Different genres of social media have changed the world, but they are not omnipotent. In most cases this is a good thing, but not in the case of Operation Rainfall. It has been a purely well meaning social media movement that should have led to a great boon for the North American gamer public, but instead has served as a reminder of how stone aged Nintendo of America's (NOA) corporate thinking remains.
Operation Rainfall was born on June 22nd in the IGN Wii forums as a request for the North American release of three Wii JRPG's: Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower. The Wii's release schedule has been a desolate place of late, especially for hardcore gamers, and releasing these well-regarded games would help to alleviate that. Also, two of the three have had European releases announced, meaning the expensive and time consuming process of translating them into English is already being done. In light of these facts, it seems NOA would be foolish not to at least push a small release of these games stateside.
Their fans certainly spoke out for them. Within days of the IGN thread's conception, Rainfallers had pre-ordered Xenoblade Chronicles on Amazon, available due to a planned and ultimately aborted 2009 North American release of the game, in such quantities that it was the #1 most pre-ordered game on the site for three days. The movement developed its own Twitter feed and blog. Rainfallers created a comment thread on Nintendo's Facebook page 3,400 comments long requesting information on a North American release of the three games. Most games that Japanese developers translate for English-language releases have nowhere near that level of support.
Despite wide speculation that Nintendo would acknowledge the demand from fans and announce the three North American releases at E3 in late June, no such announcement occurred. And on June 29th, Nintendo issued terrible news for US gamers when they announced through their official Facebook page:
"Thank you for your enthusiasm. We promised an update, so here it is. We never say 'never,' but we can confirm that there are no plans to bring these three games to the Americas at this time. Thanks so much for your passion, and for being such great fans!"
The lip service framing the bad news makes the rejection even worse, but Operation Rainfall is not over. Its organizers have planned seperate letter writing campaigns for each of the three games all to occur during the month of July (visit their blog to participate). They also encourage fans to continue pre-ordering the games on Amazon and other online retailers, to encourage incentive for a game company to release a game with the advanced knowledge that people will buy it. Nintendo, and NOA in particular, has never been very responsive to the demands of their fans, so in all likelihood the wishes of myself and other Operation Rainfall participants will fall on deaf ears. But maybe, just maybe, in this case the power of social media will finally cause even the ever curmudgeonly Nintendo to change just a little.