A Brief Chat With Tyson Gifford of Operation Rainfall
Also recently, we had a talk with one of the original founders of the movement, Tyson Gifford.
Jake: Well, let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a little bit about your movement and, specifically, why you chose to target Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower.
Tyson: Operation Rainfall began on June 22nd, 2011 in a thread on the IGN Boards Wii Lobby. Our idea was to look toward what fans of TV programs at risk of cancellation (Star Trek, Veronica Mars, Jericho, etc.) had achieved, rather than a traditional, and historically unsuccessful, online petition. There had been discussion of what we could do to get these games for quite some time, but nobody was committing to any organized effort until then. So, from it’s very inception, Operation Rainfall had these three games in mind. In fact, you could say that the movement to get these 3 games in North America preceded Operation Rainfall itself. If you were to ask why these three games were on the radar of Operation Rainfall‘s founders, I would answer that it was merely a matter of taste. Those of us who started Operation Rainfall were all starved JRPG fans. It is also worth noting that we knew Xenoblade was bound for Europe and Australia. The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower were also likely to see release in these English-speaking regions, making North American releases for the titles a realistic and reasonable request.
Jake: So it’s safe to say that this is the same group of people that, say, enjoyed Baten Kaitos during its run on the Gamecube, which was also a joint effort between Monolith and Nintendo. Did it surprise you then that Nintendo of America wasn’t so willing to bring Xenoblade Chronicles stateside? I mean sure, Baten Kaitos didn’t sell all too well, but not only does it have the Xeno-series name involved, but you could argue it shares more similarities to Tales of Symphonia, which was far more popular.
Tyson: Definitely, while I cannot speak for everyone, I know that a lot of the staff and supporters of Opertaion Rainfall are HUGE fans of the Baten Kaitos series. Personally, I have been a fan of Tetsuya Takahashi since Xenogears, and have followed him and his staff as they moved from Square, to Namco, and finally now, to Nintendo. I have already invested close to 230 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles and would rank it in my top 10 games I have ever played. A lot of gamers looking for a quirky niche game will be absolutely floored by the scope and polish on display. But when it comes to Nintendo of America‘s reluctance to publish the titles we are supporting, the bigger shock for me was The Last Story. Having Hironobu Sakaguchi on-board for an exclusive is a big deal. Nintendo of America’s timid approach to the title genuinely surprised me. Though I suppose, we are indeed late in the Wii‘s life, and at this time the biggest obstacle to all three of the games we support is the declining interest in the console itself. Thankfully, with the announcement of The Last Story being published by niche specialist X-Seed, Nintendo has set a new precedent in their willingness to let another publisher handle a project they seem to have deemed too risky.
Jake: It was, indeed, a pretty big shock when you consider that NOA seemed to be all set to bring American gamers the first six Final Fantasy games, including FFIII, which had never been released outside of Japan until 2006. Do you guys think that they’re possibly playing things a bit too safe? I mean, there was a significant number of downloaded copies of Xenoblade Chronicles. There’s obviously a pretty big demand for this game, and it’s coming to a console that, you could argue, has the most loyal fanbase between the big three.
Tyson: I would say that Nintendo is one of the most conservative video game publishers, and that in turn makes them a bit risk averse (atleast fiscally). The biggest problem seems to be the one size fits all approach they have had towards software distribution. Thankfully, with the GameStop exclusive Xenoblade Chronicles, and the 3rd party published The Last Story, Nintendo now seems willing to take a different approach with some of the games they would normally look over. While they are currently only doing this for these two games, in each case they have set a new precedence. With the GameStop exclusive Xenoblade Chronicles, they are trying their hand at the low risk retailer exclusive. With the X-Seed published The Last Story they are trying their hand at the low risk 3rd party outsourcing option. We hope that both methods are wildly successful, but as low risk options, neither requires the kind of sales we would normally associate with a successful game to be profitable. Managed expectations is the phrase of the year, if the returns exceed the cost, they have a profit. As long as a game is profitable it is worth releasing, even if it doesn’t set the world on fire. That being said, I do not think that the torrent downloads of Xenoblade Chronicles would have evenly equated to additional sales, had no download been available. Piracy is easy, VERY easy, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if only a tiny fraction of those who downloaded the game will ever play it at all.
Jake: Let’s take a look at Pandora’s Tower. Is it safe to say that it’s the, how do I put this, niche title out of the three and possibly the biggest risk?
Tyson: I would say that’s fair, the title is from a lesser known developer who previously worked on manga license games, it simply doesn’t have the pedigree of the other two. Though I would also like to say that the game was not merely tacked on as some seem to think it was. Pandora’s Tower is a uniquely dark game for the Wii, a game more likely from Atlus than Nintendo. I think that gamers who want to see more titles like Eternal Darkness on Nintendo systems in the future, should really consider the dark story of Pandora’s Tower. Thankfully, like the other two games we are supporting, Pandora’s Tower has been fully localized for English-speaking countries by Nintendo of Europe. So if the game gets a similar low-risk release, it could still be quite profitable for something so niche. Operation Rainfall is planning a month of coverage for Pandora’s Tower in order to give it the attention it deserves. During this month, visitors to Operation Rainfall‘s various outlets will be treated to a plethora of content. You can expect art, desktop wallpapers, full articles with roundtables, video profiles, and more. We are currently ironing out just when this month will occur, as our schedule of coverage is a bit crowded now with the upcoming North American release of Xenoblade Chronicles. I would urge anyone who writes off Pandora’s Tower as the tag along of the group, to actually take the time and look into the title, especially if you like dark themes in your games.
Jake: How do you think the fan response to bring forth these games stateside will affect the Wii U‘s lineup of games? I mean obviously, you guys aren’t going to call it a day if Pandora’s Tower comes stateside as well, right?
Tyson: Most of all, it is the way in which Xenoblade Chronicles (a retailer exclusive) and The Last Story (3rd party publisher) are being released that could make an impact on the kind of games we will get on the Wii U. Nintendo has now set a precedent of their willingness to explore alternative means of distribution for niche titles. This could, hopefully, mean an end to the huge rift in game releases, between what Japan gets and what America gets. Beyond the potential for more localized Japanese Nintendo games, I think that the three developers most heavily involved in these games have gotten a bit more attention noiw, then they had before. As such, and for example, we could see much more attention granted towards Monolith Soft‘s upcoming Wii U title.
Jake: Have you guys ever considered trying to get some of these niche games that were released to fanfare on other consoles onto Nintendo‘s? I mean obviously, the processing power of the Wii isn’t on par with the Xbox 360 and PS3, but I’m sure some Nintendo fans would love to get their hands on, say Catherine.
Tyson: We have to be very careful when picking our battles, asking for a game like Catherine is a bit unrealistic. Personally, I would love to get my hands on Catherine, but the amount of work to make a Wii port possible is beyond what a grassroots campaign like ours can realistically request. Many of us were excited about Tales of Graces when it was announced for the Wii, but we never got word of a North American release. Then a PS3 version of the game was made, and now that version is coming to North America INSTEAD of the Wii version. We would love to have Tales of Graces on the Wii but Namco Bandai has explicitly stated that they have no interest in releasing the earlier version, and that the updated version would not be able to run on the Wii. So, like with Catherine, asking for a Wii version is just not a realistic request. Perhaps the Wii U is a more likely possibility, though I should clarify that we have had no discussion towards such a campaign.
Jake: What does the future have in store for you guys? I mean, Nintendo is going to be launching a new console this year and, as we all know, you need some really good games to help push consoles. Any Wii U games you guys are looking forward to, whether they’ve been announced for America or are currently on a Japan release?
Tyson: In the near future we have 2 big events planned. First, we have a 10 day countdown to Xenoblade Chronicles starting on March 27th, and ending on the 5th of April, the day before the April 6th North American release date. Then a week later, on Friday the 13th, we are launching a month long celebration of Pandora’s Tower, which releases in Europe on that day. We are hard at work preparing for these events, so please look forward to them. After E3 we will begin discussions about what games we will add to our campaign. Many people are excited about this, and want us to jump immediately into it, but we will not have a clear picture of what we should be supporting until updated release schedules are unveiled. We have no plans yet in regards to Nintendo’s Wii U console, though considering our relationship with the developer, we are obviously interested in the Wii U title that Monolith Soft has been teasing.
Jake: Thanks for the time (and patience with the technical issues). We’ll be at PAX and E3 this year, hopefully we can see you there, though I’m sure you’ll have your hands full promoting the launch of Xenoblade Chronicles.
Tyson: Thank you for your coverage. I am not sure if any of us will be in attendance at either PAX or E3, but we are certainly looking forward to them.
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