By Guy Rainey / May 28th, 2013
The Pretentious Opinionist is a column dedicated to my opinion and speculation. It does not represent oprainfall as a whole, nor the opinions of other staff members, nor does it necessarily have any basis in fact. It merely represents my possibly naive notion that people might be interested in what I have to say.
Back when Operation Rainfall was simply a fan campaign, and Xenoblade Chronicles and Last Story were (finally) coming to America, I got an inspiration: since Pandora’s Tower was in the exact same position as Last Story (i.e. the game was already in English, and largely only needed to be coded for North American TVs to be released to a group of fans clamoring for the game), XSEED was probably interested in releasing it, too. I suggested that perhaps XSEED should try Kickstarting the localization. I had a few simple ideas, but nothing spectacular. After all, there are smart guys at XSEED. I assumed that I would never hear back from them. I mean, they’re busy guys. I was amazed to hear back from them in less than a week! And this wasn’t some non-committal marketing spiel, either. One of the XSEED guys personally got back to me. Really good PR there, XSEED; you gained a loyal customer with that one email. However, that email contained only bad news. Not only was XSEED not pursuing publishing Pandora’s Tower at that time, trying to crowdfund a localization would be too much a hassle to deal with. The basic contention was that trying to get stuff like pre-orders and rewards tiers to crowdfunders would be a nightmare. I beg to differ.
If you browse oprainfall, chances are you already know what localization is, and what crowdfunding is, but just in case, I’ll lay out simple definitions.
Localization is the process of translating a game made for one region (in many cases, Japan) to another (such as Western countries). This is more than simply a straight text translation, as concepts familiar to the original audience may have to be explained to those receiving the translation.
Sometimes, a developer (or whoever) wants to work on a small project that will only appeal to a small audience. Rather than trying to fund the project on the creator’s own dime and hoping the game will be successful, the creator may reach out to the fanbase to give money, in exchange for certain rewards, to fund the project. This is called crowdfunding, and it has really picked up steam in the gaming realm after success stories like Double Fine, inExile, and Obsidian on Kickstarter.
All respect to XSEED, but I think they’re wrong: crowdfunding could be a viable solution to niche publishers, especially now. Let’s take a look at how we might be successful in Kickstarting a localization. Crowdfunding takes two things: a goal and rewards tiers.
While we JRPG fans would love to see every game fully voiced in English in every store in America, I would imagine that most of us would be happy enough with a subtitled, digital release. That has become easier to accomplish now that the 3DS and Wii U support full retail downloads. I think that this should be a baseline goal: only ask for the cost, in manpower, to localize a game. No English voiceovers, no retail release.
But, hang on, there are quite a few gaming Kickstarters that went well over their initial goal. Yes, and these often have tiers. For instance, look at Torment Tides of Numeria. While the Kickstarter goal was “only” nine hundred thousand dollars, they had plans for any money received over and above the initial cost. So, the next tier in a localization Kickstarter would probably be English voiceovers. After that, online retail release, limited retail release, full retail release, limited edition release, etc. These tiers would be representative of how much money would be needed to accomplish such releases.
This is actually what XSEED had the most problem with when I presented my idea. I suggested that with a Pandora’s Tower release, if someone put five dollars towards the Kickstarter, they would receive a free GameStop (or wherever) pre-order. Now, I get that on the surface that seems WAY too much trouble. After all, when you pre-order at GameStop, you pre-order with a specific store, not the GameStop corporation. You can’t take your pre-order to another GameStop in the area and expect it to be filled. However, I’ve come up with a solution to this problem.
Users of GameStop’s Power Up Rewards program should be aware that with those points you accumulate, you can buy rewards, such as a coupon for GameStop purchases. These coupons are generated at the time of purchase. If you could control time and take your coupon back to a point before you purchased it with your rewards points, it would not work. That coupon has not been created by the system yet. Likewise, you can’t use the same coupon more than once. Therefore, all the publisher would need to do is have GameStop create a coupon that when scanned, gives the user a pre-order for the game in question. Admittedly, this could be asking too much of a company, whose only benefit in the end would be a little good PR, but hypothetically let’s go with it.. Each Kickstarter rewards tier should come with a preorder equaling the amount put towards the Kickstarter goal (i.e. if the person puts 25 dollars in, they should get a pre-order coupon equaling that amount), and send this coupon to the contributor via email. This would also work with Amazon easily, as you’d simply get a promotional code to put in when you purchase your pre-order. Granted, I don’t own an Xbox 360 or a PS3, so I don’t know if they do pre-orders, but if they work like the eShop (which doesn’t give pre-orders), the publisher would just give you a redemption code at the time of purchase. I’m not sure how this would work for other places that give game pre-orders, but I’d imagine that having the option for Amazon and GameStop would satisfy most people. But the tiers can’t just be a different pre-order amount. If you put in $50, you should get something extra. Here’s what I came up with.
- First amount: basic preorder
- Second amount: wallpaper images, made from concept art
- Third amount: digital soundtrack
- Fourth amount: digital art book
- High tier: come visit our office
If you’ve been to a Kickstarter, then you’ve seen all this before. After all, crowdfunding isn’t a new thing. The purpose of this article isn’t to start a brand new trend. Well, okay, it is and it isn’t I love the idea of crowdfunding. I mean, three big, old school, isometric RPGs have been funded, and I love those games. And yet, while this brand new way to fund games exists, we fans of Japanese games still have to yell on message boards to try to get games we want. I want to see niche publishers like XSEED, Atlus, NIS America, Natsume (need I go on?) to take advantage of crowdfunding. I want to see Square Enix experiment with crowdfunding. Remember, not that long ago, it didn’t look like Bravely Default: Flying Fairy was coming to the West (until Nintendo of Europe picked up localization like a champ). Square Enix probably thought that the game would be too risky to localize, despite a legion of fans clamoring for it. If Square Enix had put up a Kickstarter, and let those clamoring fans put their money where their mouth was, maybe we’d have the game already.
I’ll admit that this is more an idea than a perfect implementation. Obviously publishers will need to experiment with Kickstarter to come up with the proper system of tiers and rewards. Is Kickstarter a perfect solution? No. I mean, if you put money into localizing The Last Story, and you were one of the people that hated it, you would feel rightfully angry. But there has to be a better solution than a Facebook campaign to get a company’s attention, and Kickstarter could be it. Hopefully, this catches their attention.