One has to wonder just what Namco is thinking these days. The day after word comes out that Katamari Damacy is in the works for the Nintendo DS, a new list of upcoming DS games has hit the Internet courtesy of N-Sider.com where it is revealed that Katamari is not scheduled for a North American release. Neither are the DS versions of Xenosaga and Baten Kaitos. All three of these games have very vocal fanbases in North America, so it's puzzling why Namco would choose to leave these games in Japan. It's not the first time a popular game has skipped North America (Final Fantasy sequels are practically the poster child for this kind of thing), but it just strikes me as odd that 75% of Namco's announced DS game schedule will not go international. The one game that will? Pac 'n Roll featuring Pac-Man.
Namco's not the only one leaving the big guns at home. Marvelous Interactive (the folks behind the Harvest Moon series) is working on a new Lunar game for the DS, but it won't be coming to the USA. Neither is Konami's new Goemon (Mystical Ninja) game, although that's hardly a surprise considering that only one of the nearly dozen games in that series crossed the Pacific. What do all of these Japan-only games have in common? They're not for Nintendo of America's target audience for the DS: non-gamers.
Nintendo has gone on record as saying they want the Nintendo DS to appeal to non-gamers, hence all the pre-release hype for games such as Puppy Times/Nintendogs, Polarium, Yoshi's Touch & Go, and Warioware Touched! I'm not saying that these are necessarily bad games or games that the average gamer won't enjoy, but there's a trend here. These are all games that are not particularly complex. Nintendo has always said that they want to create games for everyone to enjoy, but chances are all the gung-ho Nintendo fans that signed on for a DS are expecting The Legend of Zelda, Metroid Prime Hunters, and other such gonzo gaming experiences and not a puppy simulator.
The pessimistic part of me wonders if Nintendo of America is discouraging the release of complex DS games in North America. The upcoming Zelda adventure for the DS will be another Four Swords title, something that most Link fanatics didn't enjoy the last time around. Word on Samus Aran's next adventure has gone silent. Where are the RPGs from someone besides Square-Enix? Where are the platformer adventures? Nintendo is to be admired for wanting to capture new audiences, but should also be admonished for leaving their rabid core audience on the sidelines. Let us hope that these Japanese exclusives will eventually make their way across the sea.