Sitting here in the Los Angeles terminal on my flight to Houston I found myself glued to Twitter and Facebook and the various gaming blogs in an effort to keep up with the Operation Rainfall campaign and Nintendo's eventual response. For those who have not kept up with the news over the past few days, Operation Rainfall is a grassroots campaign borne from the internet's discontent with Nintendo's E3 press conference and it's lack of titles for the Nintendo Wii, specifically Xenoblade Chronicles (known as Monado: The Beginning of the World in the US market as it was announced in 2009), Mistwalker's The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower, all JRPGs that garnered favorable reviews in Japan and moderate sales success.
Since their reveals and subsequent launches gamers in America and Europe have said "When do we get to play these awesome games?" and the response from Nintendo had been silence. Since June 22nd there's been quite a lot of movement from gamers to try to get Nintendo to recognize that the fans are screaming for these games, much like they did when Mother 3 was released for the GBA (which later went on to receive a very unofficial fan translation). This included getting Monado up to the top of Amazon's game sales list, a hand written letter campaign directed at Nintendo of America, and basically taking over Nintendo's Facebook pages with requests for these games. Nintendo decided to offer an eventual and stunted response, a very vaguely worded "No," delivered over Facebook as opposed to an actual PR release. And suffice to say, the fans are pissed, and I count myself among them, and I'm trying to write this with as steady a hand as possible, while I try to find answers to questions I am asking about this whole mess.
1. Why does this response from Nintendo anger me so much?
"Thank you for your enthusiasm. We promised an update, so here it is. We never say “never,” but we can confirm that there are no plans to bring these three games to the Americas at this time. Thanks so much for your passion, and for being such great fans!" - Taken from Nintendo's Facebook page.
First off you've got a very non-committal answer from Nintendo, then you get the backhanded thanks for being a passionate fan. I seriously feel like Nintendo just told me to go away with that response. You know, a very simple explanation of their decision would go miles toward repairing the damage their half-handed response has created. Does Nintendo owe this to me, or any of their fans for that matter? Most certainly not, they are a private business after all and they have to keep their best interests in mind, which will revolve around their profits. But this isn't really out of the ordinary for the big N either, they had the same vow of silence when it came to Fatal Frame 4, which eventually drew so much ire from series fans that they wound up creatong a fan translation that was playable via a soft modification to the Wii (which I wound up getting, shout outs to the people at Cameras Lens and all their affiliates for their hard work). Instead of receiving Tecmo's latest in a popular franchise gamers receive a number of first party Nintendo games that are more geared to a casual audience, yet shockingly Nintendo found it acceptable to release Sin and Punishment 2 last year, perhaps as a stand in for a StarFox game that is curiously absent from the Wii's library. So instead of releasing games that people want to give Nintendo for, we're given a dismissive response and news that these games are going to be released in Europe. Meanwhile, the developers of these gameMistwalker is applauding the efforts of Operation Rainfall, and I'd like to think that when the creator of the Final Fantasy series wants to release a game on your console, you get that game out to as many people as possible.
What do I have to do Nintendo?!
2. Why should these games be released in America?
I can go on and on with to this question. The largest install base for the Wii console is located in America, people will buy games based on the Nintendo brand name alone, and the Wii line-up through the rest of 2011 looks like a dried out husk, much akin to the final days of the GameCube. Most importantly it will reinforce their desires to appeal to the 'hardcore' gamers they feel that they've lost. Rather than wait for the WiiU to bring gamers back, they can do it now and receive a great amount of positive PR. But let's be clear on something, these are all very much niche titles for a console that isn't exactly well respected among the hardcore gamers. I don't know what kind of numbers Nintendo expects to break even on a venture but I can't imagine more than a quarter of a million units being necessary to consider the effort a success, hell, a number of smaller companies would be thrilled to receive even a quarter million in sales.
It's all the more maddening to me when there games, Xenoblade, Pandora's Tower and The Last Story are slated to receive a release in Europe. Having worked on Nintendo titles that were slated for release in the US and Europe I can tell you that the amount of code work required to get a game playable between the two regions takes about a week's worth of time, and that's being very generous with the amount of time given to a coding team. But I don't know Nintendo's resources, and neither does the average consumer, nor do they really care. But as someone familiar to the development process it only adds fuel to my already raging fire, especially when I know that Nintendo has already gone through the trouble of translating the games to English in another region.
What's missing from this library? Aside from 3rd party shovelware?
3. What to do now that Nintendo has dismissed their fans?
You can find Operation Rainfall on Facebook and can follow them on Twitter (@OpRainfall), and even check out their blog where you'll find news about the movement. You can pre-order Xenoblade under it's American name, Monado, on Amazon. You can participate in the mail-in campaign, and you can spread the word on these games. Even though Nintendo seems content to let these games never reach American shores, gamers will find a way. They did it for Fatal Frame 4, they did it for Mother 3. But as someone who has first hand seen the damage piracy can cause a small company I don't condone the angry cries of gamers who claim they will download disc images or whatever method they choose to stick it to Nintendo. It's counter-productive to your cause and only serves to make gamers look bad. It's a lose-lose situation, and frankly it should serve as a reminder that gaming is a privilege, not a right, even if the people granting this privilege seem to have no idea what their most dedicated user base wants. However, so long as Nintendo continues to snub us gamers, we'll find away around their baffling business plans, whether they be through legitimate means or not. I've already got my copies of Xenoblade Chronicles, Pandora's Tower and The Last Story pre-ordered from Europe. And even if the games are eventually slated to come out to America, I'll buy them then as well. But after that, no more Nintendo, and I can only hope that third party companies will decide to release their games on consoles where gamers will be able to fully appreciate them.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.