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Bidding Adieu to Nintendo Badge Arcade, and Nintendo's Brief Accessorize-Your-Way Phase

That pink bunny sure was sassy.

Analysis by Caty McCarthy, .

I asked some friends if they had any pictures of their 3DS screens littered with cartoonish badges, and got surprising answers. "What is that?" They almost uniformly answered. I pinged the message in USgamer's own work Slack too, and got a similar response from colleagues: "I never used that." I felt alone in my mourning.

I'm in mourning because after today, the Nintendo Badge Arcade will no longer cycle in new badges into the mix, and will only recycle the old ones—any of the more than 8,800 created in the last year and a half of the free-to-play game's lifespan. No more surprise Ashley badges, themed after WarioWare. No more millions of Pokémon badges that I never want cluttering my screen. I mean, they'll still technically be there, but no new ones will ever grace us again.

This is my partner's extremely organized, carefully curated 3DS my home screen. Mine looks like Nintendo threw up on a screen.

The Nintendo Badge Arcade was an odd thing when it burst onto the scene around the same time that the New 3DS did in late 2015, with its customizable faceplates and all. It was the peak of "customize everything" Nintendo—the badges were both a joyful celebration of neglected IPs (Rhythm Heaven, Tomodachi Life) just as much as it showed off the familiar ones (Mario, Pokémon). Badges were digital trinkets implemented to spice up a 3DS' home screen, whether with obtrusive clutter or careful implementation. Some even replaced icons that already resided there, like a necessary settings icon, now made cute and functional.

I checked Reddit to see how the news of Nintendo Badge Arcade's incoming halt of updates was being taken. Outside of a handful of people, it was mostly crickets. I checked Twitter too, and despite a few hundred retweets on the farewell post, there was hardly chatter beyond it. I wondered how many people even cared about this pink sarcastic bunny in a digital UFO catcher game, a game that sapped money from your wallet if you weren't content with the free daily play or two. And what I found was, not many were vocal. There was no upset. Just a whisper of its end from Nintendo, and quiet acceptance.

I used to take Badge Arcade for a spin daily, and then as the 3DS slowly fell out of my daily routine, as did my collecting of digital badges. Looking back at my collection, I never completed a full set. The closest I got were the ones with fewer than five badges total, where I was only missing a single addition (this was present in some Tomodachi Life sets of human-like food, a Punch-Out set, etcetera). I always got close, but never succeeded.

Games and beyond seem to be going towards an ever-customizable future, like the Badge Arcade offered for players' home screens. Triple-A games are often touted now as "play your way" games—games with stealth, guns, and everything in between. It's the illusion of choice, relegated to binary "do I wanna be quiet or loud" questions. When I go out to eat, restaurants have slowly bended to the customize everything trend too. Popular chains like Chipotle, Pieology, and even McDonalds' burgers now, they're all are built with the idea of customizing your own meals, to create a perfect item for the individual consumer.

In writer Julie Beck's "Fancy Starbucks Drinks and the Special Snowflakes Who Order Them" for The Atlantic, Beck writes, "One way to think about it is that your Starbucks order is to some small degree a marker of your identity, like the clothes you wear or the TV shows you choose to watch. And the more options there are, the more identities are for sale." The food you prefer can telegraph aspects of your personality, just as a field of Rhythm Heaven-oriented badges on your digital home screen on your 3DS does, or the Kyary Pamyu Pamyu-designed cover plates you imported from Japan.

A collection of the the Rhythm Heaven badges, some of Badge Arcade's best.

Maybe that trend's dying in games, in the accessorizing sense. Or maybe it's just Nintendo funneling their resources into more meaningful gambles as the 3DS closes out its lifespan. The Switch has some small aspect of customization in the form of its colorful JoyCons. Though beyond that, themes remain non-existent, and badges too. It's easy to dream of Nintendo Badge Arcade eventually making its way to the Switch, but the "when" rather than "how" for that question is perhaps more pertinent.

Above all else, Badge Arcade was another outlet for "cool Nintendo" to cement itself. A Nintendo that doesn't live in the past. A Nintendo that's socially aware of today's world. The strawberry pink bunny mascot would spout jokes, commentary on recent Nintendo-related news, and would even proclaim timely memes aloud. Sometimes, to the point of cringing. But more often than not, the bunny was actually funny. The silly rabbit broke the fourth wall, talking to the player directly while referencing the real world outside of his own. It was endearing, adding quirkiness to an otherwise lifeless game of needless monetization for digital accessories.

In the meantime, I'll miss you Badge Arcade Bunny. At least we have this adorable credits sequence from the final update to remember you by.

Am I really alone in enjoying Nintendo Badge Arcade while it lasted? What was your favorite set over the year(s)? Will you miss the bunny? Let us know! (And post your 3DS home screens with badges too!)

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Comments 15

  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 29 days ago
    It ended because every badge added to the size of the save data, and it hit the limit.

    I played it every day, probably missing fewer than 10 days since it launched. And I'll probably keep playing it every day for a while. I recently got the giant statue you get for getting 2,000 badges. Apparently the upgraded version (which is the final statue) comes at 3,000 badges.

    I've completed a bunch of sets, mostly for free, but I have spent some money. I managed to complete all of the Rhythm Heaven sets, which I was pleased with, though it turns out there are more of them than you can pin to the home menu at one time.
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  • Avatar for icecoldcakemix #2 icecoldcakemix 29 days ago
    You're not alone, Caty! I signed in almost every day just to relax for a few minutes and play the crane game/enjoy the bunny banter. I always like weird, self-aware Nintendo so I got a chuckle out of it. I'll miss the little guy and the badges. I won't miss the oddly long load times. I hope they do something weird and current on the Switch.
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  • Avatar for manoffeeling #3 manoffeeling 29 days ago
    I was very into it, too, and I'm hoping it'll eventually come to the Switch. As a virtual sticker album, it was a great way of revisiting a simple childhood pleasure (p.s. I also love Sticker Star). Hopefully the Switch version (if it ever materializes) will be more flexible in terms of where you can place stickers (that is, anywhere instead of only predetermined icon slots).
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  • Avatar for SingingBrakeman #4 SingingBrakeman 29 days ago
    Oh no, this is sad news in an already unhappy week for me. I guess all good things must come to an end, particularly company-supported online games, but I loved Badge Arcade and particularly got a kick out of Arcade Bunny. I'll desperately hope for an Arcade Bunny amiibo to ease the pain :(
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  • Avatar for ArugulaZ #5 ArugulaZ 29 days ago
    There are ways to make your own custom badges. Oh yes, there are ways... (taps fingertips together)

    Also, the rabbit was a wiener. I called him "the wiener rabbit."
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #6 LBD_Nytetrayn 29 days ago
    I had numerous cat and Super Mario 2 badges, among others. I'll be a bit upset if I wind up losing them.
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  • Avatar for Thetick #7 Thetick 29 days ago
    I played it every day until my 3ds died.
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  • Avatar for StrwbrryJams #8 StrwbrryJams 29 days ago
    Ah, I was very wistful reading this news (well, at least seeing it happen in Japan, then Europe, now NA). I used mine similar to Caty. The bunny really is the best part - a clever sales-bunny that was an enjoyable character. I hope he plays a role in future Nintendo games, perhaps trophy shop in SSB? something else?
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  • Avatar for swamped #9 swamped 29 days ago
    I was sad to hear it, even though I stopped playing it consistently. I did sink a little bit of money into it, $1-2 to get the Pikachu Libre badge since I have a matching plush. I do appreciate a good sales pitch and Nintendo wrote that bunny some pretty smooth lines.
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  • Avatar for InsertTokenz #10 InsertTokenz 28 days ago
    I certainly acquired my fair shares of badges via the badge arcade (and spent a bit of cash along the way in doing so), but it was an enjoyable experience throughout. I will admit a small part of me is glad no more badges are being added as my collector tendencies can finally take a rest. However, it will be kind of a shame to no longer have the arcade bunny to interact with the way he used to. He was definitely one of the best parts of the arcade.

    I guess all that's left now is to see what straggling badges I can pick up from the remains. Wish me luck! :)
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  • Avatar for ShawnS #11 ShawnS 28 days ago
    I'm right here with ya gang! I spent most every day between its launch and early Summer 2016 playing for free. I didn't pay attention to every line of Arcade Bunny's dialog but his animations and expressions were adorable and endearing. I'll miss the character more than the badges and really hope he shows up on the Switch somewhere down the line.

    I always got an Animal Crossing vibe from him, it'd be fantastic if he opened up an arcade in the next AC game. Wow, the potential is spiraling out in my mind now!
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #12 DrCorndog 28 days ago
    I played this first thing every morning for a while, but once I started finding myself dropping a dollar (or two or three) on a few badges that I didn't really want because I knew I could get them all in just one more move (not always true), I decided it was time to quit.

    Maybe it'd be worth a re-download for the free plays, but those were rarely satisfying by themselves.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #13 UnskippableCutscene 28 days ago
    I would have played it more if there was a way to get past the intro. Having to deal with the Bunny's "conversations" was the most obnoxious thing. I don't him showing up to assist a purchase or something but the daily banter was too long for the free reward.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #14 Roto13 28 days ago
    @UnskippableCutscene He had one conversation a week.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #15 metalangel 27 days ago
    I already disliked the emotional manipulation of the salesbunny over in the Streetpass Plaza (and its heartbroken reaction when you didn't actually go through with a purchase) so the pink one being all in your face and yet passive aggressive really rankled me.

    "Oh, if you don't want to pay, that's cool!"

    It didn't help that it was selling something that absolutely has no need to be sold. Those badges only barely count as being "cosmetics", given nobody will ever see them and they are what amounts to PNG files you could place to clutter up your home menu. In this day and age, you should not have to fork out to choose your frigging background or decorations. Throw in an obnoxious try-hard character with unstoppable dialogue and a slow loading bloated application taking up storage space, it's just not an appealing prospect to me.
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