Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference generated plenty of talk with the announcement of the company’s forthcoming new console, called Wii U, but that system isn’t due out until sometime in mid-2012. That leaves the Wii as the company’s representative in the home console market for an entire year, and talking about the Wii U and what it promises won’t keep gamers occupied for that long.
Unfortunately, Nintendo didn’t really give the impression they had much to support the Wii with during this period. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is coming this holiday season (yay!), and Mario Party 9 was announced (yay?), but that’s about it, at least for North America. The thing is, Nintendo has games that they could be releasing over here for the system, and easily. They just aren’t.
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Take Xenoblade Chronicles, for example. This is a first-party developed game from Nintendo’s own Monolith Soft studio.
The RPG was released a year ago in Japan to great critical and commercial success, receiving a 36/40 review score from Famitsu, and selling over 150,000 copies. By all accounts the game is well made and beautiful.
Most offensively, the game is coming to Europe this September. In other words: Nintendo of Europe has already gone to the trouble of translating the game to English. If it weren’t for the fact that the Wii is region locked, English speaking North Americans could be playing it in just three months.
Another RPG currently denied North Americans is The Last Story. This one was developed by third party Mistwalker, but was published by Nintendo in Japan.
Like Xenoblade, The Last Story is beautiful. In fact, it boasts design work from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi himself. It received even higher critical praise in Japan, taking a 38/40 from Famitsu.
This one has admittedly not made its way to Europe, which means if Nintendo wanted to release the game in North America, they’d have to go through the seemingly egregious process of actually translating it.
The final game I want to highlight is Pandora’s Tower. This action RPG was developed by Ganbarion, but is another one seemingly cursed by Nintendo’s position as publisher. It was released in Japan in May.
Pandora’s Tower got a 31/40 from Famitsu and looks pretty cool. The game caught my attention with its storyline: a cursed woman named Ceres needs to be fed beast flesh harvested from animals in the towers of the game to stop her from turning into a beast herself.
Without a Western release, I will seemingly be prevented from ever getting the poor girl her beast flesh. Then what, Nintendo? Then what?
Sadly, the three games highlighted above are not even all the games North Americans have missed out on over the course of the Wii’s lifespan, they’re just the most recent and most notable. Disaster: Day of Crisis was another game developed internally at Monolith Soft. It was even shown off at the Wii’s E3 debut in 2006 and released in both Europe and Australia. Fatal Frame IV, developed by Tecmo and published by Nintendo, came out in Japan in 2008. The fourth installment in the popular survival horror franchise never made its way to other regions. Then in February of 2010, Japan got its hands on the Nintendo-published action game Zangeki no Reginleiv. Alright, so this one only received mixed reviews, but it reportedly holds serious appeal for hack ‘n’ slash fans.
As demonstrated, Nintendo of America has a disturbing habit of failing to release Nintendo-made and/or Nintendo-published games that other regions have already long since played.
The strangest thing is, there’s no clear reason for it. These games are done. In some cases, they’ve even already been translated into English. The major costs have been incurred, all that’s left is to print the games and ship them to retailers.
It’s arguable that none of the titles I’ve mentioned today would be especially great sellers, though, depending upon word of mouth among the enthusiast crowd, they could put up respectable numbers. Publisher Atlus, for example, makes a tidy profit bringing niche Japanese games to the West all the time. Even if the games were to only break even for Nintendo, there would still be a clear benefit in keeping Wii owners happy with a steady flow of games and maintaining mind share among those who follow releases. People who liked your last console tend to be more interested in your next one.
To address Nintendo directly: I’ve got money and I want to spend it on games, you want my money and you want to sell me games. What’s the problem exactly?
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