Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 26, 2011

GoNintendo sticking up for the gamers

I’m genuinely surprised by Go Nintendo writing what they did. They express their unhappiness with NOA on the lack of bringing over games from Japan such as Xenoblade. This is a good move by Go Nintendo because NOA, or anyone in the game industry, will never be your friend. Your base of support must be from the gamers. If gamers should abandon Nintendo (or any other game company), being friends with that company no longer does you any good. Having a connection with the masses is better than trying to have ‘connections’ with the ‘game industry’. It also gives the press the leverage they need for some independence.

I have two theories why NOA is acting like it is. Maybe one, or both, or neither are true.

Under Reggie Fils-Aime “leadership”, NOA’s strategy for the remaining days of the Wii is ‘poor Latinos’. Apparently, the higher-ups at NOA have bought the myth hook, line, and sinker. If Xenoblade or any of these other games had a Spanish translation already done, then they would bring it over. NOA may not even see their market as ‘English speaking’ (which it is and will remain so).

The success of the DS and Wii really had nothing to do with NOA’s marketing. In many cases, the DS and Wii were selling so strongly that NOA had to cancel advertising. We do not really know Reggie Fils-Aime’s abilities as a marketer. Marketing Wii Sports is as easy as marketing Super Mario Brothers. Any idiot off the street could do it because the product sells itself.

NOA has decided a marketing strategy for the Wii which is ‘poor Latinos’. They intend to make the Wii a system for lower income families. (The problem with this is that game consoles, in general, have always been a ‘low income’ type of entertainment compared to the more expensive alternatives.) Xenoblade and the other games do not fit this ‘marketing strategy’.

Another theory is that the employees of NOA thinks they know gaming better than the market does. Even back during the NES days, NOA would push certain Japanese games they liked and would not push the ones they didn’t like. Both Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest were popular in Japan. When I played both of them, I realized that Final Fantasy was, by far, the superior game. Back then, I figured Final Fantasy would be the one to bet on for potential in the West. NOA, however, bet the farm on Dragon Quest 1. NOA went so far as to give away free copies of the game with a Nintendo Power subscription. I find it amazing that only Final Fantasy I made it to the West, while every Dragon Quest game (I, II, III, IV) did. I wanted to play Final Fantasy II and III, but the games never came. Since NOA had so much authority during that time period, and seeing how badly they bet on Dragon Quest, I believe they had to be partially responsible.

Over twenty years later, not much has changed. NOA, again, bet big on Dragon Quest IX and lost. Other Japanese adventure/RPG games do not get brought over even if they are published by Nintendo.

“But Malstrom,” you say. “Nintendo cannot listen to a minority. They only want to bring over the stuff that sells.” This isn’t true. Nintendo of Austraila brought over Baten Kaitos. The game died so hard in the West. And then  the sequel to Baten Kaitos was brought over. And it also died a horrible death in sales. Does this make any sense?

No one buys Fire Emblem in the West, but NOA keeps publishing it. Why? Nintendo’s track record is actually pushing games they want to do well, not necessarily games they think the market wants (e.g. 3d Mario over 2d Mario).

And even if the games do not sell big, that actually isn’t a problem. Many games begin being cult hits before they explode into the general market. Grand Theft Auto didn’t explode until the third game. But had Sony not had the first two games on their system, they wouldn’t have had the third. Final Fantasy exploded with its seventh game (and thanks to a huge Sony marketing push). Call of Duty didn’t truly erupt until its fourth and fifth game, namely Modern Warfare I and II. But had Microsoft and Sony not had those earlier Call of Duty games, they would not have gotten Modern Warfare II.

The point is that you do not know where the next hit game is going to come from. The only thing you can do is to put as much software on your console. Xenoblade will likely not be a huge success story. But it could be the embryonic start of a market explosion later down the line.

These RPG/adventure games are sorely missing in the Western Wii library. Gamers prefer a well rounded library from their console. Not publishing these games is vastly more expensive than not publishing because NOA will lose customers. People will see how they are treated with the Wii and look at the Wii U and say, “I think I’ll skip. I do not want the same consumer experience the Wii gave me.”


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