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NOA localizer insists Xenoblade too risky, defends Wii U naming

Agent Unknown

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Quoted/paraphrased from the Part Time Gamers Podcast:

Edit: This is from a podcast done August 3, 2015, the same week this thread was made. Search the ITunes Store or the Apple podcast app for "Part Time Gamers" if you want to listen to it.

Chris a Pranger, localization employee for NOA, joined in 2012:

And they just say the classic “Why do you hate money? Why do you hate money, Nintendo?” (said in droning, "dumb guy" nasally voice)

And it’s like “What are you talking about? We’re trying to make…obviously it has to make calculated risks, but at the same time, one of those risks…and I mean they’ll bring up games that are very Japanese games, like Captain Rainbow for instance. They’ll bring that up like “Look how many people want this. Don’t you want money?”(repeats "dumb guy" nasally voice) And we’ll be like “Yeah, we do want money, which is why we know it’s a colossal waste if we ever try to localize that in this current market, because look at you people. You don’t make up a big enough group.

You look at something like even Xenoblade Chronicles. People love that game, you know, within a certain group. That game is not the type of game that just pulls in enough to justify the costs on that. So that’s like, we got it in the States by luck, that NoE decided “Oh, we’ll take the fall. We’ll localize that.” Okay, cause someone is going to have to eat the costs somewhere, because that game is guaranteed to not sell enough to justify how big that game is. You know, hundreds of hours, all voiced. That’s a lot of money that goes into that.

And people are like “Why do you guys hate money?” (Dumb guy nasally voice) We don’t. That’s why you literally can’t make everything. And people don’t like finding out that their fanbase is actually too small to justify the costs of the thing they want.
That's in the first 12 minutes. I agree with him on Captain Rainbow, as much as I would have liked to try it, that game was super niche and fits the point he makes. But still insisting that Xenoblade Chronicles was too risky for NOA and NOE had to "take the fall"? Ok, unlike NOA, I think NOE was just more willing to try and make a move to please their core fans (especially Wii owners who were hungry for RPGs at the time) instead of having the rather antagonistic, derisive view of them which kind of seems to permeate NOA from Reggie on down these days (and also kind of permeates Pranger's tone during the duration of the podcast).

And in the end, that move paid off for everyone as Xenoblade did well in Europe and sold well in the U.S.

http://www.ign.com/boards/threads/reggie-and-xseed-comment-on-the-sales-of-xenoblade-last-story.452694055/

Reggie on XenoBlade:

"We needed to make sure that there was really an opportunity for it. We wanted to see how it would sell in Europe, and based on the performance in Europe, we would look to bring it here to the U.S. It did well in Europe; we decided to bring it in here. We took a very smart approach and we sold it ourselves online in terms of physical goods as well as a focus on GameStop as a retailer, and it was a very good effort for us. (It sold) Quite well."
Per the quote above, Reggie says they brought the game over because were pleased with the sales in Europe, but to me that just demonstrates fact this wasn't NOE "taking the fall," they're just more open minded sometimes and have the guts to try things sometimes that NOA refuses to. Even after NOE did all of the costly voice work and translation work which Pranger complains about and uses as his key argument, NOA STILL dragged its heels before striking the deal with Xseed and Gamestop.

Near the end of the Podcast, Pranger says it really irritates him that fans on NeoGaf constantly complain about Wii U sales suffering due to confusion surrounding the 'Wii U naming convention' and says this complaint is mostly just fan overreaction to something we can only see now "in hindsight." I guess maybe I can kind of agree with him there as before launch I shrugged off the naming myself and insisted it was overworrying (talk about eating Crow, heh) but some like bgamer90 successfully predicted months before launch that branding confusion would be an issue (man, Crow pie is gamey). I also find this interesting in contrast with Dan Adelman's opinion on the endless consumer confusion surrounding the system and the name that he stated last August:

Dan Adelman says the Wii U name is holding Nintendo back

http://www.gamespot.com/articles/wii-u-name-is-abysmal-and-it-cut-sales-in-half-for/1100-6421558/

"Wii U is not selling as well as it deserves to. It has a lot to offer with great games you can’t get anywhere else. The value of the GamePad hasn’t been justified. But the name Wii U is abysmal. I think that cut sales in half right there."
Anyways, aside from all that, I HIGHLY recommend listening to the podcast. Pranger shares a lot of fascinating insight to Sakurai's stressful, artistically obsessive qualities and a lot of interesting tid bits on the things they have to work around when translating Japanese text and puns to fit western releases, (some funny anecdotes about Kap'n). Hey, speaking of which, glad years ago that the Treehouse staff back then didn't see Animal Crossing as a huge localization risk/burden and were willing to beg NCL to let them bring the game over.

And Mr. Pranger, if you're reading this, please don't take offense at this thread, I really enjoyed your experiences in the podcast and look forward to hearing you as Boss #1 in Star Fox. :)
 
Dec 22, 2014
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Pranger says it really irritates him that fans on NeoGaf constantly complain about Wii U sales suffering due to confusion surrounding the 'Wii U naming convention' and says this complaint is mostly just fan overreaction to something we can only see now "in hindsight."
People have been complaining, rightfully so, about the abysmal name they gave the platform. Dude is a little delusional if he 100% believes that the name has nothing to do with it.

I mean, fuck, even Target, a major retailer partner for NOA, couldn't get it right at one point:



"Wii U" was never a name the general population looked at and thought "oh, hey, that's the new Wii". They were thinking more along the lines of "Galaxy S5 Mini", "iPhone 5C", etc. An addon or different version of the same thing. So, yeah - I'd have to disagree with him on the idea that the name had no impact and is really only something people look at in hindsight. It's been a glaring error about the thing since day 0 and continues to be. Doesn't help Nintendo struggled to even communicate in their own advertisements that it wasn't just a tablet for the Wii for a while...
 

CaviarMeths

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As a Canadian, I read that as Chris Pronger and thought "Oh, so that's what he's been doing since his semi-retirement."
 

EloquentM

aka Mannny
Jul 1, 2011
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Agree with the localization thing but it wouldn't be such a big deal if the consoles were region free. Wii u naming I completely disagree with. The name fucked that console just as much as its other short comings.
 

Shizuka

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May 28, 2014
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"Yeah, let another branch foot the costs, or else we're not doing it ourselves!"
 

James Scott

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May 24, 2014
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Xenoblade was risky. Probably wouldn't of done nearly as well without so much fan reaction and it's not like those 3DS games with mostly texts and little to no spoken dialogue. Xenoblade had a lot of voice acting. They handled it as well as they could have, I guess. They completely sold out on shipments and probably maximized profits per unit sold thanks to the GS deal.
The Wii U name is dumb, but what can you do? Just dont' name the next one Wii ____ and you should be fine.
 

CertifiedFP

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Mar 25, 2013
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Bollocks.

Xenoblade could have done even better than it did if initiative was taken and it was marketed as the Anti-FF13.
 

Escalario

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Sep 3, 2014
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And he's kinda right. The audience for JRPGs on Nintendo consoles in NA seems really small, much much smaller comapred to their portables. Meanwhile Europe (especially Germany, France and Spain) is a much stronger market for JRPGs on all consoles and portables.
 

Alfredo

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I understand that we (barely) got Xenoblade because it was already localized by Nintendo of Europe, but what about other stuff that was localized by NOE but never brought over, like the Fatal Frame 2 remake?
 
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It's pathetic that they think localizing something like Xenoblade wouldn't have been worth the cost and that's why it took so long. You know why the cost for something like that is hard to justify? Because they do nothing but under ship and don't care to print more copies of a rare game that actually seems to be doing really well. It honestly says quite a bit when it comes to how they treat some of the companies working under them and how they value the work they create, when they don't even deem said work as being worthy of giving it a chance.
 

Fantastical

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May 3, 2008
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It's extremely disappointing that during the Wii times, when Nintendo was printing money and reaching tons of people, they wouldn't take the effort to bring a huge RPG to NA. I think it's actually a very bad business decision... not exactly Xenoblade in particular, but the fact that it was a different type of game on Wii. Nintendo got way too comfortable with their "sure successes".
 
May 4, 2014
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Oh man. All I can think is "this guy SUCKS."

Over and over in my mind.

"This guy sucks."
"Lisa needs braces."
"This guy sucks."
"Dental plan."
 

Lunar15

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Jun 15, 2011
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I guess the main question is, did Xenoblade sell well enough to cover the costs of localization?
 

Branduil

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Sep 20, 2006
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Excellent Eriador
If the number of people who want to buy it is so small then why don't they make their consoles region-free?

One way or another, they're screwing over the few loyal consumers they have left. Not very smart, Chris Pranger.
 

jnWake

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Mar 30, 2013
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Given that he joined in 2012 I doubt he had much insight into what happened with Xenoblade Chronicles (released April 2012 by NOA).
 

CertifiedFP

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Mar 25, 2013
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It's extremely disappointing that during the Wii times, when Nintendo was printing money and reaching tons of people, they wouldn't take the effort to bring a huge RPG to NA. I think it's actually a very bad business decision... not exactly Xenoblade in particular, but the fact that it was a different type of game on Wii. Nintendo got way too comfortable with their "sure successes".
I can't help but feel that stuff like the Xenoblade debacle, region locking, and the hubris the Wii's success gave them is so damn emblematic of the ongoing downfall of Nintendo with the WiiU.

Treat the old guard like shit, and they stop caring about you. Who'da'thunk'it.
 

Meaty

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Mar 10, 2015
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You know, all this policy, the fact they refuse to sell products for a decent price a DECADE after release, and the fact they always undership. Maybe you dont hate money, but you certainly hate pleasing your audience, which surprise: is the one the who brings money.
 

Sakura

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Sometimes you need to take a risk though... And a game localisation, isn't really financially a huge risk to take for Nintendo. They don't have a magic crystal ball telling them how many copies of Xenoblade will sell, and they brought the 3DS port and Xenoblade X, so clearly it was big enough for that.
And even if it maybe doesn't end up being profitable, it helps to fill up your software lineup to make your device overall look more attractive.
You know, all this policy, the fact they refuse to sell products for a decent price a DECADE after release, and the fact they always undership. Maybe you dont hate money, but you certainly hate pleasing your audience, which surprise: is the one the who brings money.
And yea, customer experience is huge. Maybe you take a bit of a loss, but happy customers are returning customers, and customers who will sing your praises to others.
 

Golnei

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May 12, 2014
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he's absolutely right about the localization thing
I can definitely agree with him there - it's delusional to think Captain Rainbow or similar games would have anywhere near the appeal to not be a waste of manpower and resources. In hindsight, it's fairly obvious localising Xenoblade at all was a mistake on NoE's part - even with the 3DS port, it can't have been profitable.
 

VLQ

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I understand that we (barely) got Xenoblade because it was already localized by Nintendo of Europe, but what about other stuff that was localized by NOE but never brought over, like the Fatal Frame 2 remake?
maybe it didn't go well in Europe?
 

Lunar15

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I can't help but feel that stuff like the Xenoblade debacle, region locking, and the hubris the Wii's success gave them is so damn emblematic of the ongoing downfall of Nintendo with the WiiU.

Treat the old guard like shit, and they stop caring about you. Who'da'thunk'it.
Nah. The old guard bought Xenoblade and they bought the Wii U. That's not the group that caused the Wii U to sell poorly. That group is still there.
 

IdreamofHIME

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Xenoblade was the launch game for N3DS and the consoles killer app, the fact they took the time and effort to make a 3DS version, that Shulk is in Smash and that the new Xenoblade is coming...shows Reggie is full of fucking shit.
The man knows nothing about the industy or the people buying his product. He wanted to ride the Wii sports grandma money train for all it was worth with no foresight...despite what Japan and Euro branches were doing.
 

Agent Unknown

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guy sounds kind of abrasive in his tone but nothing he said is wrong
Not even his apparent stance regarding the damage done by Wii U naming being mostly "whatever hindsight" and 'fan overreaction' on NeoGaf? Are you OK that he insists Xenoblade was too niche/risky for NOA and that he seems totally OK with the fact that NA wouldn't have gotten it unless NOE had taken the initiative to eat the cost and bring it to EU fans? In spite of the fact Xenoblade was successful enough in the western market to be one of the few titles N3DS-only titles along with MM and a major Smash crossover brand and Xenoblade X will be one of the biggest Wii U releases in the west this fall?
 

-Horizon-

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Aug 29, 2012
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I have to wonder how much of Xenoblade selling well in the US was only because of Operation Rainfall bringing the game into the spotlight.

I want to believe it really helped The Last Story at least for making it one of Xseed's best selling games.
 

Korigama

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Even after NOE did all of the costly voice work and translation work which Pranger complains about and uses as his key argument, NOA STILL dragged its heels before striking the deal with Xseed and Gamestop.
That was for The Last Story and Pandora's Tower in respect to Operation Rainfall-related deals with XSeed, which came later down the line. Xenoblade's release was between NoA and GameStop specifically, the only one of the three that XSeed didn't publish for NoA.
 

Roo

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I guess the main question is, did Xenoblade sell well enough to cover the costs of localization?
Didn't it sell like 500k NA and EU combined?
I assume it sold good enough. I mean, we're getting a sequel...
 

TheXfactor

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Jul 17, 2013
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truth be told with rise of digital gaming, and theirs has gained a lot over the years, couldnt they just release it as a digital download?
 

CertifiedFP

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Nah. The old guard bought Xenoblade and they bought the Wii U. That's not the group that caused the Wii U to sell poorly. That group is still there.
Gamecube lifetime sales were 22 million. Wii U sales are in the 10 million range.

Where'd the last 12 million of that old guard go?
 

NIN90

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Well, localization must have cost a lot so I get his reasoning.

What about those other two JRPGs that came over around the same time? Last Story and Pandora's Tower, I think? How did those sell?
 

Lunar15

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Gamecube lifetime sales were 22 million. Wii U sales are in the 10 million range.

Where'd the last 12 million of that old guard go?
Wherever the third party went. GC didn't sell great, but it had third party games on it, due to the specs being similar to other platforms. Wii U has none of that.

I wonder what convinced them to localize FE X SMT then.
Two existing brands, including FE, which did pretty well over here.
 

Escalario

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Sep 3, 2014
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I guess the main question is, did Xenoblade sell well enough to cover the costs of localization?
I'm sure it did, considering NoE ate the localization costs. What I have doubts with is The Last Story and Pandora's Tower for both EU and NA. Which is a shame because I really liked them, especially Pandora's Tower :(
 

TheShampion

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Mar 12, 2009
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The problem is with this type of thinking that it makes a lot of sense in the short term, but in the long term it gives the impression that Nintendo systems have no games, and even when there are games, NOA isn't going to localize them anyway.

Localizing niche games isn't just about money, it is about noruishing a fan base.

The biggest examples would be something like Fire Emblem series and the Persona series. No one would have even bought the later entries in the series if there wasn't a small, but dedicated fan base that stuck through all the entires "before they were cool."

Not taking risks in a creative industry is not the greatest way to keep at the top, and the WiiU seems to be evident of that.
 

udivision

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I don't see how Nintendo can justify even greenlighting Xenoblade Chronciles X. I guess that's an expensive way to galvanize their current fans, but I don't think it did much for them.
 

-Horizon-

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Aug 29, 2012
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Well, localization must have cost a lot so I get his reasoning.

What about those other two JRPGs that came over around the same time? Last Story and Pandora's Tower, I think? How did those sell?
The Last Story was the best selling game for Xseed.
 

Dreamwriter

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Aug 23, 2006
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Just think how well Xenoblade Chronicles would have sold had they actually sold it in retail stores like normal and actually marketed it from the beginning. As for the localization being such a burden, if that's all that they cared about and didn't think it would sell in big numbers, all they would have had to do would have been to localize the subtitles. That's no risk, it's not expensive or time consuming. It wouldn't have sold as well, of course.

As for the Wii U naming convention, how can he say it's only a fan reaction based on seeing what happened in hindsight? People were talking about the name causing confusion starting from the day the name was announced. Heck, people on *NeoGAF* were confused by the name.

And he's kinda right. The audience for JRPGs on Nintendo consoles in NA seems really small, much much smaller comapred to their portables.
Got any evidence to back that statement up? The fact that they just plain don't release them in the US means people aren't buying them. But XSeed says theirs sell incredibly well.
 

Mory Dunz

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Jun 12, 2012
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Did Xenoblade actually make money though? Doesn't seem like it did tbh.
I mean, graphics were due to the Wii, but everything else about the game seemed like a high level JRPG and therefore high costs. Not even close to the same level as say a...Tales of Symphonia (been playing that recently).

Didn't it sell like 500k NA and EU combined?
I assume it sold good enough. I mean, we're getting a sequel...
I don't think a sequel necessarily means the first made money. Maybe they wanted to push it and try to build a brand for the long run....since there's no other RPG.
 
May 4, 2014
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I can definitely agree with him there - it's delusional to think Captain Rainbow or similar games would have anywhere near the appeal to not be a waste of manpower and resources. In hindsight, it's fairly obvious localising Xenoblade at all was a mistake on NoE's part - even with the 3DS port, it can't have been profitable.
This is a really naive and ideological stance to take on the issue, but I'll echo comments critics sometimes make in the film and television industries: when you are in the business of culture, it's not all about the money. You have a serious responsibility to your consumers. And your image is as important to your business as your sale smarts.

This is why Yahoo picks up a sixth season of Community. This is why Netflix makes season four of Arrested Development. Your business is culture. Your business is all image. And your business is about making your audience feel like you bring them the absolute best and highest quality experience and that they, as your customers, come first.

This doesn't mean localize Captain Rainbow.

But Operation Rainfall existed for a reason.