It's been more than a week since Operation Rainfall kicked into gear in order to attempt to sway Nintendo of America into releasing three JRPG Wii titles — Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower — in North America, but the company hasn't yet fallen to the tidal wave of demand. Crazy, huh? Over at Games Are Evil, my pal Keri Honea believes she knows why Nintendo's American arm isn't budging on this one, and it all comes down to sales reports and profit projections.
While I agree that it is a shame that Nintendo has no interest in localizing the games in the Xenoblade trilogy, it certainly is no surprise to me that they have decided to not do so considering how ill received other JRPGs for Nintendo consoles have been in the US of A. For example, the only “big” JRPGs for the Wii that come to my mind are Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of a New World and Arc Rise Fantasia (and no, I’m not counting Pokémon in this equation). Both of these games developed their own cult fanbase to be sure, but in terms of sales and even game reviews, both games did poorly. Tales has a mediocre 68 rating on Metacritic and only sold 200,000 units in the US, and Arc Rise scored a 64 and sold a meager 100,000 units.
While not all of these games are published by Nintendo, you know that Nintendo is looking at all these figures when deciding what to localize and what not to. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tales of Graces never makes its way over here just based on US sales of non-Pokémon JRPGs. From their standpoint, the US has mostly moved away from JRPGs. It seems like a new editorial/podcast topic comes out every month discussing the staleness of JRPGs. With that always bubbling on the surface, why would Nintendo waste any time and/or energy localizing games that will, in all probability, not return a decent profit? They’ve seen it happen with their first-party JRPGs, third-party JRPGs, and JRPGs across other platforms.It’s the same reason why so many Japanese games are never localized here or in Europe: developers/publishers know they won’t sell well or as well as they would prefer. Anime and manga fans watch the same thing happen season after season.
It's a harsh reality to face, but there you have it. JRPGs just aren't selling well in North America if they're not related to Pokémon or Final Fantasy, and there's no sense in throwing good money after bad when it comes to localizing most anything else. I'm sure this kind of thing cuts both ways, however. Somewhere in Japan are small pockets of Startropics and Startropics II: Zoda's Revenge fans who still lament that they never had the opportunity to experience the adventures of Mike Jones in their native language. Probably. I mean, it's statistically possible. I would think.