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.
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.
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.
the last badge arcade update has an entire credits sequence, so adorable ✨ pic.twitter.com/a7E7KRkW3F— Caty McCarthy (@yumecaty) June 22, 2017
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!)