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“Screw you America” – Nintendo

posted on November 12th, 2009 by jay

Why doesn’t Nintendo release every game they create in every market? The traditional glib answer is some variant of “Nintendo is a business and not a charity.” This may be true, but some companies have found a way to both make money and pay tribute to their medium. For example, HBO is known for keeping shows afloat despite poor ratings. These “prestige shows” are too good to simply cancel and for the sake of television as an art, HBO keeps them on the air.

Nintendo has made billions of dollars selling video games and has some of the most dedicated fans in the industry; it seems like they should not only be a producer of games but also part of the video game vanguard by protecting and honoring interactive entertainment. Unfortunately, Nintendo and Nintendo of America more specifically simply do not agree with this philosophy. They are clearly a corporation looking out for number one and nothing else.

The following is a list of the more recent titles Nintendo of America has deemed unworthy of release in the United States. This is by no means an exhaustive list; Nintendo has a long history of not releasing finished games (Mother) and these listed are only the most recent prominent titles.

Captain★Rainbow
Their explanation: No explanation needed. The cover is a guy in tights and a rainbow. And it’s called Captain★Rainbow, complete with a star instead of a space between words.

Does it make sense?: Of the games on this list, Captain Rainbow being trapped (or quarantined) in Japan actually makes the most sense. Even I can’t deny very few people would want it here, which is a shame because a legion of gamers here grew up with the NES and this game pays tribute to a lot of lesser known Famicom characters.

Why I want it: It pays homage to Birdo. More importantly, it was made by Skip, and Nintendo didn’t give us Giftpia, either. Like any red blooded American man, I enjoy flamboyant, odd Japanese games and always want more. At least the guys in Skip are used to making games we don’t get to play, since they came from the developer Lov De Lic and none of their games got localized, either.

Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland
Their explanation: No explanation, but it can be assumed that Tingle lacks a certain je ne se quois, call it heterosexuality, and this prevents him from being an American super star.

Does it make sense?: It makes some sense. Americans hate people who threaten their sexuality because we are secretly all gay and unable to cope with this truth. Tingle is a Zelda character, though, and Zelda tends to do better here than anywhere else in the world. This man fairy is something of an enigma, created for the Japanese for a series that isn’t particularly big in Japan.

Why I want it: Tingle is awesome. On top of that, Zelda is an excellent series and a high quality action adventure on the DS is always welcome. Especially one reportedly this bizarre.

Takt of Magic
Their explanation: The words have never been uttered by anyone at Nintendo of America.

Does it make sense?: The original game in the series, Lost Magic on the DS, didn’t sell well enough in the states for us to get the sequel. Even so, this Nintendo-published third entry makes good use of the wiimote, something few Wii games do.

Why I want it: The original game was flawed but a lot of fun. Drawing runes to cast spells was an original idea and the Wii offers owners few RPGs. Sure this is an RPG-tinged RTS, but anything is better than the eternal wait for Arc Rise Fantasia.

Fatal Frame 4
Their explanation: None officially. It leaked that there are apparently significant bugs in the game and Nintendo told Tecmo to fix them and Tecmo told Nintendo to fuck itself.

Does it make sense?: Nintendo decided it wanted to produce and publish this entry of the series yet somehow this is the first to not make it out of Japan. If some bugs were the issue couldn’t Nintendo have spent a few bucks fixing them? They are sitting on 400 gazillion yen but are typically unwilling to go the extra eighth of a mile.

Why I want it: A big production Wii game is mildly enticing all by itself. When Suda51 of Grasshopper gets involved, a big (or small) production Wii (or any other system) game is extremely appealing. At least Edge gave the game an 8 just to rub it in that we won’t ever play it in English (legally).

Trace Memory Wii
Their explanation: None

Does it make sense?: Cing’s games, including the DS Trace Memory, didn’t sell amazingly here. Still, they are Western themed (meaning there are no psychic training villages nor traditional Japanese clothing in them) adventure games and so appeal to a broad audience, and like others on this list, Trace Memory Wii was localized for Europe as Another Code R.

Why I want it: I liked Trace Memory and loved Hotel Dusk. The adventure genre is having something of a revival this generation based on Cing’s games, the Ace Attorneys, and episodic Telltale titles and it’s about damn time. Adventure games are like RPGs without endless random battles that consist of hitting “X” twenty times.

Disaster: Day of Crisis
Their explanation: The game sucks and we are better off without it.

Does it make sense?: No. The game was created to explicitly appeal to the Western markets and it already came out in Europe, so very little work would need to be done. In fact, rumor is the voice recording for an American release already happened but Reggie, in his infinite assholeness, blocked the game from going to retail.

Why I want it: The Wii needs games, especially games that have any similarities to the PS2’s under appreciated Disaster Report. The dialog in Day of Crisis is apparently terrible, which only makes it more appealing, and reviews peg it somewhere around a 7.326 out of 10. It may not be AAA and set the world on fire, but it sounds solid and the Wii needs long, involved single player games in traditional genres.

***
The particularly painful part of Nintendo’s apparent apathy toward releasing their games in the Western hemisphere is Nintendo of Japan’s dedication to games. It is bizarre that the same company that decided to create a game for America then not release it in America also produced the doomed Sin & Punishment 2 and released Ripening Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love, a sequel to Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, in Japan.

Perhaps it is simply a sense of misplaced nostalgia for a time and place that never was, but Nintendo of Japan seems to be so much more than Nintendo of America. They release small, barely commercial products there much more frequently and have long had an official Club for fans. Can blame be placed squarely upon Reggie’s slimy shoulders? Maybe, but Iwata still calls the shots at the end of the day and if he wanted Nintendo’s love of the medium to shine brightly across the globe, it would.

19 Comments

  1. jackson said on November 12, 2009:

    I was pretty excited to see a horror game being made by Grasshopper/Suda 51, but knowing that I may never play it makes me wish I had never thought about it. :(

  2. Michelle said on November 13, 2009:

    Just remember that someone always has it worse.

    Case in point: Europe and Australia.

    That said I have been extremely disappointed with Nintendo’s decision not to publish Fatal Frame 4 in the west, that does feel like a kick in the teeth.

  3. pat said on November 13, 2009:

    michelle – that was true a few years ago, and may still be true for the other consoles, but europe got another code R, disaster, and tingle. are they any nintendo published games we have gotten this generation that you havent?

    granted stuff tends to be far more expensive in europe than it is here…

  4. Tyson said on November 15, 2009:

    It’s a shame we don’t get the Tingle games. I played it when it first came out and I lived over in Japan, it was a pretty decent game.

  5. Cunzy1 1 said on November 16, 2009:

    NSFW* link

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wii_games

    *Unless watching Europe getting ass raped is okay in your place of work?

  6. Cunzy1 1 said on November 16, 2009:

    Europe still doesn’t have Rock Band 2 for the Wii yet.

  7. Bruce said on November 17, 2009:

    Although not technically an example of a straight up localization that we can’t have, I want another Elite Beat Agents game.

  8. jay said on November 17, 2009:

    Actually, Japan did get a second Ouendan and we didn’t get a second EBA, so it kind of works, Bruce.

  9. Spyder Mayhem said on November 19, 2009:

    Nintendo is a megacorporation with absolutely no mandate concerning “protecting and honoring interactive entertainment.” If they did, they would also have to stop producing and releasing things like “Luigi’s Superfuntime Astronomy Party 5” and “Donkey Kong Skateboarding Championship: This Needed Primates, Really?”

    Nintendo is a publicly traded company, as such they have exactly one mandate under international law: To make as much money as possible for shareholders. Seriously, that is the one rule that governs all publicly traded corporations. Anything that counteracts that is illegal.

    This is not to say that releasing some things for the Wii beyond “Wii Minigame Collection #147” would hurt the bottom line, but your argument in this article would not do so well at a board meeting, I think. Companies do not become megacorporations by aiming at the niche portion of a market. These strange-seeming to Western eyes games wouldn’t even be released in Japan if Japanese consumers didn’t buy them in droves.

    Want to change what Nintendo releases where? Buy a bunch of shares and make your voice heard. Other than doing that, it will be hard to argue against stock symbol NTO’s ability to make truckloads of money for their shareholders with their current business model. Which is what corporations are supposed to do: Make as much money as humanly possible.

  10. pat said on November 19, 2009:

    what international organization governs business law?

    also the ticker is only NTO in europe/germany. aren’t you american?

  11. Spyder Mayhem said on November 20, 2009:

    The World Trade Organization is the big one. There are lots of others with a more regional flare. The Federal Trade Commission here, the European Trade Commission.

    From the book, “The Corporation” by Professor Joel Bakan, University of British Colombia: “They are required, by law, to place the financial interests of their owners above competing interests. In fact, the corporation is legally bound to put its bottom line ahead of everything else, even the public good.”

    As for the stock symbol, I just grabbed the one for Nintendo that I found. I don’t own any shares in Nintendo, and I’m honestly not in the market to buy them.

  12. pat said on November 20, 2009:

    the world trade organization governs trade, and it has jurisdiction over governments, not individual businesses. its rules mostly govern protectionist policies such as import taxes and the like. the decision made by a media company (such as nintendo) on what (such as disaster) to distribute where (such as north america) is well outside of its purview.

    in any event, you are closer when you mention country specific regulators such as the SEC (which is who would most likely be US agency responsible for protecting shareholders). however, i still think the idea that the decision to release a video game (no matter how expensive or unpopular or bad) would be subject to prosecution (which is what you are implying by saying the decision would be scrutinized by a federal agency) is risible. not only are US regulatory agencies generally limp when it comes to actual enforcement (see GE and pcbs in the hudson river) it is completely reasonable to believe that releasing a certain number of “prestige” games, which might lose money, but appeal to a specific audience could build good will and lead to future profits. this is even more obvious when you are discussing a hardware manufacturer, since building up a diverse and appealing library of games would lead to more console sales and consequently more software sales, thus increasing the bottom line.

    companies would also be beyond prosecution because it is quite nearly impossible to predict with certainly how a game will fare.

    none of this is to say that nintendo is *required* to bring any of their games out here, but is rather to say that not only is it not a cut-and-dry case of protecting shareholders, but i personally think that invoking shareholders rights issues is a bizarre tactic. by following the logic to an extreme…what happens? no one releases flops? no one releases anything except modern warfare 2 for fear of flopping? im not even sure, but its clearly not how the industry (or any industry) functions.

  13. jay said on November 20, 2009:

    Nintendo just announced the top prize for Club Nintendo members in Japan would be a Game & Watch. Perhaps their accountant has a chart that proves giving things away increases loyalty a certain percent which then translates into increased profit but it seems clear to me that Nintendo (in Japan) is once again honoring their long tradition.

    Also, the “hardcore” gamer of today doesn’t think much of Nintendo. It’s quite likely that releasing more core titles, whether or not they bomb, would do something to improve the view that the company makes mostly mini game shovel ware for my mom. Whether or not this would directly turn into profit is impossible to say, but it’s just as feasible that it generates revenues as it is giving away free stuff to people who already love your company will lead to more cash.

  14. Spyder Mayhem said on November 21, 2009:

    They would not be prosecuted, because all the things you said were true (I think, I’m no international trade and commerce lawyer).

    However, if the leadership of the public corporation were to not put the bottom line above all else, they could be removed by the board of directors, which is elected by the shareholders who love their piles of money. And that is where the law kicks in: The primary defining feature of a corporation’s health is the quarterly dividends paid to shareholders. Actions that lower those dividends, especially when those dividends fall below analysts’ projections, are scrutinized and punished.

    As such, weird Japanese games being released outside of weird Japan could, in theory, cost weird Japanese CEOs their high paying jobs. And while the likelihood of that happening during this bonanza is slim, it is not impossible. That is why we won’t get these good games but will continue to get Imagine Minigamez titles.

    And “hardcore” gamers is nothing more than another word for “niche”. If “hardcore” gamers were such a force to be reckoned with, then Call of Duty/Madden/Halo/Left4Dead/Wii Sports would not dominate the charts as much as they do. But they do. 85% of gaming consumers want mainstream games that do not rock the boat so much. I hate that, too, but my hate doesn’t change a thing.

    According to CNBC, these are the top selling titles of this year: Street Fighter 4, Halo Wars, Resident Evil 5, Call of Duty: World at War, Killzone 2, Resident Evil 5 again, Mario Kart Wii, Pokemon Platinum, Wii Play, Wii Fit.

    Sequel, Spinoff, Sequel, Spinoff, Sequel, Sequel, Sequel, Sequel, Minigame crap, Balanceboard thing. Not a single hardcore-friendly title among the ten. Hardcore fans love their products, but amount to a tiny fraction of consumers, who are very hardcore about wanting more of the same, lots more.

    Of the titles listed, the top 4 were all Nintendo games. The other six weren’t, but the TOP FOUR were all Nintendo. Nintendo is doing something very right within America.

    Nintendo is giving Game&Watches to their hardcore Japanese fans because Japan is weird. America is in love with the dead center vanilla products of Nintendo. Japan’s top ten for October includes Inazuma Eleven 2: Kyoui no Shinryakusha, Macross Ultimate Frontier, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, and Dragon Quest IX: Hoshizora no Mamoribito. I’m not saying that the Japanese mainstream is much more in tune with the American niche, but that is exactly what I am saying. Games that bomb hard here sell by the boatload there. Therefore, the Japanese get a Game&Watch, which the American niche would kill to have but the American mainstream wouldn’t even know what to do with. And the Japanese get games featuring a Legend of Zelda side character because they actually will buy them. They will apparently buy a lot of them.

    Right now there is some hardcore gamer in Japan bitching about the lack of AFL jerseys for their Madden 2010, which EA released in America months ago but for some reason thinks won’t sell like hotcakes in Japan even though it is an add-on for EA’s flagship product. And so it goes.

  15. goodday said on December 8, 2009:

    It’s all about sales, Nintendo is selling a product and will distribute that product were the sales will be highest. Nintendo learned that lesson the hard way.

  16. cheat-master30 said on December 26, 2009:

    For Freshly Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, it’s because quite honestly… most people in the USA despite Tingle as a character. He’s an unpopular character by default in Zelda games over there, but in Japan, he’s actually a relatively popular character with a fanbase. The game would just not sell in the USA because of how unpopular the main character is with many people (especially Zelda fans), and outside of the Zelda series, most wouldn’t even give the game a look. But the game was released in Europe I hear.

    There’s also a third Tingle game by the way. Which is apparently a Wizard of Oz parody.

    But it’s true, Nintendo of America does seem to be very conservative about what games get released, only releasing stuff it expects to have a high sales total. But it is getting slightly better. Think about it… back a few years ago, the entire Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series were Japan only. As was Starfy.

  17. christian said on December 26, 2009:

    I just finished the first Professor Layton, and saw how the game has content that can only be accessed upon the release of its sequel. I’m not sure if that shows that Nintendo was confident in it being a big seller, or that they were going to be bringing all the Layton games over come hell or high water, but I was indeed surprised to see this, as it suggested that NOA wasn’t quite as conservative with this franchise as I was led to believe.

  18. Spyder Mayhem said on December 28, 2009:

    A video game magazine I recently read stated that Nintendo recently admitted that Japanese sales were lagging due to a lack of quality titles post-launch. This is even more painfully apparent here in America, and may catch up to them.

    I’d suspect that some of the more Japanese-centric titles will eventually be released here for no other reason than to flood the shelves with content in an attempt to avoid the problems they are having on their home turf. Then again, maybe not. American consumers, by and large, are not attacking Nintendo’s lack of games. And when compared to the PS3, the Wii has a plethora of choices available here in the United States. So thank Sony’s terrible next-gen performance if nothing gets fixed. I’ll be thanking Sony for a more personal slight: Making the Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 DLC disappear with nary a whisper of what happened to it.

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