Industry Chatter: 06.30.2011

Nintendo comments on Operation Rainfall, Bethesda ready to support Wii U (if it’s powerful enough), and Inafune worried about the western market in this week’s installment of Industry Chatter.

By Kevin Knezevic. Posted 06/30/2011 21:00 8 Comments     ShareThis

Undoubtedly the topic of the week has been Operation Rainfall, a multi-faceted online movement begun to garner support for Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower, three Japanese RPGs whose chances for a North American release were all but extinguished when Nintendo failed to acknowledge any of the games at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. The exposure brought about by the movement caused Xenoblade (under its former moniker of Monado: Beginning of the World) to skyrocket to number one on Amazon’s bestseller list, and the situation even attracted the attention of Yahoo! Japan. Nintendo of America finally issued a response to the movement on its Facebook and Twitter pages, but the news is certainly not what gamers have been hoping to hear– according to the company, there are currently “no plans” to bring any of the titles to this side of the ocean.

This all but confirms that none of these titles will see the light of day in North America. Any number or reasons can have contributed to this choice, but the simple fact of the matter is we may never know just why Nintendo refuses to bring these three titles stateside (though it is certainly easy to assume the lackluster sales of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor and Metroid: Other M had some influence on the company’s decision). It’s a disappointing reality, especially as a gamer, but it is not altogether surprising considering the limited appeal each title holds, and given the scale of Japanese RPGs, localizing any of the games would be a massive undertaking. Even if Operation Rainfall was able to convince Nintendo to release just one of the titles, then it is likely we would not see it hit store shelves until 2012. This would put the game at an even greater risk of failing commercially, and it seems this prospect is far too much of a gamble for Nintendo to take. Those who still would like to experience Xenoblade can always modify their consoles and import the title from Europe, but those holding out hope that the games may yet reach the states should probably just move on.

In other news, Bethesda Game Studios, developer of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3, recently stated it will support Nintendo’s next home console, provided it is powerful enough to meet its needs. This seems to echo the sentiments of many other developers who are also waiting to see how the system stacks up graphically before dedicating any resources to it. While this is an understandable approach, especially given the rising costs of game development, it is one that may prove to be more harmful than good in the long run. Many companies adopted a similar strategy regarding Wii, but by the time they released their titles the console’s primary demographic had already been established, resulting in most core games outright bombing in the marketplace. The greatest way to ensure an audience on a platform is to cultivate one as early as possible, and many developers are only sabotaging themselves by not having a presence in Wii U’s launch window. Using horsepower as a crutch is certainly not helping matters, either, and far too many companies would rather pass over a console entirely because of its capabilities than put in the special effort needed to support it. After all, limitation begets creativity– countless titles on NES and even Nintendo 64 were borne out of concessions made to circumvent technological issues, and those systems became the home of many of the industry’s greatest classics. Graphical prowess is certainly vital in a medium so reliant on technology, but citing a console’s power as inadequate to properly convey your vision is, I feel, simply not a justifiable excuse and smacks of an unwillingness to compromise (which most certainly would require more work on the developer’s part). I must reiterate that Wii U’s hardware has yet to be finalized, so this may very well prove to be a nonissue, but I have a niggling feeling that even if the system were to more than meet Bethesda’s standards, it and many other western developers would still find some other reason not to support it. Here’s hoping the future says otherwise.

Also of interest, Keiji Inafune, who recently parted ways with Capcom to form the companies Comcept and Intercept, expressed his concerns about the viability of the western market. In his blog, the game designer writes, “It may be too late– or too hard– to tackle the US market at this point,” likely because of the prevalence of first-person shooters and other gritty titles. With the western gaming world so fully saturated and difficult to penetrate, Inafune predicts China will be the next market to provide the greatest opportunity for success:”The next big market is China. There I see many opportunities. My sights are on Asia.” Whether or not this means he will completely abandon the western audience remains to be seen, but judging by his remarks, it certainly sounds as though this may be the case.

8 Responses to “Industry Chatter: 06.30.2011”

  • 1370 points
    xeacons says...

    I stand corrected. Obviously, these developers have not allowed themselves to be held back by technology limitations of consoles. Mainly due to, as stated, rising development costs. However, it seems, that although, as I have often stated before, the most inferior console has always sold best each cycle, the Wii seems to have succeeded for a completely different reason. Not because it is the choice of developers, but overridden with the casual market.

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    • 255 points
      Joshua A. Johnston says...

      It’s interesting to compare Wii with last-gen’s “inferior” console, PlayStation 2. PS2 was weaker than the Cube or Xbox but practically exploded with games in almost every category. Same for DS, which didn’t look as good as PSP but bustled with great first and third party games.

      Now contrast that with Wii, whose robust hardware sales feel hollow. Sure, Wii has a few games, but I would argue that it has the weakest game lineup of the three consoles right now. It’s a waste.

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      • 393 points
        James Stank says...

        You can’t even compare Wii with what the PS2 was last gen. It may have been the weakest console, but not by much. It was still comparable in power to Xbox and GameCube. Wii is completely different. It can’t even be compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3. And you’re right, it definitely has the weakest game lineup, but if Wii was truly the PS2 of this gen (meaning, if it had power comparable to PS3 and 360, but just slightly weaker), then I think the game lineup would be much better.

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      • 255 points
        Joshua A. Johnston says...

        Well, you *can* compare them in the sense that they are both the best-selling consoles of their generation, but, like I said, clearly PS2 had something that Wii did not. I think you’ve hit on a biggie; PS2 was weaker than other systems but not as weak as Wii is to 360/PS3. There are other factors, too, such as Nintendo’s relentless focus on promoting Wii as a casual machine. I think Wii’s cheap development costs might still have steered hardcore developers to use the console more had they felt their titles would sell well.

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  • 393 points
    James Stank says...

    Unfortunately, Wii U is looking like it will be the Wii of its generation, and not the PS2

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  • 3 points
    ericbikert says...

    Nintendo won in this generation with wii, its the same like psx and n64, the N64 was a very superior sistem, but the psx won the console war… so wii is the ps2,psx of this generation and if Wii U is gonig to be or not the wii of the next generation… time will tell. i dont think so, its more like it is going to be the ps2 of the next generation… Long live Nintendo!!

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  • 261 points
    JasonMaivia says...

    When it comes to console sales, then the Wii is the PS2 of this generation.

    BUT…

    No gamer cares about Nintendo being #1 when its poor third party and overall quality of its software library screams “LAST PLACE”. Nintendo being #1 didn’t really help how many felt about the Wii.

    Nintendo isn’t going to go into the next gen with heav momentum on their side, since many of those non-gamers may not care about buying another console since a lot of them had barely done anything with the Wii.

    …many hardcore gamers are looking at the Wii as the loser of this gen, entering another generation (probably as the “Wii” of this next get, if it’s even THAT). Plus, many of those gamers may not see enough reasons to buy Wii U, if it’s hardly anything more but a PS3/360 with Nintendo games.

    The rest of us….I don’t know.

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  • 1396 points
    penduin says...

    Nintendo’s failure to bring Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower to the US is very disappointing, but there’s one thing that could turn it around, I mean _really_ turn it around…

    What about having these games as Wii U launch titles?

    Given a few months of HD-upgrade development time (think Beyond Good and Evil HD, or even Ocarina 3D), Nintendo could be sitting on some extremely big and beautiful titles with massive appeal to hardcore players. Positioning them as launch titles means spending a fraction of the usual marketing dollars – they’d be the only RPGs in town.

    For me, any of these titles would be a killer app for Wii U. Smash Bros hasn’t begun development yet, Zelda HD is years off, Batman and Assasssin’s Creed will have been out on other platforms already… Wii U needs some triple-A stuff out of the gate, and these could be it.

    …But, it just makes too much sense. Nintendo won’t do it. (Do I _ever_ hope I’m wrong…)

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