When grassroots campaigns succeed, like Operation Rainfall did, it can feel like people have moved mountains.
Three great Wii RPGs actually got localized, actually got released thanks to a massive outpouring of fan demand. One of Nintendo’s biggest franchises only exists thanks to these fans, and we should never forget that.
Giant soulless corporations actually responding, actually acceding to fervent demands… it’s insane when it actually happens. And Nintendo is the most surprising of them all!
Nintendo, the company that STILL hasn’t released Mother 3 in English. Nintendo, the company that DMCAs fan content and shuts down tournaments. If we are to epitomize the clueless, frustrating mega-corporation, our first image is probably Comcast. But then second, at least lately, is probably going to be Nintendo.
And yet… Operation Rainfall actually worked. I don’t know how, but I’m forever glad about the work that fans accomplished.
The Origin of Operation Rainfall
The story behind this, if you don’t remember, is Nintendo of America’s bizarre anti-RPG stance in the late 00s. Games like Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Golden Sun: Dark Age, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, and more were… not doing hot, to say the least. Nintendo kept releasing them, but due to poor marketing they never went anywhere. So Nintendo of America decided, you know what, let’s just stop releasing them altogether.
We missed out on a lot of games this way. One Fire Emblem game on DS that I’ll never not be sore about. Then, more importantly, three big RPGs on the Wii: Pandora’s Tower, a 2D action RPG; The Last Story, a new game by the creator of Final Fantasy; and Xenoblade Chronicles, a first-party Nintendo adventure made as the spiritual successor to Xenogears and Xenosaga.
Most people were concerned with the second one, The Last Story. That’s the one that looked he best and had the most hype, but when Nintendo declined to publish it in America, people lost their minds.
But it reached a whole new stage with Nintendo of EUROPE picked up Xenoblade Chronicles and localized it themselves. With a fully British voice cast, too! It would have been the first major Nintendo game to ever be localized but not come out in the U.S. Basically revenge for all those games Europe never got.
That revenge, though, soon became more important once Xenoblade Chronicles proved to be a big hit. This wasn’t some token RPG for hardcore fans. This was a good game. A REALLY good game.
And so Operation Rainfall began in earnest. Three games (mostly two, plus Pandora’s Tower as a bonus) and a firm demand for their release.
The Operation Rainfall Campaign
The campaign for Operation Rainfall acted like most other internet campaigns at the time. Constantly spreading the word to people that didn’t know these games existed. Signing petitions, sharing images, and even a whole website dedicated to covering these games and other niche releases.
This is just the sort of thing fans always do, though. Big campaigns to show support for a piece of media that barely affects the massive conglomerate that has the power to make it or not. Most of the time, nothing happens when fans rally, try as they may. But Operation Rainfall was persistent beyond anything we’ve ever seen, certainly not for three brand-new RPGs not part of any established franchise.
And somehow… It worked. Nintendo gave in and promised to release Xenoblade Chronicles in early 2012. Yep, two years after its release in Japan, but good enough for fans.
Though, with one catch… It was a Gamestop exclusive. They had essentially signed its death sentence right then and there, and everyone knew it. Store exclusivity was always what Nintendo of America did when they wanted to bury a game. But Operation Rainfall was too well-organized for that.
I was firmly in the Operation Rainfall camp by then, and happily preordered my copy. I’d have gotten more if I knew just how scarce copies would become after that, honestly.
Because, like Nintendo always does, Xenoblade Chronicles faced major shortages. The game sold so well that there just weren’t copies left to go around.
It turns out that a good game is going to sell no matter what. Because Xenoblade Chronicles wasn’t just some RPG. It was a REALLY GOOD game, the kind that’d have been a system seller for the Wii U if they had a bit more foresight.
A few years later, it’s almost absurd how Nintendo of America turned this smash-hit game into a throwaway release. Now, Xenoblade is one of the most popular Nintendo franchises, with two whole characters in Super Smash Bros.
Without Operation Rainfall, the whole series would be a forgotten obscurity in the U.S. Just silly.
Of course, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower came out later, too. The former was acclaimed and did okay, while the latter was more of a bonus anyway. Both were published by third parties stateside, for reasons beyond comprehension.
Operation Rainfall succeeded, and the world is a better place for it.
The Allure of Fan Campaigns
But, Operation Rainfall is also exceedingly rare, and had a lot going for it that other campaigns don’t. First off, one of its flagship titles already had an English translation; second off, two of these games were extremely well-reviewed, with one becoming a modern classic.
Other fan campaigns, especially for video games, don’t tend to go anywhere. We’ll never get that Mega Man Legends 3 release, for example. Waluigi will never be a Smash fighter (tragically). Dredd 2 will never be released. These kinds of campaigns are risky, because hardcore fandomry often don’t translate into big dollars. If they did, we would have actually gotten another real Chibi-Robo game by now.
So Operation Rainfall basically gave us a false look into the level to which fans can influence things. Nintendo gave in this once, but they haven’t given in since then on anything that matters. (I’m really pissed about Mother 3, okay?)
But we can at least bask in the success that Operation Rainfall brought. It showed that if you preach with your voice, and actually vote with your wallet, you can occasionally, sometimes, actually change things for the better.