We've seen a number of times in recent years that fan feedback can and does make a difference to the games industry.
Prominent recent examples include the outcry over Mass Effect 3's ending, the controversy over Microsoft's original Xbox One policies and, more recently, fan feedback helping direct Microsoft's attention to which aspects of Xbox One's user experience really need to be adjusted, tweaked or just plain fixed.
It's not all about complaints, though; one of the biggest, most positive success stories in recent years was Operation Rainfall, a fan-led campaign that takes credit for the three excellent Wii RPGs Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora's Tower making it to the West. Through organized letter-writing campaigns and other tactics, it seems like the group played a role in getting these distinctly niche titles released in English-speaking territories -- Europe first, for once, followed by North America some time later.
But now, some recent comments from Nintendo of America's president Reggie Fils-Aime, as reported by Siliconera, suggest that it's not quite so simple as putting pressure on companies such as Nintendo.
When asked whether campaigns such as Operation Rainfall influenced Nintendo's decisions as a whole, Fils-Aime noted that "it doesn't affect what we do."
"We certainly look at it, and we're certainly aware of it," he clarified, "but it doesn't necessarily affect what we do. I'll give you an example. We had a bet around localizing Xenoblade. I wanted to bring Xenoblade here. The deal was, how much of a localization effort is it? How many units are we going to sell, are we going to make money? We were literally having this debate while Operation Rainfall was happening, and we were aware that there was interest for the game, but we had to make sure that it was a strong financial proposition."
Nintendo is a business, after all, so Fils-Aime's comments do make sense. There's little point in spending money on localizing a niche title if it will be unable to recoup its costs. However, at the same time it's also worth noting that there are companies out there like Xseed, Aksys and NIS America who specialize in this kind of content -- Xseed even ended up bringing Pandora's Tower to America rather than Nintendo -- and manage to sustain their business out of it. Nintendo is obviously in a slightly different situation to a straight-up publisher, being a platform holder and hardware manufacturer, but the experiences of these other companies do show that games don't have to sell multiple millions in order to be successful.
"I'm paid to make sure that we're driving the business forward," added Fils-Aime. "We're aware of what's happening, but in the end we've got to do what's best for the company. The thing we know [about petitions] is that 100,000 signatures doesn't mean 100,000 sales."
In other words, support the existing stuff that's out there and show that there's a demand for it, and more will follow -- as shown by the fact that we've already seen that Xenoblade developer Monolithsoft's next project X will be coming to Western territories as well as Japan. By all means continue to raise awareness and show support for niche titles -- but ultimately it's the money that talks, so after you've talked up a big game that you want to see released in the West, make sure you remember to actually buy a copy, hmm?