I’ve Never Understood Nintendo’s Stance on Publishing RPGs in North America

It was announced this week that The Last Story is going to be published in North America by Xseed Games. This comes after Nintendo announced late last year that Xenoblade Chronicles would also be making it’s way over. Normally, not big news, except that it took a dedicated effort from fans to get Nintendo to realize there’s a demand.

To me, there’s something very wrong when your customers have to beg you to make a product available to them and you, as a company, regularly refuse to do it. I’ve just never really understood Nintendo’s localization stance. As far as I can tell the first and only real bomb (sales-wise, it’s considered by many, me, to be a classic) of an RPG was the excellent Earthbound on the SNES, which had problems and these problems, not the quality of the actual game caused the poor sales (box size forced the game to not be easily displayed in standard display cases, the bizarre “This Game Stinks” ad campaign).

So, when fans wanted Mother 3 (Earthbound 2 in the U.S.) released in North America, Nintendo was all like “Hell no.” Which, I can see your point, Nintendo, I kind of get not wanting to release it. If I understood business a little better and we were going to use math and assign variables to stuff it would go something like: you don’t want to invest X amount to publish the game and only get Y back in sales.

Y – X < 0 = Somebody's getting fired. But, what I don't understand is how that investment amount of X can be so great that it's impossible to release these more niche titles over here without making a profit. Are your localization expenses that much bigger than other companies releasing comparable games? Is there no way to streamline the process? It just seems like you're throwing money down the drain if only you worked on the logistics of the process a bit. Isn't the localization cost negligible compared to the cost of developing a new game from scratch? Doesn't it bother you that you're sitting on a potential goldmine? Beyond the profit motivation, you're also depriving a whole lot of people great gaming experiences that, for the most part, they'll never, ever be able to play unless they learn Japanese. It's really sad to me, games like Mother 3 are gone forever (unless you pirate the ROM, download the English patch created by some of the more dedicated fans to the series). Other companies seem to make a pretty good living publishing niche Japanese games in North America. Xseed Games, for example. Or Nippon Ichi Software publishing their titles, stuff like Phantom Brave: We Meet Again which only sold about 100K copies, total. Namco’s Tales of the Abyss first week sales are almost 56K, which isn’t bad and I would say the Tales series is certainly niche. Atlus is another great example of a company doing this.

I mean, Super Paper Mario sold about 1.5M units and I can’t imagine The Last Story or Xenoblade Chronicles selling that much worse. Especially considering the Wii was a massive lack of quality RPGs and…well…a massive lack of anything coming out on it, at all.

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