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I sent a letter to nintendo europe...

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Rory C:
I sent this letter to Nintendo europes consumer services people some time before christmas, and since they haven't bothered to acknowledge me since, i thought I may as well share its contents with everyone I can, it's a bit on the long side, but please bear with me...

"Dear Mr Gosen:

I decided to abstain from purchasing a US imported Gamecube around this time last year and held out for the European release of the console on the back of the promises that you yourself had made regarding Nintendo’s future treatment of the European marketplace, looking back, I wish I hadn’t bothered.

As I write this I have just been informed of the European release date for Metroid Prime.  The 28th of March 2003, over four months after its US release.  You would think it would be a priority for Nintendo to release what is arguably their biggest title since Ocarina of Time in what is rapidly becoming the largest market for videogames as soon as was reasonably possible.  Instead, I have to wait what is an obscene length of time for the finished game to arrive whilst my flatmate plays the US version in the next room.

I appreciate that Europe can be a difficult market to tackle with its myriad cultures and languages, I also appreciate that Nintendo have a Pan-European language translation policy and that gamers expect flawless PAL conversions, and maybe a 60hz mode in their software, but these delays are getting beyond the joke.  I don’t claim to be an expert on games development but I refuse to believe that it takes 4 months to translate and optimise even a fairly text-heavy game such as Metroid prime, which, incidentally, isn’t nearly as text heavy as Zelda must have been, which arrived on these shores a mere couple of weeks after its US arrival.  Incidentally, my import copy of Metroid Fusion cost some £15 less than it otherwise would have from the UK high street.  Without the hype from its big brother to fall back on, the game appears to have by all accounts flopped in the UK.  Would it not have made more sense to release the two games together in time for Christmas?  Nintendo seems very keen to promote the connectivity that exists between the Gamecube and Gameboy Advance.  I get the nagging suspicion that Metroid Prime is all but ready to go and is being held back for marketing purposes, the logic of which continues to elude me.

Much as I hate to say this I honestly believe that for all their ultimately hollow promises Nintendo’s treatment of their European fanbase has actually gone downhill since the dark days of the N64.  The sad fact is that Nintendo have almost nothing with which to market its console to the casual consumer this holiday season.  Seeing filler material such as Mario Party 4 being hyped as the next big thing is more than a little depressing.  Starfox’s combination of obscure licenses and a game that is frankly not up to the standards I would expect from a Nintendo published title will not help it shift hardware this Christmas, and the sad truth of the matter is that Mario Sunshine has come and gone.  Reiterating a list of games I probably own or have owned does not change the fact that Gamecube is currently being outsold on an almost 2 to 1 basis by its closest competitor the Xbox, a console that I personally believe has almost nothing going for it.  

Metroid Prime would have been the perfect game to show the atypical cars and guns demographic that make up the majority of the videogaming market the kind of superior product that Nintendo can offer, unfortunately by the time they find out it may already be to late.  Nintendo are currently on a slippery slope and the Gameboy Advance is not going to save its big brother from obscurity unless urgent action is taken.  Release dates are my biggest concern, but there are also other issues, such as the overpricing of GBA software that need to be addressed as well.  If the situation does not improve then I may be forced to join the ever growing import crowd and purchase an Import Gamecube from the US (alongside an NTSC compatible TV) and I may have to sell my PAL Gamecube to fund this decision, either that or it will be relegated to playing the abundance of cheap PAL second hand software.  There is almost no benefit (I am aware of issues of warranty) to owning a PAL Nintendo console anymore when my flatmate can play the newest Nintendo titles as soon as they hit the market, and substantially cheaper as well, and what of the quirkily innovative and enthralling Animal Crossing?  It looks like I may never get the chance to play this game.  Ever.

I hope you understand that I am not out bear a grudge, I am simply a concerned fan who feels that Nintendo are doing their fans (and themselves) a disservice by failing to keep up with the PAL market, I hope you try hard to address these issues for your companies own benefit as much as anyone else, and I look forward to seeing a change of policy towards Europe on the part of Nintendo in the future.


Rory Cresswell

A few questions and comments:

- Did you send this by e-mail or by snail mail?
- 4 months for translation time is not unreasonable - Zelda: Wind Waker is taking that long from Japan to the US, and there is no NTSC/PAL conversion necessary.
- Nintendo doesn't control the price of games, retailers do.
- Do you think Nintendo cares if you buy an import GC or if you buy one from the UK?  They receive money either way.
- How much time does it take games on other consoles to localize for Europe?
- How big a market is Europe, as in, how many consoles are sold per month?  I'm honestly asking, I don't know any figures.

Ian Sane:
"- Do you think Nintendo cares if you buy an import GC or if you buy one from the UK? They receive money either way."

I'm not sure if that's true.  I would assume Nintendo Europe only gets a cut from games sold that they produced.  The money from American games sold to European customers goes in Nintendo of America's pocket.  I don't know this as a fact but I think it's a fair assumption.

I'm Australian, and I know if I had realised the implications of being a PAL gamer (relatively limited choice of games, long waits for games and new hardware) then I would have bought an import cube from the start.

Now I read articles where Microsoft are boasting about their gains in Australia, the fact that their XBox apparently has a bigger market concentration here than anywhere else in the world.

A lot of people seem to have the attitude "Australia is a small market, they just aren't important" However MS are treating Australia/New Zealand as an important market. More importantly, they are treating the popularity of the XBox here as a marketing victory, whereas it has more to do with Nintendo's lack of marketing, imo.


Originally posted by: baberg
A few questions and comments:

- Nintendo doesn't control the price of games, retailers do.

--- End quote ---

"Nintendo and several of its distributors have been hit by the European Commission for total fines of €167.8 million for "colluding to prevent trade in low-priced products."

Furthermore -

"Nintendo has been widely criticised for its failure to bring key titles to Europe until months after their release in the USA, and much of the dismal performance of the GameCube over Christmas in Europe was attributed to the lack of hit titles such as Metroid Prime and Resident Evil Zero, which drove sales of the console in the USA. The ability to easily import such titles may hurt retail sales of GameCube software in the UK even further. ",1367,57560,00.html

Animal Crossing nominated for game of the year at the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' 2003 Interactive Achievement Awards. Yet we Pal gamers won't see it. I just can't imagine this happening on the PS2 or the XBox. This is a highly-rated, some would say seminal game, and yet in order to play it we need an import cube, a freeloader, and have to import at great cost, a version that only plays on new tv's, and is inferior to the Pal versions of games we are accustomed to playing.

We have made it clear that we would be happy to play the US version, with no further changes made, and no e-reader support. Yet Nintendo decide on the basis of US sales not to release it in places where, fwiw, I think it would do very well.  


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