to give it another year or 2 before i get a switch. hopefully in that time i will be able to find a decent deal either second hand or in a sale.

    I am a big user of the Microsoft Rewards program. Firstly I'll point out that the article references the US program rather than the Aussie one, so those numbers don't apply.

    The sweet thing about the MS Rewards is you don't actually have to spend any money to get freebies. By doing Bing searches, weekly quizzes and the points from the (sporadicly sent) newsletter, you can average 175 points a day without spending anything.

    This is 24 cents a day for ~2-3 minutes of engaging with the program, and you can cash out for e-vouchers for Microsoft Store or Windows Store from $3.

    Without spending anything, you can earn a $3 voucher every 13 days. 41 days for a tenner, 82 days for $20. The annual free earn is $89. 12 month XBL subscription is earnable in 165 days so you can easily use the program to have free Gold membership (or Game Pass, which is the same cost).

    For digital game or content purchases you're looking on average at 2.8% cash back through points earned on those purchases. The program has a game or DLC each month which is 'featured' where the points back is higher (6% I think, but I never want the games they have or they feature them after I've already bought them....)

    I've tried to sell a couple of mates onto the program - free money is free money - but they can't be arsed logging in each day. If you can find a few minutes each day (e.g. on the bog) then it works out to be a pretty generous program.

    I started actively using the program in November after upgrading to XBO and buying a swag of games. Current lifetime earn is $83 which is pretty good given I would've been buying those games anyway.

    Saving up my points now for Dark Souls Remastered - I should have $38 by release date after wiping out my last points balance to pick up MHW.

    Also, the program has just added Coles, JB HiFi, DJs and Myer to their voucher redemptions. However, the redemption rate on these are worse than the Microsoft Store. A $5 voucher at one of these stores costs 5,135 points (earnable in 30 days) vs a $5 voucher at Microsoft being earnable in 21 days.

    Point value for Microsoft Store is AUD$0.014 per point, v Coles/JB etc $0.00098.

    TLDR - you don't have to spend a cent to get $89 free from Microsoft each year.

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