Yesterday, Nintendo announced a bunch of new games, new features, and even a new DS. While in your Punch-Out and DSi daze, you may have missed some of the best news: Nintendo of America is launching its own version of Club Nintendo!

Japan and Europe love the Club

Club Nintendo is a long-standing loyalty program in Japan that gives away a lot of cool rewards for purchasing Nintendo games and products. These include unreleased games, soundtracks, Wii Remotes that can actually control your TV, and a whole host of other weird but cool stuff. Just last year it let its "Platinum" members choose between a SNES styled Classic Controller for Wii, a Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack, or a 2008 Nintendo Calendar.

Even Europe has lived the joys of Club Nintendo. The service launched under the name "Nintendo VIP 24:7" in May 2002, right alongside the GameCube's release in the region. Nintendo of Europe renamed the service "Club Nintendo" and adopted the Japanese logo (seen above) when the Wii hit shelves.

Europe's Club Nintendo uses a star system to reward prizes. You get a certain number of Star Points when you register a game or product. These can be used to redeem prizes in a Star Catalog. Prizes include Wii Shop Channel points—used for downloading WiiWare or Virtual Console games—, key rings, posters, clothes, calenders, bookmarks, soundtracks, and digital music items like Nintendo ringtones.

In April 2008, Nintendo Australia started its own Club Nintendo, coinciding with the release of Mario Kart Wii. Club Nintendo also launched in South Africa in June 2008. Both programs are still in their early phases.

NOA toys with loyalty

Nintendo of America flirted with a loyalty program in 2003. In February 2003, it offered a GameCube version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a bonus for pre-ordering The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker along with a bonus Master Quest, which was essentially an alternate and harder version of Ocarina. Master Quest was originally designed for the ill-fated Nintendo 64 Disc Drive —an innovative hardware expansion for the N64, which was never released outside of Japan.

After the GameCube dropped from $149 to $99 in September of 2003, Nintendo offered a Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition featuring four classic Zelda games as a bonus for purchasing one (sadly the $99 price was not incentive enough). Those who already owned a GameCube could obtain the title by registering their system, along with two select games, on Nintendo's website (called "My Nintendo") or subscribe to Nintendo Power, which is the company's official magazine in the United States.

Since the large offering of the Zelda Collector's Edition, Nintendo of America has done little to encourage game registration, offering only small prizes, like desktop wallpapers, a Metroid Prime 2 demo disc, and colored DS styli.

Where we're at

We don't have any details on how NOA will structure its Club Nintendo program. In a recent interview with IGN, Cammie Dunaway, executive vice president of sales and marketing for NOA, didn't seem to know herself.

"No details yet," said Dunaway. "Actually, I'm kind of interested to see all the buzz that'll probably be out there about what kind of prices we should be offering [laughs]. Hopefully that gives me some good ideas." IGN further pointed out that players have been able to register certain games on Nintendo's website for years (since 2003). Dunaway said that some of these registrations will give players points, and others won't, but she wasn't sure exactly how it would break down.

One easy way to make the cutoff on game registrations is to limit it to Wii and Nintendo DS systems and games. This would likely be the most fair way to begin establishing who qualifies for what type of membership. Most major Wii and DS games from Nintendo, and some games from third parties, have included a registration code inside.

NOA should also reward players who download Virtual Console and WiiWare games. Obviously, less weight should be given to these titles because they cost less, but there are some easy ways to really reward fans of the Virtual Console. Say a player has downloaded every Sonic the Hedgehog game on deck: why not reward that loyalty with an member's only version of Sonic & Knuckles or some offshoot game? If Nintendo launches a similar download service for DSi, it also wouldn't hurt to reward players with exclusive DSi downloads.

Players who actively use their Wii online should see some benefits as well. The Wii records everything everyone has ever played, when they played it, and how long they played it; but none of these stats are put to good use. Nintendo could analyze play stats from each Wii and dish out customized rewards based on that.

Suggestions aside, it's safe to say that this is a case where anything is better than nothing. It's very exciting to see Nintendo take steps to reward loyal players on this side of the pond.