As most gamers know, the last several months have been agonizing ones for core Wii owners. Nintendo’s support for the console in North America has dropped off precipitously, with only a few core titles among the larger wash of casualware. This situation would seem to have an easy fix, as several core Wii titles, such as Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower, are already out in Japan and merely need an English localization. Nintendo of America, has to date declined to localize any of the titles. Adding insult to injury is the fact that at least one of the titles, Xenoblade, is being translated into English for a European release (as Xenoblade Chronicles), and a second title, The Last Story, is strongly rumored to be Europe-bound as well.
The last week, however, has seen the flourishing of one of the more remarkable grassroots gaming movements in recent memory. Frustrated by Nintendo of America’s apparent inaction, fans have begun clamoring for the release of the aforementioned Wii titles, spamming Nintendo’s Facebook page with thousands of comments and inundating the company with e-mail and, yes, even handwritten pleas.
The credit for this campaign goes to Operation Rainfall, which has organized fans with specific suggestions for when, where, and how to stir Nintendo of America to action. We chatted with one of them, Chris Ward, and asked him to tell us more about Rainfall and where it is going, especially in light of Nintendo’s response.
Nintendojo: Give us a bit of the history behind Operation Rainfall.
Chris Ward, Operation Rainfall: Operation Rainfall began on the IGN Wii Lobby forums, but it did not initially start out as a full fledged internet campaign. Many of us had been waiting for a long time to hear word on Xenoblade, Pandora’s Tower, and The Last Story. The news had been dry, and things looked even bleaker when there was no sign of any of the games at E3 2011. From there we started kicking around ideas of what we could do to help get those games brought over, and it was forum poster themightyme that got the ball rolling. His post for mail campaign was the start of a thread that has ballooned to over 1000 posts and has spawned many other internet discussions.
ND: What finally moved you to action? Was there a specific moment that did it for you personally?
Chris: Although E3 got us thinking, the true watershed moment that got us kicked into high gear came a few weeks later. We had hopes that maybe Nintendo was sitting on the three games to announce them later. Unfortunately, everyone learned that Nintendo of Europe wanted to show Xenoblade at E3 but was vetoed by Nintendo of America because it had no plans to release it. That was the moment that things picked up. Gaming news sites started to report on our movement, and word began to spread like wildfire.
ND: Nintendo has declined to bring a fair share of games stateside, including Fatal Frame 4 and Disaster: Day of Crisis for Wii and Soma Bringer for DS. You’ve focused your cause exclusively on three Wii titles: Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower. Why did you zero in on those games?
Chris: There is a technical reason and a more specific rationale. Technically, it is an issue of selection bias. The Wii Lobby is a specific community and we had been discussing and looking forward to Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower for a long time. But when Operation Rainfall got big we had to evaluate whether to include other games people were calling for. We decided to start with the original three before including other games for a few reasons. First, those three have a far better shot of being localized in America based on when they were released and the Wii’s life cycle. We also wanted to keep the message specific instead of diluting it with more games as if we were asking Nintendo to do too much. You know how that turned out for now, but there is some magic in the number 3.
Meanwhile, our long term goal is to establish a dialogue with Nintendo in order to help bring games from one region over to other regions. As the movement progresses, we will be bringing in more games to the fold. So far Nintendo has acknowledged our movement only in single tweets and Facebook posts. We need to push even harder because 144 character spurts are not enough.
ND: The critical consensus in Japan for the three titles you’ve chosen has been good, with some calling Xenoblade in particular the best RPG of this generation. Have any of you been fortunate enough to experience any of the games yet?
Chris: Me personally? No, I have not. I cannot speak for everyone else in our group, but the more we hear about these games the more we want them brought over. Part of the reason I am a Nintendo fan is because their definition of “core” games is different from the gazillions of first and third person shooters out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing those genres. But Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower all offer something different and appealing.
ND: Rainfall has garnered serious fan support by way of message board chatter, social media activism, and preorders for Xenoblade (Monado) on Amazon.com, not to mention significant coverage in the gaming press. Are you surprised by the groundswell of support?
Chris: I want to say no because it really is a people’s movement and even the heads of Operation Rainfall are just gamers fighting for the same cause. There have been rumblings of frustration across the internet about these three games and whether they would be localized. But to be honest I have been very surprised with the speed in which everything has picked up. I was not part of the Mother 3 movement, so this is all new to me. Operation Rainfall has the kind of message Nintendo should not be ignoring: we want these games to come to America because we want to buy them and play them. And we are going to hold Nintendo accountable for its promise to appeal to its “core” audience. Obviously, we’re going to have to push harder to make sure Nintendo knows our message.
ND: On Wednesday night, in direct response to the campaign, Nintendo announced that while they “never say ‘never,’… we can confirm that there are no plans to bring these three games to the Americas at this time.” What is your take on this, and where do you intend to go from here?
Chris: We are not giving up. There is no reason to, especially since the Operation Rainfall campaign has barely started. This is exactly the response we expected from Nintendo, although we were hoping for more than just a tweet and a Facebook post. If they have left a crack in the door open by saying, “at this time,” we are going to work hard to barge through that door. The mail campaign is now more important than ever, and we are continuing to discuss what the next steps are.
ND: Has anyone associated with Operation Rainfall had any direct contact with Nintendo?
Chris: We are all just regular forum posters and gamers. None of us have any inside access to anything. So if getting the same customer responses from Nintendo counts as “direct contact,” sure. Otherwise? No.
ND: If you had Reggie Fils-Aime in front of you right now, what would you say to him?
Chris: You previously said that you want to support “core” gamers, correct? That Nintendo is all about bringing gamers new experiences? That you listen to your fans through thick and thin? Mr. Fils-Aime, how can we trust your E3 statement that the Wii U will bring core gamers into the fold in 2012 when you reject a groundswell of core gamers in 2011? Many American “core” gamers had their first significant gaming experience with an RPG. Whether it was on the NES or the PS2, there is a large population of gamers that are still waiting for a “great” Japanese RPG experience this generation. There is an American “core” market for these games. Why are you not bringing Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower to North America?
ND: What suggestions would you offer to our readers looking to help out?
Chris: Take a breath and remember that this kind of rejection from Nintendo was expected. Ball up that initial rage and anger and channel it into something productive. Remember, when you are asking for something you want it is always better to stay assertive but respectful than to scream and kick. Keep looking for updates at http://oprainfall.com and do not stop telling Nintendo what you want.
ND: This may be getting ahead of ourselves, but we’ll ask anyway: if Operation Rainfall succeeds, do you have any plans to continue the operation with more games that didn’t see an American release?
Chris: We have got a long way to go, but yes. The plan is to establish a dialogue with Nintendo to lobby for games to be released in other territories.
ND: Is there anything else you’d like to say today?
Chris: Do not give up yet. We have barely even started. Sure, Nintendo can reject pre orders on the table at Amazon. Yes, Nintendo can respond to our requests in a single, sweeping tweet. But Operation Rainfall is in this for the long haul. We are all in this together, but it took a lot of rain to make the flood.
We’d like to thank Chris for taking the time to talk with us and for the hard work he and the other members of Operation Rainfall have done on behalf of Nintendo fans. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.