Operation Rainfall, the latest in a long line of video game campaigns/protest, is gaining steam. This time, unsurprisingly, the target is Nintendo. What started as an outcry by fans on the IGN message boards in regards to the lack of North American support for Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower, turned into a full blown campaign by the next day.
On June 23, 2011, Mathieu Manel, the marketing manager of Nintendo France, stated that Nintendo of Europe wanted to show Xenoblade Chronicles at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo, but that “Nintendo of America wouldn’t let them because they didn’t want to show products they aren’t planning to sell.” This statement may very well be what got the ball rolling, as fans took to not only gaming message boards, but also sent a slew of physical letters and emails to Nintendo of America’s headquarters, in addition to numerous phone calls and posting on the branch’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, demanding a release of the game. Though Operation Rainfall’s main focus is localizing Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower, so far only the Xenoblade campaign has started.
Video game campaigns, or “protest,” are nothing new, and happen considerably often. What doesn’t happen a lot, however, is whatever company you’re targeting giving you the slightest bit of attention. As it turns out, Nintendo has taken notice. On June 29, via Facebook, Nintendo of America released a response, possibly even adding fuel to an already rapidly growing fire.
“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!”
Following that statement, fans responded with a significant amount of backlash, which at this point doesn’t seem to be tipping in Nintendo’s favor, especially being that Europe will be getting Xenoblade Chronicles come September 2, 2011.
Analysis: I applaude Operation Rainfalls efforts, and after taking a look at all three critically acclaimed games myself, I have to say that I too would love to get my hands on these titles. I personally don’t see how Nintendo will benefit from not releasing such highly anticipated games, and I believe that Nintendo loses more than it wins in this case. One has to wonder: Is there a real justifiable reason as to why Nintendo would make such a decision, that goes beyond public understanding? Or has Nintendo just plainly decided, “Nah, we don’t feel like releasing them. Why? Because we just don’t feel like it.” It is well within Nintendo’s power to have these games released.
Can Nintendo afford to not release these games in the U.S.? Well, yes. Though those three titles are very popular (and will become increasingly popular over time, if Operation Rainfall has anything to do with it), not releasing them will not cost Nintendo “billions.” They’ll lose money, yeah, and a crap load of fans (who’ll continue to complain and claim to no longer be Nintendo fans, yet will still go out and buy Mario Kart), but it definitely is not enough to bring Nintendo’s empire down, let alone get Reggie Fils-Aime fired.
There are, however, a few things to consider. For instance, Xenoblade was huge in Japan, yet the masses weren’t alert to it until more recently. Due to the efforts of Operation Rainfall, it has indeed seen a significant surge. On June 25, 2011, the game reached #1 on Amazon.com’s Top 100 game sales, #1 in all Wii game sales and #1 in Wii action games sales. I believe it’s safe to say that OP Rainfall is doing something right. Could Nintendo be allowing the grassroots efforts of OP Rainfalls viral campaign to do the marketing for them, with the secret intention of bringing it to the U.S. eventually? Though unlikely, it is possible. No doubt about it, Xenoblade would be huge in America.
In the past, Nintendo has openly discussed their grand aspirations to top the PlayStation 2 in worldwide sales (over 150 million units) — with Wii. It’s no secret that Nintendo does its homework when it comes to numbers, so they have to know why the PS2 had a continued shelf life long after the debut of its PS3 counterpart, right? Quite simply, it’s because Sony continued to support the system, and publishers continued to produce titles for the console that people actually wanted. Had the PS2 been in Wii’s current position, Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower would have came out yesterday.
If plans to bring the trio of games stateside are in order, or even undecided, it’s natural for PR reps to take the safe route by saying “we have no plans.” It’s just a way to save face, and altogether avoid having to lie or confirm unannounced titles. Whether or not these games will see a U.S. release remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting that the campaign led by Operation Rainfall to get these games localized is significant in comparison to many other campaigns, and has no signs of letting up anytime soon.