In recent years, Nintendo has also been something of a patron saint for Japanese RPG developers. It was Nintendo that published The Last Story
in Japan, and Nintendo again that picked up Dragon Quest IX
for a North American release. Their stable of in-house developers include the likes of Intelligent Systems (Fire Emblem
) and Monolith Soft (Xenosaga
, Xenoblade Chronicles
); and they have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Game Freak, home to the most popular RPG this side of World of WarCraft
Critics complain about Nintendo's fondness for franchises, but they have done as much as anyone to infuse the genre with fresh blood with their support of studios like Mistwalker. Only Level-5, home of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
and numerous other fresh IPs, has contributed as much. And with the Wii U on the way and the Nintendo 3DS continuing to grow, there's reason to believe that trend will continue.
If I have any reason to worry, it's because Nintendo has become increasingly obstinate about sharing the fruits of their labor with the American market. Following E3, a knowledgeable source commented that Fire Emblem's success in Japan meant that Nintendo "couldn't ignore it." That seems to be more and more the case with NoA these days, what with Xenoblade Chronicles
only being released at the last minute, and Pandora's Tower
continuing to be missing in action. That they should be so supportive of Dragon Quest and so obstinate about their own games seems a little strange to me. It's not as if the Wii is exactly bursting with games.
Their reticence is also counter-productive in that they have a real opportunity to tap into a passionate, nerdy bunch of gamers who will quickly rally around any platform holder who is willing to take care of them. It's a group of fans who have felt abused and abandoned by the industry at large; and as a result, have a great deal of pent-up frustration. To harness that energy is to gain a hardcore following that will do anything to promote your brand. To antagonize them, as we learned during Operation Rainfall
, is to kick the proverbial hornet's nest.
For better or worse, Nintendo of America is in this position because of the decisions made by their counterparts in Japan. With their support of JRPG developers large and small, the company at large has willingly picked up the mantle and put themselves at the forefront of a genre. And so long as Square Enix, Sega and, to a lesser extent, Namco Bandai remain content to rest on previous achievements, the fans will continue to look to Nintendo to lead the way.
Such responsbility is only a burden if Nintendo chooses to see it as such. I prefer to see it as an opportunity to distinguish a pair of new consoles in the face of an increasingly homogenized industry. And if Nintendo has learned anything in the past six years, it's that there's virtue in being different.
Kat Bailey is a freelance writer based out of San Francisco, California. Her work has been featured on multiple outlets, including GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, gamesTM, and GameSpot. You can follow her on Twitter at @the_katbot.