Operation Rainfall technically began during E3 2009, when Nintendo brazenly showed off a brand new IP developed by MonolithSoft (Baten Kaitos, Xenosaga Series) for the Wii console. The new game showcased a wide variety of gorgeous environments and left viewers with a sense of awe when looking at the grand scope of the project. The game was titled Monado: Beginning of the World.
Soon thereafter, formerly Xbox 360 exclusive developer Mistwalker (Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey; founded by Final Fantasy father Hironobu Sakaguchi) announced that they, too, would be developing an RPG for the Wii console, which would soon come to be known as The Last Story.
RPG fans around the world watched with eager anticipation to see if either of these games would get a release in America. As time passed, Monado became Xenoblade, the game was released in Japan, and Nintendo of America remained silent… Fans grew restless. In early 2011, Nintendo teased another game in Japan, featuring heavy symbolism and a beautiful girl faced with an ugly curse – Pandora’s Tower.
By the time The Last Story was released in Japan, and Nintendo of Europe had announced their intention to release both Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story in Europe, fans in North America simply accepted that Nintendo of America must have been silent for a reason… maybe they had a grand announcement for E3 2011!
E3 2011 came and went without so much as a whimper about anything substantial on the Wii (besides what we already knew about). Many fans were starting to get fed up, especially as the summer and fall lineups had now removed all traces of Monado: Beginning of the World. Did Nintendo of America cancel the game? What happened? And what about The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower? Was the Wii doomed to die a year early with nothing but The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to support it for the last year?
Around this time, those fans started to take action. It all started as a bunch of individuals raced to contact Nintendo of America. Those who already sent emails and made phone calls ran to message boards and forums, unrelentingly telling others to do the same across the comment sections of large video game news sites.
This all culminated to a head when a forum goer by the username of themightyme started a thread on the IGN boards. While petitions and mass-mailings had taken place countless times, what this group had going for it was sheer ferocity and excellent organization. To further ignite the flames, there was a rumor swirling about that the head of Nintendo of Europe had wanted to show off Xenoblade and The Last Story at E3, but was unable to because Nintendo of America was not planning to release the games.
The forums eventually grew too big to handle major decisions and forums, a blog, chat room, and various social media pages were set up. Meetings were held, the press were contacted, and what started as a small grass-roots group was eventually making headlines on the Nintendo page of IGN, one of the largest gaming-centric sites on the internet. Eventually, Facebook became our primary base of operations, as it was the easiest to collectively join in.
Probably the greatest accomplishment for the group was when a placeholder page to order Monado: Beginning of the World on Amazon.com was propelled to the #1 spot across ALL VIDEO GAMES for several days in a row, and remaining among the most pre-ordered games for many weeks. This was something that solidified our campaign with many gaming news sites, as Operation Rainfall was the first to back their game with cold, hard cash.
Several months passed, many letters were sent, phone calls were made, social media was bombarded, and eventually Xenoblade Chronicles released in Europe to critical acclaim. Pandora’s Tower was confirmed for release in Europe, yet Nintendo of America could only say one thing:
“Thank you for your enthusiasm. We promised an update, so here it is. We never say “never,” but we can confirm that there are no plans to bring these three games to the Americas at this time. Thanks so much for your passion, and for being such great fans!”
Suffice to say that around the end of November 2011, things were looking bleak for the crew of Operation Rainfall. Most of the original crew of volunteers had abandoned the project because they had imported a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles and intended to do the same with The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower.
Imagine our surprise on December 2nd, when early morning rumors were surfacing that gaming retail chain GameStop had Xenoblade Chronicles entered into their system. Those rumors became fact when Nintendo of America posted concept art for Xenoblade Chronicles on their Facebook page.
This sent a surge of energy to the skeleton crew of Operation Rainfall. Now that the game had been announced, our job was to make sure the game sold well – exceeded expectations. We knew it would be some time before Xenoblade‘s North American release, so we tried to balance a fine line of showing our graciousness to Nintendo while still letting them know that we wanted The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower.
During February 2012, we celebrated a full month of The Last Story, and we shared every tidbit we could about all three games. Color us double-surprised when Nintendo of America COO Reggie Fils-Aime personally announced via Nintendo Direct on February 22 that XSEED Games would be publishing The Last Story in North America. This was a mere two days before we were gearing up for a massive campaign for the game on February 24th.
When Xenoblade Chronicles launched in America on April 6, 2012, Operation Rainfall did their best to ensure that the game would reach the widest audience possible, and we did the same for The Last Story, which eventually launched on August 14, 2012. We held several individual campaigns for Pandora’s Tower, including a very special campaign that simply couldn’t gain the traction needed to gain a publisher.
After appealing for modest donations, Operation Rainfall purchased several copies of Pandora’s Tower and assembled kits to pitch the game to various publishers. Some publishers were willing to meet with us. A few expressed interest. A few outright declined our offer. In the end, no publishers have announced their intention to publish Pandora’s Tower in North America. With campaign interest dwindling and Nintendo’s next console immediately around the corner, Operation Rainfall decided it would be best to retire the campaign. The final fate of Pandora’s Tower rests completely in the hands of Nintendo.
In the meantime, Operation Rainfall became known as the go-to source whenever localization was a concern – almost a meme. Was Operation Rainfall the reason why Xenoblade and The Last Story were released in America? We will never claim that we were the direct reason, but it’s only logical that free publicity certainly didn’t hurt. And as seems to be the trend lately, even developers are turning to fans to determine if a game should be localized or not.
How did Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story fare in North America? Well, to put it simply, we do not have access to real, cold hard sales data. However, while two Operation Rainfall staff members were at E3, they had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the matter with a representative from Nintendo. The entire conversation was “off the record”, but suffice to say that the game exceeded the expectations of Nintendo and GameStop. The rep also mentioned that this “retailer exclusive” distribution method was an experiment for them, and may be used for future high-risk releases. Nintendo of America COO, Reggie Fils-Aime even confirmed that the game had sold “quite well“. What about The Last Story? XSEED Senior Editor/Community Manager, Jessica Chavez, confirmed in an interview with Kotaku:
“The Last Story has definitely gotten the support of the fans… It’s doing really well, and we hope word of the game’s quality/sexy packaging will continue to entice more to check it out.“
In that sense, most of the staff at Operation Rainfall saw the campaign as a resounding success. We did exactly what we originally set out to do: create awareness of the games in North America. In the process, we learned a lot. We made a lot of mistakes. We probably pissed a few people off. But in the end, two of the three games came to America, and we’ve made many friends and contacts over the past fifteen months.
We also built a thriving community of passionate fans of niche games and RPGs. It was around the time that The Last Story was first announced that Operation Rainfall first started tossing around the idea of using our presence to promote other niche games and RPGs that were being localized. The best advice we got from publishers regarding getting a game picked up was to get people to buy the games they are already releasing. If RPGs and other Japanese games sell well, publishers will take them more seriously in the future. We started small by promoting games by niche-specific publishers like XSEED Games, NIS America, Aksys, and others via our Facebook page and Twitter feeds. In March, we opened this website, http://oprainfall.com and rebranded ourselves as simply “Oprainfall”. As we started providing more news and editorials, our readership quickly grew from a few thousand each month to nearly 200,000 readers for the month of September 2012. We started writing reviews to encourage our readers to purchase more niche games, and we’ve made some unforgettable friends in the industry.
Many of our readers have asked if we will ever “pick up another game”. In fact, we got asked so much, that rather than do all the campaign work from scratch, we would pick up the many campaigns and guide and organize them under the banner of the “Oprainfall Campaign Hub“.
Currently, the hub is still small, but it is our hope that Oprainfall and the Campaign Hub can continue to be a resource for fans of niche games for many years to come.
As for the Operation Rainfall Campaign, the few original staff members still here have many fond memories of the campaign and are still very active in the community.
UPDATE: Pandora’s Tower has been announced for North America, published by XSEED Games, and scheduled to be released Spring 2013!
To see the final update of our Pandora’s Tower Campaign, please read the FINAL POST.
To see a small sample of the work we accomplished with our Pandora’s Tower campaign, please read our ARCHIVE.
For up-to-date resolution status for those looking forward to receiving a collector’s case, please visit this page.