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Note: This post was originally written on August 16, 2012 in response to the announcement of Rockman Xover. It was updated on October 13 with a slightly more general tone to reflect new developments since then. It is still focused on Mega Man as I still feel it best epitomizes everything wrong with Capcom today.
When I read the post on Destructoid about a new game called Rockman Xover, I got a pretty good laugh. I laughed because I totally saw it coming and a lot of people are upset that the all-important silver anniversary of Mega Man is going to be celebrated with what looks to be a trashy cell phone game. I'm usually not one to judge on early appearances, but there's precedent for this one not looking like it's going to be a barn burner, and even the venerable Tony Ponce agrees. I've gone on record multiple times playing devil's advocate for issues like this. This time, I see a solution. Hear me out, because it's not going to be easy.
A lot of commenters on that post and the original source they cited are understandably farty over this announcement, claiming that Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe were canned to make room for this and the infamous Mega Man X port on iOS, among other travesties, like they always do when a Mega Man thing is announced that isn't a new game. I think they're wrong, because Capcom made the right call pulling the plug on those projects when their hearts weren't in it. They know that a whole new game is too much for them to handle, so they don't do it. I'd rather have nothing at all if the developers would not have been proud of the result had they continued. For that reason, I tend to side with the developer when a game gets cancelled and I still do in these cases. I know what it's like to abort a project I invested a lot of time and effort into and how much it sucks, so I sympathize with the developer any time they announce a big cancellation. (Update: It's been suggested to me that their hearts actually were in it and it was cancelled because the executives wanted it dead, not the actual coders. If that's true, it doesn't change the points I'm about to make.)
It makes me churn a little when I see people not caring about the quality of a cancelled game because they just want to play it. They're the ones who enable Capcom to make sequels that do not need to be. But I'm getting off point. This isn't about sequels, it's about what led to this pitiful milestone release. This has been a long time coming, because for all the wrongdoing Capcom has been pulling the last few years, they got off relatively scot-free, if not a little worse for wear in reviews. Now that the big name developers and directors have bailed, maybe this is all they're capable of doing with Mega Man anymore. Predictably, early impressions for Rockman Xover are not looking good. Despite this, for the last few years, Capcom has gotten the idea that they can act with impunity because
1. The people who are boycotting or otherwise taking a stand against them aren't doing it right
2. There aren't enough people doing so
3. Sales figures are still counterbalancing any boycotting efforts
This is what happens when people don't properly punish a company that acts out of line. To this day, Capcom is getting money it should not be getting. Now everyone pays the price. By not completely starving Capcom of all profit, they are doing whatever they please and you all swallow it up (or so it seems to them anyway). When I say "you", I mean the gaming community as a whole, because the minority that knows what's what is being drowned out by the people who only talk in dollar signs. For all the people who complain, a few months later, Capcom announces some kind of remake or sequel of a series everyone used to like just to appease to the people calling them out. A shadow of their lofty greatness as opposed to the genuine article will restore their image, just like they did with Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and Darkstalkers and Marvel vs. Capcom recently, and no one learns a thing. Capcom will profit with this title (because Mega Man is still a big name franchise and "social RPGs" almost always make money) and the change that desperately needs to happen never will, because gamers are too short-sighted and selfish to effect any real change in the industry. If you don't like this, then buckle up because I'm going to tell you how to cause that change. And you have a lot of work to do.
I've observed something during this console generation which applies to every major gaming company that missteps more than a few times. No matter what happens, Capcom has enough diehard fans and casual fans who don't know any better to survive the worst beatings that those in the know have to offer. I recall the Wii version of Okami as a particular sticking point with the community at the time over failure to properly credit those involved in that port and even those who worked on the original game. Gamers took offense and a number of them vowed to boycott Capcom for their flagrant disrespect for the hard work of the individuals who worked on this game, but in the end, nothing happened. Okami on the Wii sold well enough and everyone forgot about it by the time the sequels came out. (Funny how Capcom's scramble to fix the infamous cover watermark was viewed as a token of respect before word of this got out.)
Earlier this year, there was a case regarding Dragon's Dogma where a junior developer was nearly driven to suicide, and people still bought the game even after the story broke. Whatever horrid working conditions caused that case live on because there's no incentive to change it -- that is, poor sales as a result of people boycotting Capcom out of principle, just like they didn't with Okami. Granted, this has more to do with Japanese business culture than Capcom and is on the same level as the people who refuse to shop at Walmart. I bet it happens all the time and this is a case that managed to make headlines. But since Capcom was outed for it, why not make an example of them?
After those missed opportunities to make a change, the failing I'm seeing is that gamers are saying Capcom should pay, but no one is doing anything to make them. People tell me that Capcom learned their lesson with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken in regard to mishandling gamers' trust with their money (free 2013 update to the latter notwithstanding), and they also tell me I'm silly for thinking Capcom needs even more punishment. Yeah, Capcom has learned its lesson, which is why they're still going at it with these half-hearted cash grabs and suboptimal working conditions. Isn't that right, Yoshinori Ono? How is anyone going to learn anything with that kind of attitude?
Actions speak louder than words, and for years I've been seeing a whole lot of words and barely any action. Forgive the hypocrisy on my part, but I can't do it alone. You can't do it. One person cannot do it. Nor can a hundred. Nor can a thousand. Nor can a hundred thousand, no matter how strong they all think they are as a group. VGChartz shows that Capcom-published games routinely push millions of copies, even the "bad" ones likeResident Evil 6 that still broke the one million barrier. That's how many people we need to do it. Capcom is big, and we need to be bigger. Gamers need to all stand up at once and give them the biggest middle finger a Japanese gaming company has ever seen for any change to happen, because we've been taking it in the rear for far too long.
Unfortunately, with the way the industry is set up now, no one can communicate to the most important game companies and tell them off directly, never mind foreign companies. Community websites and Facebook pages are only for advertising, not for feedback. Yeah, bad feedback on social media has pressed Capcom to say they are reconsidering how they'll handle DLC in the future, but that's just more words.
(Update about Resident Evil 6: I don't want to have to bring up the fact that it has on-disc DLC because development on it started long before Capcom made the claim that they'll rethink that policy. I don't care that the DLC is free; this should never have happened in the first place. That said, it was going to happen eventually, like all potential ways to abuse monetization schemes, so it just sucks that it had to be a company with such a fine pedigree as Capcom.)
Speaking of words, petitions mean squat. They imply support for a cause other than the surgical extraction of everything wrong with a company, which in Capcom's case is probably no longer feasible. Let me digress here for a moment: Suppose a petition does work. We get one game, maybe a handful, the signers wanted. Then what? Does the company change in any meaningful way as a result of listening to the fans? Are more games in their vein promised immediately regardless of sales and the company's current direction just because the fans made their voices known when they should not have needed to in the first place? Or do the fans wait and write up another petition for the next game they decide is worth more than the company decides it's worth? Given how long the petition process takes, I just don't think it's worth the effort and I'd rather see that effort bettering the industry rather than racing toward short-term gains.
That tangent aside, we need unprecedented backlash to make Capcom turn over a new leaf, because like everyone else, I desperately want this bad Capcom to go away forever and a good Capcom, oreventheoldCapcomthatdidcoolthingsinthelastconsolegenerationandbefore, to appear in its place. But Exy, you're being too hard on them! Why kill the whole company off? Capcom still does good stuff once in a while. I know. Capcom was very good just a few years ago. I know this because of the lengths they went to to spread Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars around the planet. No one saw it coming, and Capcom did everything they could to make it work, and it totally did. They fixed the original up and even threw in new characters just because. They listened, even though it wasn't the most anticipated game of its season, and now few people play it anymore. (I believe it's due to poor timing, but I'm told that it was because it was on the one console most of the target audience didn't have, but that's for another article.) I can't emphasize enough just how much of a miracle Ultimate All-Stars is, and I feel it's been wasted. Who knows how long it'll be before we see such a defiance of region boundaries again?
Then something happened and Capcom got greedy. I don't know what that something was or how long it took, but here we are. Whatever trace of good is left in the current Capcom is being overshadowed far too heavily by the bad. The way the industry is set up, we can't help them differentiate. If we buy only what we want and not what we don't want, we will get more of the good. "Voting with your wallet," as gamers like to say, regardless of how fundamentally broken that concept is. (Gotta write that rant sometime.) Unfortunately, too many people buy everything regardless if it's good or bad. Since the undiscerning gamers who make up a majority of the paying customer base aren't being reached, this ideal has no chance of success. The people who don't know any better are voting with their wallets as well, and their votes outnumber yours. I don't care about what the reports say about games held up by DLC and/or gems, games farmed out to subpar contractors, and ill-advised cell phone remakes not selling well. That they're being developed at all means something is wrong higher up. Kenji Inafune and Shinji Mikami and now Seth Killian all jumped ship just before and even during this all went down, and people still held hope. That's all gone now.
Speaking of regions, I need to go back to something that's very personal to me: Voting with your wallet. Sure, it works fine for the usual domestic competitions of highly-rated games versus not-so-highly rated mediocrity, but how do you vote for a game that's not even in the ballot? But first, how do democracies work? Correct me if I'm wrong, but a big part of it is being able to vote out the people who run a state badly and then vote in good people, yes? When was the last time that happened with a game company? Who's going to tell the CEOs who keep companies from being supportive of their customers to go away just because a few hundred thousand people on the internet think they're Jerky McJerkfaces? Does anyone even know what the names of those Capcom executives are? Are they as bad as Bobby Kotick or even worse? Let's ignore the fact that we non-Japanese gamers shouldn't even have any votes in a Japanese ballot, so to speak, or even the fact that I have yet to suggest giving this article to the Japanese since they matter more to Japanese companies like I usually do. The only thing that ousts bad executives is major scandal, and below-average sales is not an example of it. Super bad sales, sure, but there needs to be a string of those, or something really, really bad. I'm talking Virtual Boy bad. You're not going to be able to just vote the problematic executives out, the people who actually make development decisions--not with your wallet, not with Facebook petitions, and certainly not with your internet posts. If there is actually a way to vote executives out, by all means go do it right now. But get all the shareholders to vote with you while you're at it.
I'm assuming the reader of this article is not a Capcom shareholder, so to go back to my previous point, the next best thing is to coordinate a number of people comparable to Capcom's VGChartz numbers to make a difference. The best example I can think of that many gamers working together to remove a problematic individual from gaming is Jack Thompson, and he's never even worked for a gaming company! Countless people contributed to his demise, exposing his misinformed attitudes on gaming, wearing away at his reputation and possibly his mental state, and culminating in disbarment. Why can't we use that synergy to fix a gaming company? Probably because unlike Jack Thompson, gaming companies can distract gamers from their cause with a game. It works every single time, as the biggest American game companies can attest. But that's a whole different battle.
There's hope, however, assuming the problems with Capcom are really all about the money as opposed to any respect for the Mega Man name. A comment on the Destructoid post from Tubatic gave me an idea:
"I propose a year long Game Jam in which people make tons of Mega Man sidescrollers. It's the only way to revive and reclaim it, I think. Capcom just isn't going there."
To which I replied, why not go all the way? Not only do we stand up all together and tell Capcom off, we should blatantly tread all over their copyright and sell such games en masse to send the message that people are willing to pay for them, even if they don't come from Capcom. Capcom doesn't get to see a cent of that money for something that belongs to them. (They don't care about it, right? Is that what you're trying to say, Exy?) Gamers think they vote with their wallets, so I further propose that those people who are still deluded into thinking that gaming is a democracy vote for write-in candidates. Disgruntled fans with talent and a drive to see this franchise retake its place in the top game series of all time should steal the franchise and hold it for ransom. Then we'll see just how much Capcom cares about Mega Man. The fans would essentially be detaining Mega Man against his will, but better for fans to do that than Capcom.
This will only work if:
1. A lot of developers participate in selling Mega Man "tributes" for profit
2. None of those developers give any proceeds to Capcom for any reason, be it respect, hope for a new good game, or anything else
3. A balance between such projects made out of spite to Capcom and out of tough love to them is made
4. At least one of them sells big and the developer openly brags about all the money he's making from a Mega Man fan product
That last point is the most important. A handful of the best Mega Man fan works needs to make bank and have everyone know it. After seeing Rockman 4 Minus Infinity, I have faith in the indie and hacker communities to make games good enough for this to work. As an even more compelling proof of concept, fans decided to make a playable mock-up of Rockman Xover in Flash based on currently available media and assets just to spite Capcom. This is exactly what I envisioned: People taking the fight straight to Capcom and not to the online forums where anything of consequence rarely occurs.
It's like what the old Japanese proverb says--and I'm paraphrasing here so correct me if I'm off--if a whole lot of people all illegally cross the street, none of them can get in trouble because there's too many of them. The same mindset needs to be applied to this Game Jam idea to have any effect. It will end in either a lot of lawsuits, a lot of buyouts, or desperation on Capcom's part, but if it's construed as a mass rebellion, it's my best idea to get Capcom to panic and rethink their strategy. Some people suggest that Capcom should sell the rights to Mega Man to a company that cares more about it. If they take Mega Man games to the heights seen in the best ROM hacks and fan games, then I would be for it. But the problem of Capcom being Capcom would still exist. It would be a half-fix: Mega Man gets a chance at redemption, while Capcom just has one less franchise to work with. I would rather all of it be fixed at once.
Mega Man needs to be taken by force if it's to get any better. Of course, this is a horrible idea--mostly because Capcom always has their other departments to make up the slack, not just because it's stupidly illegal--but Capcom is clearly hurting for cash whether they actually need it or not, so let's hit them where it counts. The title of this post is about fixing Capcom, but I really think we need to tear them down. There are just too many issues with this Capcom to expect a few fixes to make everything right. If this Capcom falls, the shock will be felt throughout the entire industry, like when Sega stopped making consoles. Again, Capcom is big, but we are bigger.
The best legal way to do this, of course, is to boycott. Let me tell you how. Three steps.
A lot of customers have claimed over the years on news posts that they are through with Capcom for some mistake they made. To me, this means cutting off all financial support completely. It's simple, really. If they get any money, they win. They interpret that statement as meaning that their current strategy is profitable, so there's no incentive to change. What you need to do is say no. No more appeasements. No more second chances. No buying anything of theirs on Virtual Console or whatever. No buying incremental upgrades for fighting games just to stay competitive. Nothing. This step is the easiest, but it is by no means easy or even the most important, as I'll explain below.
The next step is the most overlooked: Don't just stop buying anything Mega Man or anything Capcom, make sure everyone else stops too. Urge random civilians everywhere, in game shops, online, at gaming meetups, not to support Capcom. Educate them. Maybe we'll get a fraction of the millions of people needed to change Capcom this way. It's our best chance. I would predict a great many of them won't listen or won't help, but if you really want Capcom to change, you won't let that slow you down. This is what I took issue with most with Operation Rainfall. Their primary goal wasn't about convincing the gaming community at large that there needs to be significant change to the localization process, but rather about getting three games that appeal to JRPG and Wii owners. Now that they have them, they're resting on their laurels. And now people are questioning if the effort was worth it. Like I said in my spiel about petitions above, they should be focusing their efforts on fixing the industry, ideally from the inside out, not begging to it. Don't make their mistake -- Remember, this isn't about Mega Man, it's about the industry. Get everyone you can to join your cause. There is a lot more at stake here than a bunch of cancelled games and a hideous iOS "anniversary celebration." Why should we still have to expect mediocrity at this point? How can any of you get excited for Ace Attorney 5 when we're missing an entire game of investigating? Maybe it wasn't that great, but on principle we still should have seen a glimpse of it anyway.
Now here's the hardest--and most important--part: Stand strong and don't buy anything from Capcom, no matter how good the games are. It sounds like I'm repeating myself at this point, but this is where a great majority of boycotts fail: The boycotters let themselves be won over by announcements of new games. A lot of would-be boycotters don't seem to understand that getting excited for a new release is the opposite of a boycott. Still others hold the "Damn you Capcom, I want to boycott you so stop releasing games I'm going to buy" mentality. Even if tongue-in-cheek, that mentality is pushing us two steps back for every step forward. Then the whole process starts anew. Enough is enough. Say you're going to boycott Capcom, then stick to your guns. Resist the temptation to give them a dime. Give that money to talented fans instead, just as long as that money doesn't end up in Capcom's bank account. This isn't a vote, it's a protest.
When a boycott is done right, it hurts the executives and the other people poisoning the company from within, but it also hurts the programmers, it hurts the artists, it hurts the musicians, and most of all, it hurts you. It's sad and unfair to the hard-working employees and maybe even to you, the Capcom fan or ex-fan, but it's the only way -- after all, this is what boycotts do. There's going to be a lot of collateral damage, but it's that or allow Capcom to destroy themselves. This Capcom needs to know the suffering everyone involved had to put up with for years. Think about what they've gotten away with, all the people they hurt, all the disappointments and the times they cheated you, because they are not. No matter how painful it is for you, hurt them hard. Show no mercy, for they have none. If they announce a new game, hurt them by not caring. When the new game is released, hurt them by stifling week one sales. When DLC is announced, hurt them by not buying it. Every time this happens, hurt them again and again. Once they're on their knees begging for another chance, hurt them more. Hurt them because you love them. If you really care about Mega Man, then hurt Capcom for all the times they hurt Mega Man. If you love Street Fighter or Resident Evil or Devil May Cry or what have you, hurt them for what they did to those series. Hurt them for every old Capcom series you love that has not been given a chance this generation. If you care about Capcom, hurt them for all the times they hurt their customers and their employees. Hurt them nonstop until their bad influences are completely driven out, and then we can rebuild with whatever's left. Hopefully, the affected programmers and artists and musicians will take Kenji Inafune and Shinji Mikami's lead and find better companies that are more than willing to take them in, and then they can hurt Capcom as well. For all I know, maybe that's what a lot of them want. If you're a Capcom employee or ex-employee and you're reading this, I'm sorry if it made you feel bad. Most likely, this isn't your fault. But I'm not one for third chances.
If it sounds like I'm saying Capcom is beyond hope, notice how I've been using the term "this Capcom" throughout this post. I believe this Capcom has been corrupted from the one I grew up with, the old one I mentioned earlier. I don't like this Capcom and it pains me to see Capcom fans supporting them. This Capcom is not Capcom. This Capcom is the enemy. This Capcom did not give the world Mega Man X, Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 4, or Mega Man Legends. Instead, this Capcom gave us Mega Man X on iOS, Street Fighter X Tekken, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, and now Rockman Xover. This Capcom would never have given us Ultimate All-Stars. The only thing that will stop it is a mercy killing, not just a mild prolonged sting.
If Capcom dies tomorrow, then we can start talking recovery tomorrow. Clearly, no one at Capcom is listening now. If alarmingly low sales is what they need to reconsider anything they're doing, then so be it. Something is seriously wrong with Capcom and it's not going away without a fight. We can only claim victory once the people who made Capcom what it is now leave Capcom forever, or ideally, retire from the game industry forever. Once they're gone, only then will Capcom be able to find new direction, pick up the pieces, and win any fans back for good. It will be a slow, grueling process, but it can happen. It can happen when everyone in the world wants it to happen. I want it to happen. Let's make it happen. And if you don't want to shoulder that responsibility, don't interfere with the people who want this Capcom to perish.
But of course, none of this is going to work. I'm just as ineffectual at getting millions of people around the world to listen as the best games writers are, and that's to say nothing of speaking to Japanese gamers, even if some of them do agree already that this game is the beginning of the end. And for that, I am truly sorry. I'm sorry for wasting your time with bitter rambling and dangerous ideas. I'm just as naive as everyone else involved. I've asked too many questions and the few answers I gave are not very encouraging, but I felt they had to be said. I don't know if any of this has a chance of reaching out to the people who can fix Capcom or can get enough people to get the process started. All I know is this: Capcom used to be good. Now they are not. I refuse to accept that this Capcom is Capcom. They are an evil that must be slain by any means necessary. Boycotting is so hip these days, but no one knows how to do it anymore. Until they learn, everything is for naught.
All things considered, this is probably not the last straw for the fraction of the fanbase that can make this plan go, which is truly tragic since this means that this sad story will only continue. But once you've decided that enough is enough, this article will be here for you. I've said it too many times already, but things will get worse before they get better, and they need to. If you don't think so, if you want to show me that not everyone has to suffer to make things right, if you want to be the change, then prove me wrong. I beg you. But at the end of the day, the real question is this: What is it going to take for gamers to snap and take an actual stand? How much lower can Capcom go? What will Capcom at its most pathetic look like? Are they really getting close to hitting rock bottom? I don't want to think about the answers to these questions. I want them solved before we ever get there. But then again, I am naive.
Note 1: For the record, I just want to say that I'm not the sort who cares very much for milestones and anniversaries. They're great when a game released on an anniversary happens to be very good because we humans like assigning sentimental importance to nice, round numbers, but the pressure to not miss anniversaries for frankly unimportant things is like a big arbitrary deadline. I bet Nintendo did nothing for Metroid's big one this year because they didn't have anything good to offer in time. Better that than, say, Other M part 2.
Note 2: I don't want to suggest that you bomb Amazon and Metacritic reviews with unfairly low scores for legitimately good games because I think that's extremely petty and unproductive, but if that actually hurts them, don't let me stop you.
The past few months have seen a PR fiasco unlike any other. A throng of fans banding under the name Operation Rainfall have decided that they want a select three games because Nintendo has not delivered on their word to bring it over sooner. Their efforts have brought out the absolute worst in irrational fans with a scant few trying to keep them in check. Despite that, it's never going to work. I've been sitting on this post for some time since I heard about Operation Rainfall, but now that Nintendo of Europe is lording it over us poor, poor American gamers, it's a perfect time to get it off my chest. While the majority sees this as a group of concerned gamers trying to reach out to a company, I see it as a subset of Western gamers waging war on a subset of Eastern gamers. And frankly, it won't end well for either side.
The illusion of democracy This movement and others like it operate under the assumption that the relationship between gamers and companies is democratic. In an ideal world, that would indeed be how the business worked. Gamers speak, game makers listen. That's how it's supposed to go. Instead, neither is happening: Gamers are screaming and game makers are turning a deaf ear. As you will see on any of Nintendo's social network profiles, the vast majority of gamers affected by this don't see a business opportunity, but rather an enemy. Nintendo is the devil for not giving them what they ask for. Not allowing them to give them their money, as a lot of them like to put it. There has been a breakdown in communication and the only way to solve it is to write letters and compare them to Justin Bieber.
There are, unfortunately for them, two fallacies with this thinking. The first is that the hardcore fans that comprise these movements don't realize is they are not the majority they think they are. Nintendo's fanbase is composed largely of the dreaded casuals who aren't aware of the pressing issues that sites like this report on so heavily. With Nintendo, much of their customer base is unaware of the problems plaguing their hardware and software. (I have plenty of grievances against them myself, but that's for another post.) The hardest part for them to accept is that even though they're the most aware of what makes the gaming industry work, they are the minority of the total number of gamers. To put it in perspective, Operation Rainfall has 2860 followers on Twitter and 8522 people on their Facebook page as of this writing. Nintendo of America has 133730 followers and 296621 on their Facebook page. If Operation Rainfall is to be taken seriously by the people who matter, they need to expand and fast. They need to compete directly against Nintendo for the market share that the latter adores so much. They need to convince the casuals that outnumber them. If the true majority speaks out, I guarantee you that Nintendo will actually listen. A PSA isn't going to cut it. Some nobody with a webcam and the gall to wave cash in front of it isn't going to change any minds at Nintendo. Despite what anyone says, Nintendo's number one demographic is still younger gamers and their parents. The only thing they know about boycotts is that a bunch of dudes dumped crates of tea into the river and became a nation. This is no way to get anything done in this industry.
In the case of decidedly hardcore companies like Activision and Ubisoft, petitions against things like bad DRM work because it actually is a majority of their customers making those outrages. Companies like Capcom, Valve, and Atlus, which are famed for their attention toward their respective fanbases, are in fact comprised almost exclusively of the hardcores that populate sites like this. (In Capcom's case, it's arguable, but that's for another post.) They're fully aware of any backlash and do whatever they can to fix it whenever they're in the mood to. And yet, they don't always do what we ask them for one reason or another. Worse yet, they are the exception, not the rule. They only exist for hardcores, who, as I've said before, are the minority in this climate of phone games and casual throwaway titles. Make no mistake, I have nothing against petitions for bad business decisions like abusive DRM. In this case, this is a decision that has a lot more to do with freedom. It has to do with demographics, which leads me to my next point.
Excel-2011 goes political The second problem is that these fans are the most selfish, ungrateful, myopic, inconsiderate gamers on the planet. I see right through the purpose of these supposed grassroots movements. They don't care about Nintendo's future or allowing them to take their money. They just want three games they think they deserve just because they're loyal customers. You would think such loyal fans would do anything to meet their favorite company halfway. Sadly, all they can think to do when there's a misunderstanding is shout and spit and cry. While Operation Rainfall puts up an air of pretentiousness to distance themselves from the babies, the people that make up the rest of the operation do not hesitate to threaten to violate Nintendo's intellectual property rights if their demands aren't met. What you probably don't know is that the organizers behind the operation are no better than their constituents. They're just as selfish, except they let others revel in their delusions. Their stated goal is to convince Nintendo of America to bring notable titles to the worldwide markets. Who is anyone to decide what titles are "notable"? They see something that looks cool to them and sit around waiting for the big announcement that they can play too. When it doesn't come, rather than accept that Nintendo decided it wasn't a risk worth taking, they declare war. This isn't the first time it's happened, and yet Operation Rainfall has thousands of supporters even from people who don't need it. They have successfully manipulated thousands of people into putting aside their rationality. They won't stop until the entire world knows that they are starting a revolution.
What all of these fan movements fail to do is consider the other side of the equation, what their enemy thinks about them. Running a business is a very difficult thing. Running an international business is even harder. Do you honestly believe Nintendo of America would announce that they would publish some Japanese games and then turn back on their word after seeing the support for it? Do you really think they're trying to spite you? There could very well be some bigger force at work that's conspiring against them to not release it right away that doesn't exist in Europe. It could be plain old incompetence or it could be some legitimate issue that they can't disclose. Even after acknowledging the outcry and turning the other cheek on Facebook and their mailboxes, Nintendo will not hear the end of it. They're the real victim here, not the gamers who feel betrayed. Here's the key: Nintendo did not betray you. They did not ever "join" you in the first place. No matter how hardcore you are, you're just another customer who can't give more than $50 at a time for a single title. Which is worth more? A dollar from a hardcore supporting Operation Rainfail, or a dollar from a casual gamer who has never played an RPG in his life? Whether they think badly of Nintendo or not, a dollar is a dollar. That's all that matters.
Gamers want nothing more than to be heard by the game companies. They want to be pampered and given what they want, when they want it. Social media has so far not gotten us anywhere close to that ideal. If the game industry is to ideally be a democracy, we are heading the wrong way fast. Petitions should not be the norm as Operation Moonfall is looking to be. In a real democracy, interest groups are often ignored or ridiculed if their motives aren't in line with common sentiments. Here, they get unanimous support if they aren't 100% insane. We have "operations" that fashion themselves after subversive groups looking to effect change from the ground up by any means necessary. This isn't a compliment; that they think this is the only way to get things done is a very sad thing. I am frankly afraid that Operation Rainfall has gotten as far as it has. Should it succeed, it will set a very bad precedent. It will show that the minority of hardcore gamers get what they want, regardless of whether it is in the best interest of the companies they fight so hard. More importantly, it will show that being irrational and naive to the larger workings of an international corporation really is the way to get products. They think that just offering money is the solution. They honestly believe it's that simple. Sadly, it costs money to earn money. Nintendo of America has decided that it's not worth the financial risk that localizing these relatively unknown games requires. They have determined that their customer base neither needs nor wants this game, simply because the part of it that matters hasn't made a stance on it. It's fortunate that Nintendo of Europe didn't think so, but I'll get to that later. Nintendo of America claims it will track sales of Monado in Europe, but when was the last time that correlated to potential American sales?
Something to think about I've talked a lot about the Western demographic, so here's a question about the other side to mix it up: When was the last time a group of Japanese gamers clamored for the release of a Western game in Japan? How is it that Japanese gamers are content with what they have and we Westerners bicker amongst ourselves over whether we deserve any of what they have? Is it really right for Japanese companies to listen to their customers who are right there next to them and mistreat the Americans just because their American branch isn't doing their job?
An aside: Region locking A lot of people hate region locking, and with good reason, not least of which is that the successors of systems that did not feature it now enforce it with an iron fist. The real reason for its continued existence evades many gamers who, as I've said, are selfish. They don't consider the economic or political justifications for region locking, notwithstanding the taking away of freedom from one generation to the next. They just see it as another weapon pointed at them to keep them from enjoying something that wasn't made for them. Sure, those reasons may not be good ones. DRM is a complicated affair under the hood, whereas region locks are a single line of code (so to speak) in software that can be set on and off at the publisher's whim, as proven by the handful of region-free releases on the Xbox 360 and the region-unlocking solutions effected by hackers. If that's the case, why keep them? Why not just erase them and let the money flow in from all over the world? Why keep fighting the hackers who will eventually get their way in order to get less money? Heck, why not go all out and make every single game be released internationally at the same time?
Off the top of my head, I can think of two reasons. You've probably heard them before and think they're a load of crap, but I feel the need to bring them up as they are relevant to my next points. I don't claim to know a thing about economics, but I would think that keeping domestic income in its own region rather than allowing it to cross borders and be subject to conversion fees is better for all involved, not least of which is a regional branch of a Japanese company. The second is that keeping regional releases in markets made for them ensures that nobody is accidentally sold the wrong regional version of a game. It can happen, especially on the internet. Differences in culture and social mores are far too vast to risk violating by releasing games internationally without any consideration. You may not mind or even actually know the original language, but, as mentioned, you're the minority. Nintendo is not willing to take that risk on you. Region locking is one step toward ensuring that people in a given region don't see what they don't need to see. It may not be the best solution, but no one has proposed an alternative. I would like to point out that I hate region locking as much as anyone, but I can at least respect why they're there.
On the issue of importing, there are those who also pledge that they will buy an import version of the games. Unfortunately for them, this is equally futile, as import markups benefit only import dealers. It may help your conscious, but when has moral fiber ever made any money? The money also goes to foreign developers, and even then it's a fraction of what you paid; not a cent goes to the people who actually need to see that money. They're willing to accept a foreign product rather than canvass for support for something that they don't have to jump through hoops to get. Should we be willing to subject ourselves to breaking the law just to play a video game? Yes, the import numbers can be a powerful figure, especially when a company decides to take a risk by making their game region-free. But Western stores generally don't market region-free games from overseas despite it being playable on Western systems. So the customers who want them still have to go through the extra trouble of paying extra for a game they will have no trouble playing just because it's not made for their market. Why do you suppose this is? Why, in an age where everyone is aware of every culture in the world, do game companies still have to worry about regions? Do you think game companies like how they have to go through the trouble of making multiple versions of the same game for different languages even when it may not be necessary? Why does Nintendo and Microsoft have to put up with anti-region locking sentiment? (Sony region-locks too, but they do it in a way that happens to keep them out of this debate.) Do you really think they're the ones you should be fighting about this? I believe there is a much bigger force that is conspiring to keep region locking in place, but no one can see them. No one wants to look at the big picture, so they continue to attack the people doing the region-locking instead of the people making them do the region-locking. I can go on, but this is a post for people being immature about three specific games, not a general practice.
How to get your way As far as money goes, in order to effect any real change, we have to communicate to the decision makers. As you might have guessed, they only speak in terms of income, not social media trends or fan voices because history has shown that they don't always correlate to income. Your first instinct is to "vote with your wallet." Therefore, there are three ways to "vote": Buy, don't buy, or pirate. Two of these options gets you what you want. Two of them leave the company worse off. One of them does neither. It's impossible to count sales that were not made. The only numbers that can be calculated are legitimate copies and illegitimate copies. In a real democracy, constituents can pick and choose which issues they want to voice their opinions on. In a commercial industry, you're either all for or all against a company. That is the real problem with these movements. Not buying is the obvious choice, but there aren't enough people for that option to make an appreciable mark on sales records. It's a self-defeating strategy.
But let's assume that's not the case. The only way to speak out to Nintendo is to, as some members of this site put it, "not reward bad behavior." Fully cutting off your support to Nintendo, financially or otherwise, is the only real way to speak to the people holding the money, and therefore power, in the company. You have to show them that if you don't get what you want, you will give your money to someone else who will. It's been said before, but this is how real boycotts work. If you still support them by buying other Nintendo-published products, you accomplish absolutely nothing. Flinging complaints, slurs, and slander over their social media gates also does nothing for you, since bad PR hasn't stopped Nintendo from making any decisions in the past. They've made good and bad decisions in the past, and a large majority of them had nothing to do with what you had to say, only what you wanted to pay for.
This is enough for the more sensible people, but I want to challenge them to go one further. Speak out to the people who really matter. Take it to the Japanese branches. Learn Japanese and play the games the way they were meant to be played. With some exceptions, Japanese gamers matter more to Japanese companies than gamers from other regions. They turn to them first for input on their design decisions and wonder later why the prospective American customers hate the changes. They're generally better about it now, but there is still a massive barrier that no one is willing to overcome. Those who do are still only the exception. They aren't setting an example. There aren't more than a handful of Cave Co., Ltd.s in the world in 2011. I'm going to leave it to you to figure out why.
A hint that's lost on you As a technically concerned gamer, I have one other solution for the guys who think petitioning an old-fashioned company is going to work, and it's one that goes back at least a decade. Mother 3 is a game that, despite much demand from overseas, has never been considered for release even by Nintendo of Europe. As ruthless as the Mother fan community can be, they knew that after years of crying about it, that wouldn't get their holy grail to them any sooner. What did they do? They took it into their own hands. They made a frankly marvelous translation patch and released it into the wild for all to enjoy, and they did it without shedding a single drop of blood.
Fatal Frame IV is the same story. It was supposed to be released in Europe, but a fallout between Nintendo and Tecmo had those plans fall through. Did the Fatal Frame community start a minor firestorm over that? God, no. They made a translation patch of their own and went out of their way to ensure it would only work with legal copies and any kind of Wii, modified or not. Countless other games that fans in America and Europe think they want were translated by other fans who were willing to cross legal boundaries to bring back a treasure.
This is, in my opinion, the right way to get what you want. Nintendo failed two sizable communities but didn't get any harsh PR for it. Those communities knew that Nintendo doesn't care about them or their money, so they didn't care for what they thought either. They supported themselves and even made sure that money went to Nintendo anyway for trying. I personally think that last part doesn't help matters any, but at least they aren't greedy about their work. Heck, even Pokémon Black and White got translation patches for the Japanese ROMs well before the English versions were released, and they didn't even have to. It's illegal, but they didn't want to wait, so they didn't.
So where are the translation patches for Xenoblade Chronicles, Pandora's Tower, and The Last Story? Why did no one even attempt to beat Nintendo to the punch for their sake? Why did the community resort to throwing tantrums? Why is Operation Rainfall not taking a stronger anti-piracy stance when so many of its supporters are pledging to do exactly that? Because the periphery for Mistwalker's fanbase is selfish. They don't want to find a champion that will get them what they want despite Nintendo. They think that only official action will do it. They don't want to show Nintendo that it could be done. They expect that saying they'll buy an English version will do it rather than show them that they will support an actual thing. They aren't giving their support to an alternative group of workers. They are supporting only a group of dreamers. Granted, as a technically concerned gamer, I am confident that someone will come up with a region unlocker homebrew that will run European copies of Monado in a similar fashion to Fatal Frame IV within hours of its release, but again, it won't help Nintendo of America one bit. It certainly won't help Operation Rainfall, who have stated that not only do they hate homebrew, their goal is an NTSC release, not a PAL release. They cannot be happy that Europe is getting something we still don't have just because they don't have it too.
Why Operation Rainfall must not succeed The only way to speak to the decision makers is to realize that business is all or nothing. Failing that, invent an alternative and support that. I would personally have you learn Japanese and never worry about a company deciding to bring a game or three you want in a package that's convenient for you. But all of that is too much work for you, isn't it? You can't just change all of your ways and think of the other side for a change, can you? You want to continue this war until Nintendo gets it. You don't want to back down now. You can't even think a little about why region locking still exists in 2011 before assuming that Japan hates you. Europe gets one nice thing for once in their entire miserable gaming history and rather than be happy about it, you're consumed with jealousy. You want more. You want to be equal. America built its history on complaining that things aren't right and you don't want to turn back on that legacy. I'm afraid that's not how life works. That's not how this industry works. You're either for or against Nintendo in this case, and a large number of the combatants are lukewarm. They want very badly for Nintendo to deliver, but they will still support them until they do. What kind of movement is this, again? I find it hard to believe so much is at stake when not nearly enough people are taking this movement seriously enough to realize this.
Even if Operation Rainfall goes absolutely perfectly and follows the above plan by holding their support to Nintendo hostage until their demands are met, they're still only a small fraction of Nintendo's customers. If you feel offended that I'm insinuating that you are one of the irrational people who shout before they think, I would like to remind you that you are the minority. The vast majority of people being heard are the ones typing in all caps why Nintendo sucks and that they're going to pirate and be proud of it, neener neener. There is nothing that can be done for them. Sadly, they're the ones representing your movement, not Operation Rainfall. They're the ones on the front lines disregarding Operation Rainfall's tiny notice to not pirate. They're the ones calling Nintendo the enemy. They're the ones who make it on the news. If Operation Rainfall succeeds, these fans are the ones who are going to take the credit. I shudder to think that they'll take the credit for making Nintendo do something they were going to do in the first place but weren't able to at the time the fans wanted. It won't be a victory for mistreated fans. It will be a victory for greedy fans.
YOUR FAULT We've gotten to the point where when one promise is broken, dreams are shattered. It makes so much sense for Nintendo to publish three little games, and yet they don't. Rather than think about what reasons they have for doing so, we call bloody murder and throw fits on the internet. We have to resort to full-scale campaigns just to get something that we obviously should have gotten years ago or even games that we shouldn't get due to real quality concerns by the developers. This is some democracy we gamers have built. Countless people are proudly proclaiming that they are going to pirate without regard for the consequences. They claim that Nintendo forced them to turn to crime just so they can play some games. This is obviously not true; no one has forced you to do anything. But no one listens, and the war rages on. So who is to blame for this? Who allowed the state of gaming to get to the point where we have to petition in the first place? Who is the real enemy here?
Everyone. Everyone in the world, without exception. I blame Mistwalker for acknowledging the international support and starting this whole mess. I blame Nintendo of Japan for not being built to handle this kind of feedback. I blame Nintendo of America for that Facebook post that fanned the flames to record highs. I blame Destructoid and all other sites like this for encouraging the poor behavior on the part of the fans. I blame the fans for not knowing better. I blame Nintendo's shareholders for not sharing the fans' opinions on this matter. I blame whoever thought region locks were a good idea, and I'm 100% positive that they aren't involved in video games. I blame fan translators for taking away incentive to learn the original language. I blame you personally for being a part of the problem. But most importantly, I blame myself for not noticing any of this sooner. The problems that led to this are far too advanced to do anything about them now. Despite what I or anyone else who thinks as I do say, there will still be unstoppable crowds of complainers at Nintendo's door and there will still be petitions organized by idealists who still don't get it. They never will. They're too set in their greedy ways to sympathize with Nintendo's problems, instead content with savaging them for falling off their pedestal. They're all fighting the wrong fight and nothing can be done to set them on the right track. Somewhere along the line, things got out of hand and nobody did a thing about it. It's simply too little too late.
Therefore, my message to you, the reader, is this: Give it up. Just stop. You do not matter as much as you think. Nintendo will survive despite you. They don't care about you, so you should not care about them. Be thankful that we got anything at all from Japan while they fear us mighty Westerners so much. I would say that you should either get supporters from a demographic that matters or do Nintendo's job for them since they obviously won't, but that's not going to happen. Not on a site like this, where not even my older brother, who is much more hardcore than me, dare tread. It's a lost cause. Just let it go. Let these titles stay in Japan, where they belong. Just cut your losses and be happy for someone else for a change. You'll live longer if you do. If we were truly meant to get these games, we will. Nintendo is not stupid. We don't need to petition. We need to be adults. And if you still can't accept that message, these fellows said it much better than I ever could.
La-Mulana is one of the few upcoming games I'm looking forward to. Fortunately, I discovered just in time that the developers were holding a Ustream of their panel at the Tokyo Game Show, which I was able to capture and put on YouTube. Regrettably, I was not able to save the chat, which brought up a few points I didn't record.
Hell Temple is DLC. No price or release date has been set at this time.
The bosses shown are drastically updated.
Mantras are accessible from the pause screen.
Many more traps in previously safe areas.
Release date is targeted for this year.
Some people actually asked me if I ever got my copies of Sakura Wars 1-4 to run. After discussing it with a professional, we concluded that my Dreamcast had somehow lost the ability to execute signed code, meaning I had to get another. Luckily, a local used game store had a bunch of Dreamcast stuff at very reasonable prices. A few solder points and burned discs later and I'm now in the possession of a Japanese Dreamcast with a black swirl in its boot-up splash, two controllers, a giant box with 10 discs I can actually play now and some of my favorites from back in the day: NBA Showtime, Power Stone 2 and Ready 2 Rumble (only the demo of which I actually played in the past). However, that soldering turned out to be completely pointless since I still need a boot disc to run imports for more than ten minutes. What's all that about? I could change its region back to American, but I'm not going through all of that unscrewing again any time soon, especially since now I sometimes have to close the disc door twice to get the drive to spin. Anyway, to justify this blog I guess I'll write up some (re-)impressions.
Sakura Wars isn't an entirely new experience for me. My Social Link training is coming into play here, but I'm less than an hour in and already I'm beginning to see why people appreciate it. In Persona 3 and other dating sim-like games, I'm inclined to do the engineer thing and carefully consider every option given when I'm presented with a branch instead of answering impulsively like I think I should. Here, I don't get that opportunity. If you haven't been following the news of the English release, when you encounter a dialogue option, you get only a few seconds (3-10) to think about what you say. You're always on your toes and always under pressure because the more important ones take you by surprise. The LIPS system as it's known is quite flexible, as demonstrated very early on: in one event, I found myself at the door of the dressing room looking for one of the performers of a play about to open. I was given a single choice: open the door. I did the gentlemanly thing and waited out the 10 seconds until it went away and was rewarded for it. I can't wait to see what combat is like, but to play it I need to have my laptop next to my television because I'm not printing out 100 pages and flipping through them like a madman. I recently had to change out the power strip to one with only six plugs instead of seven and my laptop battery will last for all of three seconds (literally), so until I come up with a workaround for all of that, it will have to wait just a little longer. Time will tell if this was worth the effort.
For whatever reason, NBA Showtime, or as I've always known it, NBA on NBC, was always my favorite sports game. There's nothing remarkable about it: it's your standard 2-on-2 basketball game with a character editor. It's no different now. I think what captivated me a decade ago was its commercial tie-in. I thought the idea of playing something based on a non-fictional television show was the coolest thing. The inclusion of all of the NBC markings and voices ("This is the NBA on NBC") strengthened that impression. It just seemed so authentic and real back in the day despite the fact that my older brother always played an emaciated horse man nicknamed "Phat". I remember one time my little sister tried playing it. She held the controller upside-down and managed to score a 3-point shot. How broken is that?
Power Stone 2 is just as chaotic as I remember, even on single-player. I still find it a little hard to believe that it actually came out in the arcades because it feels much more at home on a console. I hear that there's a PSP compilation that combines this and the first game out now, but I have yet to come across it. All I know about the first game is that the players get five lifebars instead of just one.
I can't believe that someone at Midway thought that a single first-person camera for a two-player game would be a good idea. Ready 2 Rumble becomes a very interesting experience when only one of you can actually see your fighter. It might be one of the few second-person games in existence. Also, don't try maximizing the time and round count to the regulation setting of 12 three-minute rounds because odds are you won't make it to the second round if you don't fully remember how to play. I've heard nothing but bad things about the Wii remake and I'm guessing that's because this is just Fight Night for Morons with one analog stick and a single memorable character: Afro Thunder.
I wanted to just post this in the forum, but since I've posted a blog about Card Sagas Wars preview videos in the past, I figured I should follow with another. This video shows that more of the cards in the frankly impressive gallery than previously thought will be in the game. In particular, the Green Series cards, none of which have gallery entries yet, are demonstrated as strikers that can be triggered after sustaining damage. This mechanic finally explains what the letters on the cards refer to: they indicate the strength of supporting attacks by that card. Earlier updates explain that combos and special attacks are done by inputting very simple button commands, making it more like a party fighter and less traditional. I don't think MUGEN has ever been implemented this way. Its release cannot come soon enough.
The last five seconds of the video are golden. Also, I call dibs on Soma Cruz.