Virtual Insanities: Let’s Import

One of my friends from England always tells me how European gamers get lubed up real good and then screwed repeatedly by publishers. He told me stories about his woes and the constant pain of receiving games with a delay; sometimes up to a couple of months after the title has been released in Japan or in North America. He told me about Super Paper Mario and countless other games where he had to wait a long while before getting his hands on them, and the way he made it look, I really started feeling bad for him. If video games were worth crying for, I would probably have shed some tears right there. Imagine how I felt when he told me that it was common for games not to be released at all in European territories. I was an emotional wreck. How would you feel if you knew that someone you care for never had the chance to play Super Mario RPG?

Even though I feel a little bit bad for my friend, I know that these situations happen too in North America. It just seems to be a lot less frequent. Most of the times, it is either games I don’t really care about, or it’s games that are so obscure that by the time I realize it even exists, we’re two generations too late. That’s what happened with Sin & Punishment, a game that is supposed to be a great rail-shooters, but which I have never had the chance to find out for myself. It came out in Japan for the Nintendo 64, but the first time I heard about it was in a Nintendo Power article which listed the 200 best games to come out on a Nintendo system. The verbal fellatio the magazine gave to Treasure was so intense that it all made for a very sexy moment, only toned down by the fact that I was sitting on a toilet.

All of this is to say that while I can understand that it truly sucks to see that the rest of the world is playing the latest hot game while you are left alone and miserable with nothing in your hands, I couldn’t really relate to it.

Until now.

Japan has been playing it for a while now, and Europe is set to receive it on September 14th. However, no date has been announced for North America. Even worse, its release has not even been confirmed for the continent. The way it looks right now, I might not be able to enjoy the quirkiness and the offbeat humour of Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland.

At first, the pain in the anal region was not as sharp as I was lead to believe. After a while though, I felt like a reject, as if Nintendo had deemed that I was not cool enough to play with Tingle, just like that kid at school with the big glasses who would always get pushed aside when the time came to play dodge ball. I eventually managed to overcome the initial anger and accept the fact that for once, I would be the one who doesn’t get to play. I was not mad anymore; I was simply left with that crushing feeling of being let down.

For the first time in my life, importing the game looks like the best solution. I never owned one of those import-heavy consoles like the Sega Dreamcast. With the Nintendo DS being able to play games from all regions, I guess this is a simple and easy introduction to that wonderful world where one can play games in languages that he does not even understand.

I know that all of this is in the nature of the business: why would publishers bother to release a game in a market that probably doesn’t even want it? After all, I know that Tingle is far from being a popular character, and in some circles, he is considered on the same levels as Jar Jar Binks. When all of this is taken into account, I can’t act all that surprised. Hell, I would probably have taken the same decision as Nintendo. Everywhere you go, be it a discussion forum or a geek gathering, the Tingle haters far outweigh his fan club. Look at how many Link cosplayers there are at any given convention, and then compare it to the number of people who decided to dress like the would-be fairy. You could pretend that it is because nobody wants to dress in a tight green suit, but it doesn’t hold up as an excuse, or else Link wouldn’t be that popular either. His tunic hides a pair of just as uncomfortable crotch-fitting tights, and I’ve never heard anybody complain.

Now what? Nintendo doesn’t think a game like Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland has a chance of succeeding in North America. As a gamer, I think that the only thing I can do to tell them I disagree is to import the game.

In fact, this is every gamer’s responsibility. If you want to play Tingle’s game – I can’t be the only one, right? – but happen to live in North America, import it. The same goes for any other game that gets a release elsewhere in the world, but not where you live. If you want to play it, import it. How else will publishers know that they might have missed the boat? It does work from time to time. Some games gain a cult status among import-savvy gamers and eventually get a full release in other parts of the globe. Let’s take a game like Elite Beat Agents. It was originally a great game with a Japanese name full of exclamation marks, and I kept hearing good things about it. A lot of people spread the word about that quirky rhythm game, imported it and ended up being remade into a Western-friendly version, with brand new songs to boot. I can’t affirm that the mass importation of the title is the sole responsible of its existence outside of Japan, but I’m pretty sure it helped a lot.

There’s always the other side of the medal, with companies like Sony which act as party poopers. The company effectively sued Lik Sang out of business because it was selling imported PSPs. I don’t know how they somehow ended up being against the act of selling more of their own system – I’m not in their shoes, *maybe* they had a rational justification which is beyond my grasp – but they took a hard stance against importation of their products outside of the release date. I also read that Nintendo wasn’t too hot when it came to that type of business, but so far, they have taken a stance that reminds us all of the three monkeys that speak, hear or see no evil. I know that companies might not be in a position to openly encourage importation of their products, as it may sometime work against their release schedule or whatever marketing strategy they are using at the moment. As long as people can keep playing obscure titles that they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise, the current situation works for me. As for Microsoft, they are an American company, which means that importation would work the other way, and we all know how popular they are in Japan.

There are two things that I wanted to accomplish with this rant:

– If a game you want to play is not available where you live, then go right ahead and import it. That’s the only way you can express what you think to the publishers. Sure, you could always complain on forums or in blogs, but how many companies read them? By buying imported games, you are talking to them with your money, which greatly improves their listening skills. Sometimes, they get the message and understand that taking risks can pay. Even if they fail to understand that, you always end up with a good game that you wouldn’t have been able to play otherwise, so you can’t really lose.

– I know this will turn a rant that was so far full of good intentions into a selfish plea, but why don’t you go ahead and buy Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland? Help me show Nintendo that I’m not the only weirdo who likes the character in North America. If there’s a sequel, I’d like to be able to buy it without much effort.

What? At least I’ve been honest.