Why Nintendo Should Care About JRPGs
There’s been a lot of fuss lately surrounding a few certain Japanese RPGs that are exclusive to the Nintendo Wii and which Nintendo holds the sole publishing rights to. MonolithSoft’s Xenoblade, Hironobu Sakaguchi and Mistwalker Studios’ The Last Story, and the latest action-RPG that has piqued the interest of genre fans, Pandora’s Tower, are three games getting a huge focus lately as groups are being formed to levee for their North American localization.
Why, though, should Nintendo care about these RPGs? Aren’t they focused solely on hyping up the Wii U and the 3DS? To the latter question, I say yes – they are very focused on hyping up their new systems. In the grand scheme of things, it may not really matter if The Last Story comes out this year while the Wii is still the only Nintendo home console, or this time next year when we may see the Wii U on store shelves – the Wii U is backward compatible with Wii titles, so it will still be playable on their current console.
However, if you’ll direct your attention to Nintendo’s Wii lineup for the remainder of this year, and even early 2012, it looks absolutely horrible. Therein lies the first point I’d like to touch on – Nintendo seriously needs some good titles to keep people interested in the brand. Whether they think so or not, the Wii U is branded the same as the Wii. They share three out of four letters. They kept “Wii” in the name of their new system on purpose, and that is to leverage what is now a household word and synonymous with Nintendo itself. If interest wanes in the Wii and that brand, it would adversely affect sales of the Wii U when it hits next year.
A good way to keep interest up is by releasing titles that people are asking for. These are people – fans, if you will – of both Nintendo and RPGs who will buy these games and who Nintendo can leverage to promote their new console when it arrives. Assuming, of course, that they keep them happy.
The second point I’d like to touch on is that, with the Wii U, Nintendo seems to be trying to drop that “casual” stigma that has followed around the Wii since its launch. The Wii U is a powerful machine, and with that comes the possibility of more realistic and “hardcore” titles. Theoretically, Nintendo can have the best of both worlds here. The problem is, while the name “Wii” is synonymous with Nintendo, it is also synonymous with “casual”. That is something that isn’t easily removed from the minds of the more robust, hardcore gamers.
The three titles I mentioned above are hardcore games. Releasing those in the coming months in North America would be just like Nintendo rolling out a welcome mat for the hardcore saying, “Yes, we will support you guys, we will localize titles that are both something different and something for the hardcore, this is what the future of the Wii brand looks like.” That, my friends, will go miles to ingratiating themselves with that crowd they may have trouble securing considering their track record for the last five years.
With all that being said, The Last Story in particular got near perfect scores in many Japanese publications and online outlets. From what I hear, it’s likely better than any game set to come out this year on Nintendo’s platforms for sure, but even on all platforms combined. (Don’t cry, Uncharted and Gears of War fans, it’ll be okay.) It makes little to no actual business sense on Nintendo of America’s part to reject localizing the game for North America when they know they have tons of people who would buy it based on Sakaguchi-san’s name alone; they know they need to ingratiate themselves to the hardcore gamer and they know the Wii is in desperate need of good titles this year.
I had hoped to hear something about any of these three titles at E3, but alas, Nintendo couldn’t spare five minutes from their press conference to announce localizations. If we don’t hear anything soon, especially after the Operation Rainfall campaign has done the bulk of their handiwork, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Nintendo just isn’t being logical. If they were a Vulcan, they’d have their ears forcibly removed and never be allowed in the presence of another of the same race again. It seriously makes no logical sense.
Nintendo of America: I respectfully request, as a fan of both your brand and Japanese RPGs, that you localize these titles and give them the distribution and respect they deserve on the worldwide stage. Xenoblade was number one in game sales on Amazon for crying out loud (thanks to Operation Rainfall). You know your fans want it, what’s the harm in giving it to them?