An interview with Operation Rainfall

For those who have been reading over the past week, I have covered Operation Rainfall in two different articles as well as an article supporting Rising Star Games who have published some of the lesser known games in the European territory (Xseed games would be the equivalent in the Americas). Though despite this I had a few questions still to ask to Operation Rainfall, fortunately for me Chris Ward their PR representative offered some answers to questions I had. It’s quite a long interview but definitely worth the read.

You will find me in bold and Chris’ reply will be in standard text.

Hi Chris, thanks for your time. Operation Rainfall has gained a lot of press in the past week and a half since it started. As a representative of the campaign could you outline what the aim is for people who have not heard anything about this.

Part of the beauty of being such a fast growing organization is that the campaign means a lot of things for a lot of different people.  Our initial goal is to get three quality new IPs localized from Japan to North America: Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower.  But we are growing to do more.  Want to hold Nintendo accountable for its promises to its followers.  We want to stop the Wii drought of 2011, or at least show Nintendo that the playing field has changed and that they need to change their localization policies.

During the Wii life cycle NOA has failed to publish certain games such as Another Code R for the Wii and The Last Window for the DS. Operation Rainfall has decided to try and get Xenoblade, Last Story and Pandora’s Tower (hereby referred to as XLP), so why take on the cause now and why XLP rather than something like Captain Rainbow?

There are many games that we would love to see brought over by Nintendo.  We have heard many laments about Fatal Frame 4 and Soma Bringer.  But there seems to be some extra ire with XLP.  Here we have Xenoblade, a game that is already coming to Europe and translated to English.  The localization work is minimal.  The other games available on the Wii for 2011 are nearly non-existent.  And with little on the horizon, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower are two more games that we can point to as also receiving English translations (although that was not confirmed when the campaign started). 

For whatever reason, XLP together was what brought out a lot of anger and frustration in gamers towards Nintendo.  It is easier to latch onto three concrete examples of games that could be brought over in the near future.  It’s the end of the Wii’s life cycle.  These three games are planned to be released at the end of the Wii’s life cycle instead of having seen their day in the sun years ago.  So localizing them and publishing them should not be as much of an issue either for Nintendo or another publisher.

I just want to add my thoughts here too, on top of XLP (for Europe) we have Skyward Sword, A Kirby game, Mario Party 9 and hopefully Dragon Quest X. It’s almost like Nintendo have given up on the Wii despite Iwata San’s comments that this is not the case. He said in April of this year “Therefore, some in Japan seem to have the misunderstanding that Nintendo has given up making efforts on Wii. We are actually ready to release new Wii software titles every month from May to the end of this year.”

Of course, Nintendo of Japan is a different entity than Europe or America.  I don’t know.  Maybe they are assuming that all Wii owners have moved over to the 3DS.  It’s all speculation, but the fact remains that 3rd parties have mostly abandoned the Wii.  Nintendo has a few titles where they could fill the gaps, and it would be wise for Nintendo of America to do so.

I would agree with that for sure. Moving on I’ve noticed on quite a few comments of other Nintendo sites about this campaign that there’s always a few people who use such comments as “Well I guess Nintendo want us to pirate games” or “That’s it I’m not buying a WiiU” what is the stance on this?

There are two prongs to this answer, so I’ll break it down as best I can:

The “Piracy” Prong: I can only speak for American law because that is what I know and what I am familiar with.  Piracy is illegal.  We do not support piracy.  You may think you are hurting Nintendo, but what about Mistwalker or Monolithsoft? They make money off of this too.  So downloading a ROM dump and playing is a big no-no.  The fuzzier question is about softmodding or “hacking” a Wii to play import games.  There are a lot of gamers who are going to go that route in order to play the game.  But the big problem, at least for American Wii owners, is the fact that the Wii is region locked.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes circumvention of region locking illegal and punishable by criminal penalty.  If this were 15 year ago and we were living in a pre-DMCA world the answer would be different.  An individual modding his Wii to play a game that would not be released in the American market would very likely be fair use.  Unfortunately, while the DMCA was not supposed to change American common law copyright rights, many courts have interpreted it to do just that.  Fair use in the hardware-software world is not nearly as strong as it used to be.  So, at least at this moment, we will not and cannot go around telling people to mod their Wii’s because that could be advocating wide spread criminal activity and expose us to criminal liability.  It is an issue we are still researching, but there are valid arguments both ways.  For now, it is better to err on the side of caution.

Of course, there is also the implicit message of telling Nintendo “Well, there’s no point in localizing the game now because your loud, angry fans are all going to import it anyway.” That would be grossly unfair to our followers who do not wish to or are unable to unlock their Wii’s.

The “Boycott” Prong: If someone sees the landscape and decides to not buy the WiiU, that is entirely their decision.  However, Operation Rainfall does not support any sort of proposed boycott campaign against Nintendo.  To be honest, we are a minority movement.  We are not going to be able to put a significant dent in Nintendo’s bottom line by mere lack of purchasing — especially when online boycotts are so hard to enforce.  Not to mention, after Skyward Sword, what is left for raged Nintendo fans to boycott? No, we are encouraging our followers to “speak with their dollar.”  If you want more games like Skyward Sword, buy it.  If you see great RPGs released on the Virtual Console that you want, get them.  Being a small movement means that we are limited to actively buying products to show our support and staying vocal to hold Nintendo accountable.  In less than a week, we have already forced a dramatic shift in discussion of Nintendo’s future.  That’s where our power lies. So if someone hears our message, sees what Nintendo finally reveals with the WiiU, and is either greatly satisfied or terribly disappointed, then that gamer have power in the free market.  Enough individual consumers can do great things or great damage to Nintendo.  We just want to push Nintendo in a better direction.

Another game that has been championed as proof that the American Nintendo audience is wanting these sort of games is Arc Rise Fantastia. Do you support the campaign using this game as a champion or should you avoid using a game that wasn’t published in Europe?

The use of Act Rise Fantasia is more out of necessity because there have been very few quality JRPGs released across any system this generation.  I would love to see Europe get it, but I do not know if that is a possibility.  But we are going to use every tool in our toolbox to show Nintendo of America that  they are making a mistake in not localizing these games to an American market.  Act Rise Fantasia is an example of the US Wii market’s willingness to accept JRPGs.  Of course, Act Rise is not the only example.  Baten Kaitos, Tales of Symphonia, and Skies of Arcadia all had good releases in North America late in the Gamecube’s life cycle.  Unfortunately, more recent Wii evidence is less available.

We didn’t get Baten Kaitos Origins either. Though it does seem that there are a lack of JRPGs around for all three systems, this is especially weird since last generation of consoles (PS2/Xbox/GCN/DreamCast) these were the hot franchises just as much as platformers and beat em ups were in the 1990s.

True, but at least it was successful enough to warrant a sequel.  Of course, there are other factors at play in the market as a whole.  Maybe demand has gone down for RPGs, but another possibility is that they are cost prohibitive.  People who play RPGs expect a robust world experience with a deep story, professional voice acting, and a lot of content to sink their teeth into.  The HD era has confounded many developers.  Look at how FFXIII has no towns or why Monster Hunter Tri is on the Wii instead of the PS3.  Assets are very time intensive, and as a result are very cost intensive.  Eventually developers are going to catch up, but for now we are seeing a definite lull in RPG development.  It makes losing out on games like Xenoblade and The Last Story much harsher.

Again I would agree with that. We in Europe have had XLP announced (though Pandora’s Tower is not 100% official, it’s more rumour at the moment) and I know from speaking to other gamers we in Europe want to support our brethren in the Americans What exactly can we do to help the campaign?

There are plenty of ways to help.  Spread the word over the internet.  Feel free to write letters to Nintendo of America.  Write thank you letters to your local branch of Nintendo of Europe.  but the most important thing the European market can do? Buy the games we are championing.  Buy other games that are new, interesting IPs that seem to be ignored.  If Nintendo of America sees high European sales, it could lead to another Demon’s Souls situation with these or other Wii games down the road.

Does Operation Rainfall have a deadline on this? For example does it say we have until the WiiU launch? I bring this up as it took 12 years in Europe for Super Mario RPG to be released, the same sort of time scale for Chrono Trigger as well.

We have a long range vision of hoping to establish a dialogue with Nintendo and advocate for localization of games across all regions.  We also want to hold Nintendo accountable for their promises and champion new, promising IPs.

If NOA gave a resounding yes or no for this, what would be the plans for Operation Rainfall? I noted on Twitter a great thing would be to use the network to encourage users to buy niche games on release (say Little Kings Story for example). Is that the sort of direction you can see it heading?

Oh, Little King’s Story.  That is my soft spot because it is my favourite game from this entire generation on any platform.  I think I was the only person I knew online or off that actually had a pre-order on that game.  I think I was the only person ever to buy a new copy from the store I bought it from.  Yes, encouraging others to look to other lesser known games is already something we are starting to see within our own movement.  People are voting up games on the Nintendo Channel right now (that’s something else EU fans can do).  We are spreading word about deals for lesser known games to other people.  Hopefully when people get a chance to play these games and see how great and different they are, then in the future they will be willing to buy them on release.  Unfortunately, encouraging people to buy on release is going to be a tough challenge.  One facet of American culture, at least from a 360/PS3/Wii standpoint, is to wait for a little bit to let the price of a non “Major Franchise” game to drop.  The prices drop very quickly because the market is so flooded with games.  It would be great to get more gamers to buy on release, but it’s going to be an uphill climb.

I also bought Little King’s Story on release after reading a few really good reviews of it, it’s a shame that there are so many hidden gems as I noted in my article on Monday the company Rising Star Games (who published it in the EU) really do a good job The case is also in the EU where we’re crying out for new, fresh IPs and when we get them people say “I’ll wait a few weeks/months until it goes down in price” or even in some games cases (lost in Shadow/A Shadow’s Tale) you couldn’t even buy it three weeks after release.

It’s a tough problem, that’s for sure.  How can smaller games expect to get any sales at all when it cannot even survive on retail shelves for more than a few weeks?

I wish I could answer that, but it is a shame to see it go that way. Why is it you think that NOA has said not given a yes or no answer yet?

It does not take much thinking.  Nintendo of America is a corporation that does not have to answer to its fans.  In fact, it could be very bad corporate precedent to cave to fans demands after less than a week of loud internet protesting.  Nintendo is making a business decision based off of the information they have in front of them, but it is also due diligence to keep one’s options open.  I do not know if we will ever get a clear answer from Nintendo, but we will keep pushing anyway.

Games such as Sin and Punishment 2, Fire Emblem POR and Lost in Shadow (a Shadow’s Tale) didn’t sell well. Is there a sense of regret that loyal, hardcore gamers could of avoided this had they put the effort in from Wii’s release or do you see it as Nintendo not doing enough to make these games known?

I can’t speak for everyone, especially since “loyal, hardcore gamers” is kind of an amorphous term.  One person’s loyal hardcore gamer is another person’s annoying shootercore brat.  There could be regret.  I will not deny that possibility.  But I have gone jumping up and down in the past encouraging people to buy Zack and Wiki, Little King’s Story, and Monster Hunter Tri.  Other IGN posters (where this campaign started) made similar overtures about other games.  We would love to see Nintendo do more advertising with these kind of games, but we cannot control what they do.  Hopefully in the future we can flex our social networking muscle to get the word out for these games.  After all, if you look at Google Trends for the USA both Xenoblade and The Last Story are getting far more press and search inquiries since Operation Rainfall started than before.

Just to clarify, I used the term loyal, hardcore gamer as this seems to be cropping up on site comments boxes as well. As you said for some people hardcore gaming is just the shooter brats and in my opinion a hardcore gamer should be someone that is open to most ideas across all three platforms.

Of course, but it points to another problem with Nintendo’s current approach.  They seem to be content to lump all “core” gamers together.  That is unrealistic.  There are some “core” gamers that are very interested in RPGs, while others do not care about RPGs at all.  If Nintendo’s idea of appealing to “core” gamers on the WiiU is only to cater to 3rd person action games and first person shooters, they are going to be missing a sizeable portion of the Nintendo gaming population.

A light hearted one to finish us off: What’s the most outlandish campaign idea you’ve heard? Also why no love for Captain Rainbow?

I have love for Captain Rainbow, but unfortunately it falls into the “games not recently released’ problem where there could be systematic problems within the development teams to devote resources to get it localized.  As for the most outlandish campaign idea? Well, I don’t know about outlandish, but at least the most ballsy idea I’ve heard that got rejected was to go to Nintendo of America’s office in Washington and tag the whole area with XLP related art, drawings, etc.  It would never work and would be highly illegal, but at the same time it had a very Jet Grind Radio/Jet Set Radio Future vibe to it.  I would love to see some kind of spontaneous art campaign come out of this whole ordeal — just something a bit more legal.

Well thank you very much for your time Chris.

Hopefully this will clear up some things about the campaign and what it wants to achieve and how it wants to do it.  As was noted earlier Operation Rainfall does not support hacking, modding, piracy nor does it support a boycott of Nintendo. My impressions are of a smart, well put together group that is still working out the kinks as it’s only been a week since it was founded. They’re certainly making waves in the right places and I wish them all the best with this, the well thought out and intelligent answers show that they have thought this through.

As such I take back my previous statement (See “And that’s why you can’t have nice things”) that it seemed like they were throwing their toys out of the crib, it’s now apparent that a lot of the comments in Operation Rainfall’s name on various sites have missed what they’re all about and this interview cleared it up. They can definitely class NintendoLee as a supporter, we have nothing to lose.

You can check out Operation Rainfall on Twitter @OpRainfall or check their blog at http://oprainfall.blogspot.com

You can also follow me on twitter @NintendoLee

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Posted on 05/07/2011, in Features. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Great questions Lee! I also did an interview but that was hardly to this quality. Well done! 😀

  2. Hey, great interview! Finished reading it just now, felt the need to say “good job”!

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