Before Xenoblade Chronicles was announced for North America as a GameStop exclusive, I had completed the first draft of an article. An article, that upon said announcement, I had believed to become obsolete. The article in question detailed the various alternative means of distribution that Nintendo of America could take to release Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower stateside. My intention was to not only show how the games could be released, but to show means of release that would benefit Nintendo in ways outside of just profitable game sales. With Operation Rainfall’s sponsorship of “The Last Story month”, I have decided to revisit the themes of the article as a 4 part series focused entirely on The Last Story. In order to bring about discussion of the points I raise, I have also organized a short roundtable with other members of Operation Rainfall to close out each article. These 4 articles will be released as a series over the course of “The Last Story month”.
Solotorobo is a game published in Japan by Namco Bandai. In Europe the title was translated, localized, and published by Nintendo of Europe. In America, publisher X-Seed picked up the rights to the European localization, and released it without change. A game localized and published by Nintendo of Europe is distributed stateside by a 3rd party publisher. So this is how I will begin the second installment in my series of articles about the various ways in which Nintendo of America could release “The Last Story” to fans in North America. This article’s’ suggested solution? Distribution through a 3rd party publisher, letting somebody else take the risk while benefitting from the profits provided by a small licensing fee. Money for nothing… and your fans are pleased.
The main question this article proposes is who would publish the title outside of Nintendo? I would assume (perhaps incorrectly but I think not) that many a small publisher would jump at the opportunity to publish a fully localized title with the kind of pedigree “The Last Story” has. “From the creator of Final Fantasy”; that is the kind of tagline that would sell this title to publishers who typically trade in niche Japanese localizations. Publishers such as X-Seed, Nippon Ichi, and Atlus would, in my estimation, be more than happy to publish the game. That the title is fully localized makes this all the easier. That fact that one of the small publishers named in this article has already brought over a Nintendo of Europe localization, makes this option seem like an obvious way out for Nintendo of America.
Making money on niche titles alone: X-Seed’s entire 2011 retail lineup.
I, however, wish to present an even more interesting option; publisher Square Enix. Nobody knows how to market a Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) like Square Enix, and nobody has more experience with Hironobu Sakaguchi. But, my reason for highlighting them has more to do with the Dragon Quest game franchise. “Dragon Quest X” from Square Enix, is an online title for the Wii and the upcoming Wii-U and is the tenth main entry in the most successful RPG franchise in Japan. “The Last Story” is the only game of the three Operation Rainfall titles with an online multiplayer component. Square Enix has a history of trying two things I wish to highlight here in. First, they want to make Dragon Quest a large franchise in the West, and to that end, they have partnered with Nintendo on recent releases. Secondly, they like the symbiotic relationship of offering demos for big games as pack-ins on smaller titles. This increases the sales of the smaller title for those dying to play the larger game, and also gives the players of the smaller title the chance to consider the larger game. Tobal #1 was packaged with a demo of Final Fantasy 7, and Dragon Quest 8 was packaged with a demo of Final Fantasy 12. So here is my proposal, Square Enix publishes The Last Story in North America and includes a demo of the upcoming Dragon Quest X. While Dragon Quest X may not come out in the West on the Wii, it will almost certainly come out here for the Wii-U. But the Wii version IS coming out in Japan, and a demo of that version could be highly anticipated in the west, especially as a version of the game that could never see release here. It could be like Conker’s Bad Fur Day containing the E3 demo of the N64 version of Eternal Darkness as a means of teasing that game’s future fan base with a rare opportunity.
Ryan, current Co-Leader of Operation Rainfall
I don’t understand Nintendo’s mostly stubborn stance of not letting other publishers localize games they have no intention of localizing. I guess they want complete control over the game and they only want their name on the packaging. Maybe they are afraid a 3rd party publisher won’t meet the standards that Nintendo has created for themselves. Either way, it is a ridiculous stance. At times it seems Nintendo is so stubborn in their ways they’ll say “no”, even if there is a lot of money to be made.
I love the idea of a demo disc packaged with “The Last Story”. Really, they should be doing this with Xenoblade. The first Dragon Quest game I ever played was Dragon Quest 8. Why did I buy this game? I bought it because it came with a demo disc of Final Fantasy XII. I have been a fan of Dragon Quest ever since because I tried the game and I loved it. Why more companies do not utilize this strategy is beyond me because it seems to be effective.
Mike D., Editor for The Nintendo Enthusiast, former Operation Rainfall PR Staff
As Ryan mentioned, Nintendo’s “if we won’t publish it, no one will” ethos is simply maddening. If they could entrust co-developing handheld Zeldas to Capcom, I would think they could find a TLS suitor fairly easily (and since Capcom has pretty well shelved Breath of Fire, they could plug a hole in their lineup at very little cost).
My heart would be with XSEED on this one, though. Fragile Dreams is one of my favorite games this gen, and I would have never had a chance to play it without their efforts to bring it to the West. Even if Nintendo wanted to clean up localization issues for American audiences, I think they could sleep well with the game being in good hands.
Zael and Calista, wondering if they will ever see North America.
Alex B., Editor for The Nintendo Enthusiast
Like Mike, I’d sleep better if the task of publishing The Last Story in the west was left to XSEED, considering they’ve given me nothing but interesting experiences and pure love ever since I’ve known them. Still, perhaps Nintendo would feel more comfortable relegating the task to Square-Enix, and if that’s what it takes for The Last Story to get localized, then you’ll never hear a single objection from me.
In that sense, I can see Square-Enix becoming more famous for picking up fantastic games rather than developing their own, as they have with Just Cause 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and in the future probably the new Thief game. Now, sure it’s an entirely different thing to provide the entire budget for a game to get made (Deus Ex: HR) as opposed to simply busting out the localization budget, but it’s still something Square-Enix can become known for: localizing big budget games that are less likely to be put in the hands of XSEED, Atlus, etc.
Richard, current Co-leader at Operation Rainfall
While I don’t see Nintendo changing their stance on their policies regarding other publishers releasing their content, I would say that if they ever do, it would probably make a lot of people happy. Atlus and XSeed would probably die to have a game like The Last Story in their catalog, and people like us would die to buy it. So it would be a win-win situation. Nintendo wouldn’t have to spend the money to localize the games, the consumer is happy to even play it, and Nintendo just made buddies with another publisher who may release more content on your consoles!
Regarding Square-Enix though, I don’t see them picking up any of these games. If it weren’t for Nintendo, the Dragon Quest series may have stayed in Japan since Nintendo publishes it over here. So if they don’t have confidence in their own series to publish it themselves over here, I don’t see them taking up the reigns from someone else for another developers games.
Chris, former Operation Rainfall PR guy
I agree that there a number of great publishers that could pick up titles like The Last Story and bring them over. But I still do not see why that is necessary. Nintendo has a vast amount of resources. Nintendo has a number of relationships with other developers throughout the industry. From a “strengthening relationship” standpoint, Nintendo has gone the extra mile by purchasing whole studios and making them second parties. Their development teams have widespread communication up and down the corporate food chain. As iron fisted as Nintendo has been towards developers in the past, it is high time that Nintendo makes good on its promises to turn a new leaf.
But part of the problem is that Nintendo has survived so long on being slow to change. Sure, the Wii’s design was a hail mary (that paid off) but otherwise Nintendo has been terribly slow to change their business model. In that sense, I think insourcing would be a more realistic goal for Nintendo. Getting more dedicated to releasing IPs in different countries using Nintendo’s own resources. They get to keep creative control, while at the same time make good on their promise to cater to more “hardcore” gamers. They get to bring new IPs to different locales to broaden their brand and portfolio. And Nintendo has a large portfolio in reserve. It’s smart business as long as Nintendo keeps realistic expectations for sales.
Marko, current Co-leader at Operation Rainfall
I mainly agree with Chris on this one. Nintendo shouldn’t have to resort to a third-party publisher. Unlike smaller publishers, which operate on miniscule budgets and struggle to bring home paychecks, Nintendo has amassed a fortune over the years, and also has a solid reputation for quality software. Nintendo definitely has the resources to localize any titles it sees fit. However, Nintendo is at a critical point right now, juggling between localizing and publishing titles for the 3DS, preparing titles for Wii U launch (and keep in mind that there will also need to be content ready for E3 in June). Nintendo has made it clear that they wish to avoid the mishaps that they took with the 3DS by having plenty of launch content ready for Wii U. So it is understandable that Nintendo simply may not be able to localize a title in house. BUT… we aren’t talking about localization. Nintendo of Europe has already localized the game, so it is simply a matter of being published and distributed. And for that, Nintendo most definitely has the resources. It makes little difference to me who publishes the game, as long as I get to play it, so whatever makes more financial sense to Nintendo, I’ll take it. The Last Story is a hot property, and Nintendo would have to be crazy to not publish it.
“While I don’t see Nintendo changing their stance on their policies regarding other publishers releasing their content, I would say that if they ever do, it would probably make a lot of people happy.” – Richard, current Co-leader at Operation Rainfall
Tyson, Co-founder of Operation Rainfall
I personally feel that Nintendo of America’s avoidance of releasing niche titles is directly tied to them pursuing an image as a blockbuster only company. While I find this pursuit to be the wrong path for the company, it is something I could accept if there was an alternative means by which niche titles could see release. However, on this point we do not all agree. Though I think we can all agree, that whatever the method may be, we will be there to buy the game.
Make your voices heard during “The Last Story” month; Is this the best way to release “The Last Story” in North America?
I would like to thank Ryan, Mike, Alex, Richard, Chris, and Marko for contributing to this roundtable discussion. We at Operation Rainfall would also like to thank Nintendo, Monolith Soft, Mistwalker, AQ Interactive, and Ganbarion for making the games we are so passionate about. Last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank everyone who has contributed to, supported, and covered Operation Rainfall since it’s inception last year. Keep fighting!