“Why do you hate money, Nintendo?”

Sound familiar? It’s a phrase repeated by many Nintendo fans when it comes to obscure games staying in Japan, or the lack of a new sequel to a beloved franchise. Efforts to show Nintendo the fan interest in an un-localized game usually have this question at their core. Fans want to give Nintendo money for these games, and they’re dedicated to their cause.

But the unfortunate truth is those fans often aren’t as numerous as they believe, as Chris Pranger of Nintendo Treehouse pointed out in an interview with Part Time Gamers Podcast. Chris said it’s “the hardest thing for everyone to understand and accept. People think […] what they like or dislike has to be the norm.”

“People think […] what they like or dislike has to be the norm.”

Titles like the quirky Captain Rainbow are an example of how a group can have a big voice when it comes to localization, but the costs don’t warrant the small fanbase. Captain Rainbow, as Chris pointed out, is “very Japanese.” The game would sell within its small fanbase, but likely not outside it. Therefore, the costs of localizing would likely eat any profits from sales. It would be a “colossal waste” because the fans “don’t make up a big enough group.”

Xenoblade Chronicles was another game that would have stayed in Japan if Nintendo of Europe hadn’t committed to most of the localization costs. Fans of the game will know its amount of text and voice acting is typical of big JRPG’s, and those sorts of costs weren’t within Nintendo of America’s ability given the limited interest outside of groups like Operation Rainfall.

Xenoblade Chronicles battle screenshot

“Hundreds of hours, all voiced. That’s a lot of money that goes into that,” Chris explained. “That game is not the type of game that just pulls in enough to justify the costs on that.” He went on to say, “We got it in the States by luck,” when Nintendo of Europe took on the localization and marketing. As a result, Nintendo of Europe ate most of the costs.

It’s hard to say if Xenoblade Chronicle’s localization was worth the costs. Surely the inclusion of Shulk in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U, and the game’s port to the New Nintendo 3DS is a sign that enough fans care about the franchise. The sequel Xenoblade Chronicles X was released in Japan on April 29, and it will be arriving elsewhere on December 4 — no doubt bringing with it the same costs, if not more. Nintendo is likely betting on the growing fanbase.

But the company doesn’t hate money. That’s why they’re reluctant to throw a lot of it into localizing a game that won’t justify those costs. “You literally can’t make everything,” Chris pointed out. If Nintendo did, they would be in worse shape than ever.

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  • Justin Graham

    This makes sense, in that not every game released in Japan has an audience in the west. But the problem, particularly when discussing games like Xenoblade Chronicles in particular, is that NOA doesn’t even appear to give them a chance. How can they really know how successful Xenoblade Chronicles would be, for instance, if they didn’t release it? Nintendo hadn’t released any open-world RPGs of the sort on the Wii before. There really aren’t any games analogous to it on the platform to compare.

    So how did they ever come to the initial conclusion that it wasn’t worth releasing, only to capitulate later with the Gamestop-exclusive release?

  • finny nightswim

    “Well, we’re a corporation. Anything that doesn’t make our profits grow makes our shareholders extremely upset.”

  • Ryan Haynes

    So long as they don’t shut down fan-translations of games they have no interest localizing, which I don’t think they ever have, I don’t mind them skipping such games.

  • Ryan Haynes

    Chris was fired for saying this. Presumably it was against his NDA.

  • NOA – Nintendo’s largest market and also Nintendo’s cheapest branch.

    Basically sums it up.

    No offense but NOA literally takes no risks, which is a shame coming from a company that as a whole takes quite a few with it’s products and IP’s.

    We all know it costs a lot of money to localize games but at the same time when you have nothing to release why not at least take the risk. Also when Iwata took an involved role in NOA and we started getting titles like Tomadachi Life (which both in name and concept seems like a weird choice to localize) and Bravely Default brought here to the west….

    And guess what both actually performed well. Showing there is more of a market here in the west then NOA would like to think. I mean Earthbound Beginnings was even released for the first time thanks to Earthbound on the eShop being a success. All those titles NOA says no one buys have actually been supported by fans.

    Sometimes you gotta take a risk and even more so market it properly.