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.
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
Welcome to the minority.