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Nintendo to shutter Club Nintendo rewards program

The game and console maker says it will offer a revamped rewards program to US-based customers "at a later date."

Club Nintendo is going away and will be replaced by something else. Josh Miller/CNET

Game maker Nintendo has decided to discontinue its Club Nintendo rewards program.

The closure, announced Tuesday, suggests that Nintendo is seeking to modify the customer experience for gamers. Nintendo's console, the Wii U, has been stumbling in the US market, trailing far behind both Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. While Nintendo has acknowledged that its console hasn't achieved the same level of success as its predecessor, the Wii, the company has stuck to its model, believing that more first-party titles and the console's combination of dual-screen game play and motion will help it turn the tide. Most game analysts think otherwise.

The game maker launched Club Nintendo in the US in 2008, allowing customers to earn digital coins and receive loyalty rewards for buying the company's hardware or first-party games. Nintendo also asked its club members to fill out surveys, which would earn them additional coins. Based on the number of coins collected, members could buy a wide range of goods, including digital downloads, ringtones and T-shirts.

US-based Club Nintendo members will no longer be able to earn coins after March or redeem coins after June 30, Nintendo said. The company has provided similar, but not identical, rules in other countries where Club Nintendo operates.

While Club Nintendo was a favorite among hardcore fans, it never took off among the average consumer who simply wanted to play games on the company's consoles. Indeed, the only market in which Club Nintendo was especially successful was Japan, where the company still has a dominant presence in the gaming space. According to Nintendo of Japan, Club Nintendo has 6.2 million members. Nintendo of America has not provided user data.

Nintendo's issues are diverse, but among them it's easy to single out as significant the Wii U's heavy reliance upon first-party titles and its focus on casual gamers who are increasingly turning to mobile apps to get their gaming fix.

Despite discontinuing Club Nintendo, the game maker believes that offering some kind of rewards program to loyal customers is important. Therefore, Nintendo said Tuesday that it will announce a replacement for Club Nintendo in the US "at a later date."

"Nintendo of America is adding dozens of new items to the Club Nintendo rewards catalog to help members redeem the last of their Coins," a company spokesperson said. "Nintendo has the best fans in the world, and we thank them for participating in this free loyalty rewards program. Nintendo of America will be announcing a new customer loyalty program at a later date."

Update at 11:14 a.m. PT to include Nintendo's statement.