“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.
“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.