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2011 will be considered a marquee year for gaming for two reasons. Two contrasting themes will be remembered when we look back at 2011. One is abundance, the other is drought. The first is the abundance of AAA games released in the holiday season across all systems. So many near-perfect games were released that gamers hardly have enough time on their hands to give sufficient playtime to all of them. The second is the drought North American Nintendo fans endured throughout the first three quarters of 2011 on both the Wii and 3DS. But, a drought isn\’t something especially noteworthy. What is worth pondering is the unprecedented campaign launched by loyal Nintendo fans in response to the drought. That will go down in the annals of gaming history as a movement that united fans across continents and even managed to engage a sympathetic media in their favor. The cause is one Operation Rainfall, aimed at the localization of three much-anticipated games– Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower. Whereas the campaign focused on three specific games, its message is one much more global. It signifies the importance of listening to fans. Gamers want to be recognized by Nintendo. They don\’t want to be neglected. And their cry beckons for a change in Nintendo policy in regards to localizations on North American soil. Even non-American fans joined the campaign out of a feeling of comradery for their Nintendo peers across the ocean, and the common message they have for their favorite game developer.

But, Operation Rainfall didn\’t happen without leadership. It was a product of a few brave Nintendo fans who took it upon themselves to shoulder the responsibility of such a movement. Operation Rainfall snowballed into something greater than the sum of its parts, but without the original snowball it wouldn\’t have produced such an avalanche. We here at Nintendo Enthusiast decided to track down the founders of the movement and find out more about these unique individuals. As Operation Rainfall heads towards the end of Phase 3, we\’ll take an inside look at what makes this campaign tick. The campaign began under the leadership of Tyson Gifford and when his superhuman efforts eventually exhausted his energies, the management passed on to Marko Mac, who has tirelessly worked on behalf of the campaign ever since. We\’ll be speaking to both of them.

 

Tyson Gifford [aka TheMightyMe]

\"Tyson

Nintendo Enthusiast:  Tell us a bit about yourself. How old are you? What are you currently up to these days?

Tyson: I would rather not discuss my senior citizen status, lol (I’m in my early 30s, senior citizen for gamers) as for what I am up to… I am struggling to find my way in what I want to do with my life, which is make games. I am seeing what I can self-teach and what I might need more education in, at the moment.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast:  Many people talked about making a petition or campaign for the localization of the three games but didn\’t put those words into action. What made you take on the responsibility of such a big campaign and actually executing such a big undertaking?

Tyson: My idea was to take an approach, less based on the typical online petition and more based on the often successful approach fans of Television series have taken.  This has worked for shows like Star Trek, Veronica Mars, Jericho, and others in getting additional seasons.  My approach was to flood Nintendo with unavoidable, physical mail in mass.  I really didn’t want to lead such a movement, but nobody was stepping up.  So I threw something together quickly as a template idea and it kind of inspired people who had their own ideas.  Very quickly, as a group, we decided that an even better approach was to rule out nothing and attack from every possible angle.  Ideas just flooded out from everyone involved.  I never expected it to become such a huge undertaking.  It just kind of evolved into one.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast: The campaign saw so much support from fans and was very successful in terms of popularity amongst the media and fans. Why do you think the campaign became such an overnight hit? What was the key to its success?

Tyson: I think it was the collaborative spirit it took on that really got it moving.   There were actually alot of groups essentially trying the same kind of thing, but in a very unorganized, un-named way.  We just pulled everyone together, opened a bunch of social media pages, and the core group were basically inviting people in from every location we could think of.  I went to Nintendo’s Facebook page and read comments from people who wanted these games.  Then, I messaged each of them individually.  I remember how tiring it was.  I basically lived on Facebook and Twitter for about two weeks; eating in front of my computer and sleeping four to five hours a night.  I wasn’t the only one.  So, if I had to say what the key to our success was, it would be including everyone, listening to everyone, “attacking” from multiple fronts, and just living the movement.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast: At the height of the movement, how many staff members were working on the campaign?

Tyson: It is hard to say, maybe eight to ten.   People came and went a lot.  Some stayed for a week, some for a day, some are still there.  Also a lot of people, that weren’t actual “staff,” would pitch an idea.  If general consensus was in their favor, they would run point and end up becoming staff in the process.  We had to give up the idea of controlling the movement and instead settle for gently guiding it.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast: At what point did you decide to pass on the reins to someone else? What were the factors in your decision?

Tyson: Well, on occasion I would just burn out.  It was really hard, and it only got worse when my e-mail box was flooded with people telling me that I was doing it wrong, suggesting a very negative anti-Nintendo campaign, or just in general trying to create discontent.  Much of this is just trolling, but it takes a toll.  I couldn’t ignore the e-mails or I would be abandoning those who were actually trying to be more involved.  My breaks just started becoming longer and more frequent.  It got to the point in which Marko (who currently runs the movement) was doing a lot more than I was.  I talked to him about it and came to the decision that I would rather take a smaller role, both because of the stress and because I was eager to work on other personal projects in my own life.  So, over the next couple of weeks we started giving him administrative status on everything and we contacted our current staffers while making the transition.  It’s a bit bittersweet for me as I still like the IDEA of running it all.  But, putting ego aside, the movement probably would have faded into obscurity. I still have administrative access to everything, so I occasionally make posts on Facebook and Twitter, and Marko keeps me up to date.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast: Do you think Operation Rainfall will ultimately be a success? Will we one day see the three games localized on a Nintendo system?

Tyson: It is hard to say for sure, a lot of Nintendo of America’s recent decisions are downright strange.  It is hard to get into their head and ultimately it is entirely up to them.  That being said, I am confident we will get them, either in 2012, or perhaps as downloadable games on the Wii-U.  Here’s a scoop for you, I am currently writing an article about the various ways in which Nintendo could release these games and the benefits unique to the different methods.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast: Why do you think Nintendo rejected the campaign? Why didn\’t they listen to the fans?

 Tyson: Nintendo is stubborn, due to their fierce, independent spirit.  This is something I actually like about them, but it can be frustrating as well.  They can be so far ahead of the curve and yet miles behind at the same time. They are currently way behind in communicating with their fans.  Well, actually I should correct that, Nintendo of America is way behind there whereas, Nintendo of Europe has been doing a lot recently, not just putting out the games but in fan involvement.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast: Do you see a difference between Nintendo of America, Europe, and Japan in terms of bringing content to their fans? What is the difference it policy?

Tyson: Nintendo of Japan (NCL) has a shotgun approach.  They have a huge range of content from super niche to super casual.  I do not think they have necessarily found a good balance, nor have they been able to market games like “Xenobalde”and “the Last Story” efficiently.   I cannot blame NCL alone in this, because the Japanese market has been transitioning to handheld dominance and in the transition has become far more fickle than it was before.  Thankfully, NCL seems to realize this and they aren’t giving up on niche titles.  Nintendo of America (NOA) has unfortunately become a bit too focused on a singular image; that of the blockbuster title, and have seemingly lost sight of keeping a diverse and full line-up.  Nintendo of Europe (NOE), on the other hand, seems to be marketing towards separate and individual markets, focusing core advertising on their mainstream while approaching their niche titles with deep and personal campaigns on social networks.  I would say that NOE is taking the best approach, and I hope it pays off for them.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast: Are there any personal anecdotes or vignettes from your time with Operation Rainfall that would be interesting to share with the fans?

Tyson: Well, most of the stories I have are rather personal, and I don’t think I could in good conscience share them with everyone.  What I can say is that I am just amazed by the kind of people we pulled together and the work they have done for us.  We received such heartfelt messages from the people who made the games we are fighting for.  I was stunned by the generosity of our people who donated nearly a grand to the Child’s Play charity.  You cannot imagine the pride I feel or the way my heart skips when  I read an article, listen to a podcast, or watch a video from a major gaming site focusing on Operation Rainfall.  Its impact has exceeded all expectations.

 

 

Nintendo Enthusiast:  Which of the three games are you most anticipating when Operation Rainfall ultimately succeeds?

Tyson: My preference changes almost every day.  I absolutely adore the people at Monolithsoft, which makes “Xenoblade” a strong contender.  I think “The Last Story” seems to be the most polished of the three, which excites me.  But, the subtle unease of the story in “Pandora’s Tower” has me more intrigued than with either of the other two stories.  Right now, I would say, I am most anticipating “Xenoblade”, if only because it is out in Europe and in current conversation amongst RPG fans.

 

Marko Mac

\"Marko

Nintendo Enthusiast: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How old are you? What are you currently up to these days?

Marko: My name is Marko Mac and I\’m a freelance web developer/graphic designer. I\’m 27 years old, have a beautiful wife, and we have two puppies. Outside of Operation Rainfall, I spend a ton of time on the computer for both work and play. I live in sunny southern California (although today it rained). I have been a Nintendo fan for life and aside from PS1 and PS2, I have only owned Nintendo consoles (well, I did inherit an Xbox 360, but my Wii and 3DS are my mains). I guess you could call me a Nintendo fanboy, but I\’m not a sheep.

 

Nintendo Enthusiast: How were you involved with the campaign leading up to when you took over the reins?

Marko: I\’ve kinda been doing my own little Operation Rainfall ever since E3 2009. Immediately after the E3 showing of Monado: Beginning of the World I began sending emails to Nintendo asking for more information. Later, when IGN began showcasing the blog of Hironobu Sakaguchi regarding The Last Story, I also began sending emails asking about that game. Finally, in January 2011, when the first teaser was also shown for Pandora’s Tower, I was starting to get frustrated. At the time, I was also including Disaster: Day of Crisis, Another Code: R, Fatal Frame IV, and Captain Rainbow in my emails to Nintendo of America. Back then, the replies were a little more personal than the standard PR we seem to be getting now. When E3 2011 came along and somehow Monado (now called Xenoblade) was not mentioned, I became a bit concerned. I immediately sent several emails to NOA. I wrote a lengthy blog about the reply NOA gave me and it just so happened that many other people felt the same way. That day, Operation Rainfall was born, and I happened to be there at the right place at the right time with the right skillset to assist Tyson (themightyme) in running the show. At the time, no one was around that knew how to run a Facebook page, so I volunteered to take over the Facebook page. Plus, being in front of the computer all the time anyways for work meant I had easy access to the latest news as soon as it became available. Themightyme was the one who got this campaign off the ground, and he is still active with us, but we all have priorities in life, and not everyone has the luxury (it’s not really that luxurious) of being in front of the computer for 10-12 hours a day.

Nintendo Enthusiast: How many people are currently involved in Operation Rainfall as staff?

Marko: We currently have 10 administrators, including myself, and we\’ve broken ourselves down into teams that manage a smaller group of volunteers. I personally run the Facebook page and type up all the PR stuff and make a lot of announcements, but the other admins have access to make updates as well. Ice (Louis Polite) is our IRC admin (he also likes to run what we call the OpRa Game Club). Richard Ross (aka IR0NG0D) is our A/V Team Lead (and classy gentleman). RJ Tyner (goes by Monado Dunban) is our Twitter admin. Herbert Lawrence Praskey (aka Mr Bomba Frita) is in charge of our DeviantART page. Steve Baltimore, David Fernandes help us run stuff behind the scenes, Aziz Michael Batihk runs our online store, and Will Whitehurst is in charge of our Japanese team (who translate stuff from English to Japanese). We also have a Spanish team that takes the main Operation Rainfall posts and translates them to Espanol.

Nintendo Enthusiast: The campaign saw so much support from fans and was very successful in terms of popularity amongst the media and fans. Why do you think the campaign became such an overnight hit? What was the key to its success?

Marko: The internet and social media played a huge role. Sites like Twitter and Facebook put the fans closer than ever before to publishers, developers, and the overall gaming media. The online store, Amazon, had an old listing for Monado: Beginning of the World (the working title for Xenoblade) that we were able to capitalize on, which got us a lot of attention, even Amazon mentioned Operation Rainfall in a tweet because of how quickly we pushed the title to the top of the charts.

Nintendo Enthusiast: After Phase 3 is over what are Operation Rainfall’s plans for the future?

Marko: In the immediate future we have plans to run a charity for the holidays that will benefit kids in need that are less fortunate. It’s better to give than receive. We done a lot of asking ourselves, but not everyone is in a position to ask, and would be happy just to receive something small, so we\’re going to take a minute to help out others. We\’re watch to see Nintendo’s reaction to Phase 3. If Nintendo doesn\’t pull through with an announcement by late December, we\’ll definitely have something cooked up for Phase 4 (which will not entail buying old NES games on virtual console, which was not my idea, by the way!)

Nintendo Enthusiast: Do you think the campaign will eventually be successful? Will the three games ever be localized?

Marko: I think these games will be localized. My primary reasoning for thinking this way is twofold. First, there is definite demand for these games, more so than past titles like Captain Rainbow, Another Code: R, Fatal Frame IV, and Disaster: Day of Crisis. Second, Nintendo of Europe is seeing definite success with Xenoblade Chronicles, and there is no way Nintendo of America can just turn aside what would basically be sure profit. Reggie Fils-Aime has stated that there will be core titles after Skyward Sword, he said wait until late December or January to hear more, and he said Wii will co-exist alongside Wii U. Those are three positive signs that mean NOA has no plans to leave the Wii high and dry for the next few months. My only fear is that those \”core\” titles aren\’t the already announced Rhythm Heaven and Mario Party 9!

Nintendo Enthusiast: What do you think was Nintendo’s reasoning for saying no? Why didn\’t they listen to the fans?

Marko: To me, it didn\’t sound like Nintendo said \”no\”. To me, it sounded like standard PR Bulls**t. \”No plans at this time\” means about as much as the words \”no comment\”. I think Nintendo IS listening, as evidenced by the fact that they responded so quickly to us via Facebook and Twitter. Now we just need to see if they are quietly hoping we will disappear or are planning some huge announcement for the next month or two.

Nintendo Enthusiast: Do you see a difference between Nintendo of America, Europe, and Japan in terms of bringing content to their fans? What is the difference in policy?

Marko: Well, Nintendo is a Japanese company that is run in a very \”classical\” way. They have run the business the same way for years, it’s part of what makes Nintendo, well, Nintendo. It appears that they still have the very old-school belief that they feel they know what people in the west will or will not like, and based on pure sales data alone, that is partially true. I\’ve heard from many that NCL (Japan) calls the shots and dictates what Americans get to play. But then any time we send correspondence to Japan, they ALWAYS tell us to go to NOA. Apparantly, Nintendo of Europe has always done their own thing and whoever is in charge of NOE gets kudos from me because they\’ve really picked up the slack since the SNES days. Excite Bots is an awesome game, but I\’d trade it for Xenoblade in a heartbeat with any of you Europeans out there!

Nintendo Enthusiast: Are there any personal anecdotes or vignettes from your time with Operation Rainfall that would be interesting to share with the fans?

Marko: I gotta give mad props to the Starmen (who petitioned for Mother 3), because running a fan campaign is not easy. Here’s the thing: if anyone who is an employee of Nintendo (specifically Nintendo of America) is reading this – I would not put this much work into something I don\’t personally believe in. Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story are two of the greatest RPGs of this console generation. There’s a reason why this campaign has legs, and there’s a reason why we are so dedicated. I\’ve been in touch with a lot of people in the games industry I would have never imagined, people that I have respected and admired most of my life have let me know personally that they appreciate the work we are putting into this campaign. And THAT means a lot to me, personally.

Nintendo Enthusiast: Which of the three games are you most anticipating when Operation Rainfall ultimately succeeds?

Marko: I\’m a huge Sakaguchi fan, so I\’m totally looking forward to The Last Story, but Xenoblade seriously looks and sounds awesome. If forced to make a choice like this, I\’d have to say Xenoblade. Pandora’s Tower looks like a ton of fun and it looks like just the sort of thing that Americans have been begging for on Wii for a while now.

Nintendo Enthusiast: Where do you go after the campaign? You\’ve gone from gamer to game activist. Do you plan on joining the game industry in some capacity?

Marko: This is a personal question that I actually take pretty seriously. I went into this campaign extremely naive. I basically thought all they had to do is stamp the PAL version on an NTSC disc and call it a day. Now, five months later, I have extreme respect for what localization teams do, and the publishers who import games from Japan also get a lot more respect for me. In the ocean of military first-person shooters they take bold and risky moves to make much smaller profits. There is a lot more involved than simple translation. Sales data, marketing, and distribution are all very expensive, and even the process of localization is a lot more complex than a simple literal translation. I\’m sure if the developers had their way, every title they made would be available to the entire world, but that just isn\’t  economically feasible, and I understand this now. I do not speak Japanese, but if my skills in graphic design, web design, or running community pages were ever called upon by a video game company that I respect, I would seriously consider it. As far as the campaign of Operation Rainfall, we have no intention of stopping. We currently have over 10,000 followers that feel the same way, and as long as there are quality titles being made in Japan that aren\’t being announced for western audiences overseas, we\’ll be around to address them. Even when Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower are finally announced, we will still follow through and promote them as best as we can. We\’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

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