By Benny Carrillo / November 11th, 2015
The following opinion piece is part of a debate of sorts about Fatal Frame and Nintendo. To check out the rebuttal, be sure to click here. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the opinions at large of Operation Rainfall.
Recently our own Azario Lopez wrote an article stating that Nintendo has killed the Fatal Frame series in the west. To say emotions have run high over that editorial and the whole recent Fatal Frame debacle would be an understatement. Is there any truth to that assertion though? Has Nintendo, specifically Nintendo of America for the purposes of this editorial, really sabotaged this game? Our own Jerry Hrechka and myself have decided to take a look at this claim and offer our own opinions on the matter. While Jerry will be arguing from the position of “no” (and do give his editorial a read, all sides of an argument should be heard), I will assert that, yes, they have, because they have failed in their duties as the publisher of the game. What exactly do I mean by this? Well let’s start with critical thinking 101 and define our terms.
What is a Publisher vs a Developer?
All too often, when we think of Nintendo we think of Mario, Zelda, and many other Nintendo franchises. While Nintendo does publish these titles, it’s important to realize that these are Nintendo developed titles. Meaning that they create and make the game. I am not attacking Nintendo properties in this editorial. I love many Nintendo franchises including the Mario franchise, which many people are divided on for its paint-by-numbers gameplay. Played one and you’ve pretty much played the whole franchise. That’s the idea behind it though, it’s a timeless classic that’s supposed to be accessible to all ages and generations despite the era it’s made in. However, didn’t Nintendo develop Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water? Yes, the game was co-developed by Koei Tecmo and Nintendo Software Planning & Development (now part of the new Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development division), but keep in mind Nintendo SPD, now EPD, is based in Japan and answers to Nintendo of Japan. No, what I’m talking about is Nintendo of America and their duties as a Publisher.
Publisher – a person or company whose business is the publishing of books, periodicals, engravings, computer software, etc.
~ Dictionary.com, November 5th, 2015
As you can see from the above definition, publishers are responsible for putting their product out there and selling it. Yes, you may buy the game from Best Buy or GameStop, but they have to buy copies from Nintendo first, and they’ll only buy if they think the game is going to sell. So it’s a publisher’s job to sell a game not only to consumers, but to retailers as well. This here is where my part of the issue lies, in the marketing of this product. There is none.
Nintendo of America barely put any effort into marketing this game and it really shows. If you search their YouTube channel for Fatal Frame, you’ll get three videos with those words in the title. Search for Tri-Force Heroes though, and you’ll get eleven. While yes, Nintendo does develop Zelda let me remind you that Tri-Force Heroes was announced at E3 this year. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water? April 1st, 2015. How’s that for irony? What’s better, that announcement lasted all of 42 seconds.
Okay, so let’s argue then that they didn’t want to spend a lot on marketing a game that would only sell to a very niche crowd. That’s fine, but I’ll point out these were videos hosted on their own YouTube channel. Yes, video’s cost time and money to produce, but hosting them wouldn’t cost them a thing. They aren’t paying for TV or radio time here. YouTube is a platform that is accessible by all and Nintendo’s own channel has 1.3 Million subscribers. All I’m asking for is for some reasonable effort here, and if you want to save money then use your cheapest avenues and use them effectively.
With the lack of marketing addressed, let’s now examine their next choice: not supporting the game with a physical release.
Yes, I am sure many of you are tired of hearing this argument about fans wanting a physical release for this title. Let me, though, talk about this in regards to a publisher’s duty. A publisher should always, and I mean always, do their utmost to promote, sell, and back a product. Nintendo is selling us a product and fans of this franchise I feel should buy the game to encourage them that they want more games like this. At the same time though, they have every right to be upset over the ridiculous idea to make this a digital only title and request that a physical copy be released. Even if that was a limited collector’s edition. Why? Well, let’s look at a couple of things.
First off, there is the obvious issue of having a lack of presence in retail stores. Yes, we live in an internet age where more and more information is being shared online and I’m sure you, dear reader, are usually very informed about things in the niche community. You’re reading this editorial after all. Think for a moment though about how often you impulse buy something when you go to any store. We even do it with something as simple as groceries. We go in for a gallon of milk and end up spending $20 bucks on things we didn’t know we needed. Nintendo is already hurting for titles, and for people who are considering buying a Wii U, seeing another interesting title on the store shelf does help sway that decision. I can’t exactly see the eShop selection while I’m at Target now, can I? That being said, is there a reason that Nintendo would prefer to release a digital version only?
One can make the argument that Nintendo chose digital only to reduce production costs. As I mentioned, they have to sell the game to retailers first so that retailers can then sell it to us. This takes up valuable shelf space in a retail store and Best Buy or Target may not want to stock the game, especially if the Wii U and its games aren’t strong sellers in their stores for a particular region. But that doesn’t explain why you wouldn’t offer a physical copy to be sold at GameStop or Amazon. Really, the only argument there would be production costs.
However, there’s a very simple solution: offer a limited physical release or a collector’s edition. Companies like XSEED and NIS America do this all the time and Gaijinworks only offers physical copies to those who preorder to reduce production costs. Even Visual Novel companies who use Steam are offering physical copies to those who want them, sometimes at a higher cost than the digital release, but at least there’s the option. Surely, Nintendo of America could have put together some sort of limited physical run, especially considering they have their own web-store.
Let’s move on though, and look at the problems associated with digital only releases, starting with the size of this game and its required demo.
The game is enormous, clocking in at over 9GB… for the “free demo.” That’s right, this whole situation actually gets worse as Nintendo of America made buying the game as convoluted as could be. You first have to download a 9964.8 MB base demo, and then you’ll still need to buy the full unlock… which is another 8186.6 MB. That’s a grand total of 18,151.4 MB — or if you want GB, divide that by 1024 for about 17.73 GB roughly. I can understand the game being large, but then breaking the game up into two separate files I need to find, purchase, and download just infuriates me. This isn’t simple for me as a consumer and I actually own a 2TB hard drive for my Wii U. I am precisely who Nintendo is targeting for this release and I don’t even want to buy it because of how convoluted the whole eShop scenario is.
Then you have the obvious problem of your internet connection and how long it’ll take to download. I’m blessed with a good cable connection. Other people are not, and some still run DSL, as crazy as that might sound to you. Yes, you can argue that is their fault for not upgrading to a high speed internet connection. However, I really do feel sympathetic for people who even attempt to download this over anything less than a cable connection.
Is this all really a big deal though? I mean we still get the game, right? Well, if I’m a hardcore fan then, yes, I would most likely go through hell itself to ensure I’d play the game. Maybe even take my Wii U over to a friend’s house and borrow their connection so I could download it. As someone who just wants a game to play and might be on the fence, however, no. It is absurd to think that regular consumers would go through this much trouble to play one game they may never have even heard of except through a friend. So does that mean that the hardcore should just shut up and be happy? No, because Nintendo couldn’t even please them in the most basic of fashion: bringing over the game as it was in Japan.
Yeah, I’m talking about the swimsuit issue. Not just the costumes that were taken out, but the edited scene with Tenue Miu. I’m not going to argue the point that censoring the swimsuits was for modesty’s sake and we shouldn’t mind. You are free to decide for yourself whether or not censoring sexuality is a good or bad thing. That is not the purpose of this editorial. Instead I will just make the point, that if I was a loyal fan who went out of their way to purchase, download, and play this title, to then find out I did all of this to play an edited version of the game, no matter how small the changes are, would have me seeing red. The people who bought this game, this very game which Nintendo of America has gone out of their way to hide and make nigh impossible to get a hold of, are the people who want it the most. And they want it all.
Not just that, but also consider the trouble Koei Tecmo and the Fatal Frame team went through to make this game, and the push from their side to give it to western fans. Then consider how insulted you might feel if you were in their shoes to see your game handled in such a horrible and unprofessional way by one of your esteemed partners. That’s what I mean by no respect. Nintendo of America has none for this title, its creators, or its fans.
To be fair though, the entire censorship issue isn’t Nintendo of America’s fault. The localization was done by Nintendo of Europe and Nintendo of America used it to save money.
Let’s set aside the edits then and concede the point that without using Nintendo of Europe version we wouldn’t even have the game as it would have cost too much to put the cut content back in. In my opinion, that’s even more reason for Nintendo of America to give fans of the game some sort of collector’s edition. People would still be upset that content was cut. However, we could also look at the situation and cut Nintendo of America a break because it would feel like they at least cared. Instead, it feels like we’re being fed the scraps from Nintendo of Europe’s table and we should be thankful that we were even invited to dinner in the first place.
With all that said, let’s wrap this up.
In this editorial I’ve made the case that Nintendo of America is solely to blame for how Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water has been handled. It is my belief that if you’re going to go through the trouble of publishing a game, then you need to go all in. Not only to appease your fans and maximize sales, but to honor the work and effort of the creators. Look at companies like XSEED, NIS America, Atlus, and even Koei Tecmo America, all of whom are the American publishing branch of a Japanese development team. They all would have handled the release and publication of this game much differently — and better — and that to me is the true litmus test. Nintendo of America was the worst choice to publish this game.
The sad thing is, this isn’t something new. We’ve seen this time and time again with anything that doesn’t fit Nintendo of America’s “image” and sells itself. Fire Emblem, EarthBound, and now even Xenoblade Chronicles X. We’ve even seen the same tactic of using Nintendo of Europe’s localizations before. While we’re just learning of the changes that may be in Xenoblade Chronicles X, keep in mind that Fire Emblem Fates is just around the corner, and from what we’ve already seen, that game is possibly going to have to undergo some changes to fit what Nintendo of America thinks a game should be. Will it stop there though, or will they just decide to give it the Fatal Frame treatment and throw it out there quietly, hidden, and make a game with two very different sides a pain to download and play? I’d make the argument that the only reason they’re even publishing these games is because of a mandate from Nintendo of Japan, but that is for another time.
One thing is clear from this little case study however, Nintendo of America is a failure of a publisher and I have no faith in them.
eShopfailfailureFatal Framefatal frame maiden of BlackwaterNintendoNintendo of AmericaOperation RainfalloprainfallWii U