We live in a time where everyone wants to pimp up their possessions, be it with custom cases, slick ringtones, or even wallpapers and themes that reflect the owner’s personality. Customizing your phone, tablet, and computer is usually extremely easy—and free—on the software front, with outer shells becoming more of a collection habit. However, making your video game consoles your own isn’t as easy.
Consoles and handhelds have come a long way. Most of the top notch products available today offer a plethora of features besides gaming, such as friends list, achievements/trophies, online stores, web browsers, and even third party applications such as YouTube and Netflix. On top of that, they come in different themes, with the Nintendo handhelds (especially the DS and 3DS families) being arguably the most collectible. Nintendo often releases exclusive handheld systems following a theme, usually a game developed or licensed by the company. Some of the New 3DS special editions even come with removable front and back plates, providing the power of customization and exclusivity to the system owner.
The outer appearance is not the only thing you can change on your Nintendo 3DS, as is the case for the PlayStation 4, the XBox One, and even the PlayStation Vita—may it rest in peace. These consoles come equipped with a multitude of options that allow users to tweak the appearance of their home menus with themes, which may include wallpapers, music themes, and even icon schemes. Nintendo goes so far with the 3DS that it offers a mini-game called Badge Arcade (available for free at the eShop) where users can receive special badges by playing with a simple crane claw simulator.
The premise of Badge Arcade is exciting as the application allows players to use the awarded badges to customize the bottom screen of their 3DSs, making for unique setups ranging from a Mario Kart race to a cross-over between Animal Crossing and Pokémon. However, getting a hold of such prizes comes at a cost. And by cost we mean microtransactions.
Each five tries cost $1,00 (or the owner’s equivalent currency depending on the country their NNID is registered with) and none are exclusive to one crane machine. For example, upon purchasing five tries, the player may attempt once in a Pokémon machine and then swap to a Mario machine for another attempt, counting towards the original purchase. Whatever badges fall through the bottom of the screen are the user’s to keep. Should they manage to acquire multiple badges on a single try, they can keep all of them, even duplicates.
Additionally, the 3DS family of systems comes with a theme shop (accessible from the home menu) featuring a diverse selection of themes, most of which must be purchased. Although the prices for these services are low, it raises questions regarding whether or not such vanity items should have a fee at all.
With Badge Arcade Nintendo insists on enforcing the importance of a paid service by stating that users should see the application as if it was an actual arcade: if no one pays to play the games available, the establishment can’t support itself and will have to close down. In this specific case, $1,00 per five attempts guarantees the developers will continue to provide new badges and backgrounds. But just how fair is it that consumers own the games the vanity items were designed after and yet have to pay extra to customize their consoles?
On Nintendo’s defense, some themes can be acquired for free (including a handful available from the My Nintendo official website) and Badge Arcade offers three free attempts should the player manage to grab a special mockup badge during practice. On top of that, the company doesn’t require a subscription for 3DS owners to play online with their friends. Its most notable subscription-based application, Pokémon Bank has a reasonable yearly fee of $4,99 which not only allows Pokémon fans to transfer their pets in between game versions and save files but also gives them special rewards during campaigns.
Sony and Microsoft have different policies with such cosmetics. In some cases, they may even come bundled with the game they were designed after. Steam, the largest and most popular online game store for PC, allows its users to freely create, customize, and use their own themes without any interference from Valve.
Whether it’s Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, or any other company offering digital customizations, where do you stand? Do you think most of these monetization plans should be improved or are they fine as they are? Let us know in the comments below and whether or not you made such transactions.