News Article

Talking Point: Gamer Protests Can Earn Small Wins From Publishers

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

From 60Hz retro releases in Europe, to freebies and localisations

It seems that in the modern era of social networks, free online news and consumers with greater choice than ever before, there is always something to get thousands of online commentators hot, bothered and outraged. On many occasions there are justifications and genuine reasons behind controversies, with seemingly needless shabby or disappointing industry practices irritating gamers and encouraging them to seek their entertainment elsewhere. What we've seen in recent times is that the gaming community seems to be wielding a little more power, with notable examples of publishers and developers being burned by protesting consumers and attempting to defuse their anger.

We've seen some examples in recent times on Nintendo systems, with today's latest surprise turnaround being confirmation that the upcoming release of F-Zero on the Wii U eShop in Europe will run at 60Hz. If you still don't know what we mean by that, and wonder what on earth all of us PAL gamers are blabbing on about, check out this outline of the Virtual Console's PAL problem. In a very brief summary, PAL games in the '80s and '90s ran about 17.5% slower that North American equivalents to accommodate TV standards that brought a higher resolution at the cost of a slower refresh rate. While comparison videos exist of titles such as F-Zero X, they can be susceptible to variables such as vehicles travelling at different speeds. The best visual example can probably still be found in the Sonic the Hedgehog comparison below.

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As our PAL problem article explains, complaints about this originated in the '90s and returned with a vengeance when the Wii Virtual Console service arrived, with 50Hz releases being fed to EU gamers despite the non-existence of the technical limitations that made them a necessity in previous generations. Rather than an issue of supporting televisions that only a tiny minority would still use, it was more than likely down to Nintendo's VC team saving costs by simply copying the original ROM codes, rather than go to the effort of adjusting to run at 60Hz.

Yet today we see that small landmark, with confirmation that an equivalent to the 60Hz NTSC version of F-Zero will arrive on the Wii U eShop this week. It seems reasonable to speculate that the reaction to the 50Hz version of Balloon Fight on the European Wii U store may have prompted Nintendo to contemplate making necessary changes. After playing 60Hz retro games on the 3DS Virtual Console — such as Super Mario Bros. — and noticing the faster performance and cleaner control response, European gamers took to the web to voice displeasure on forums and via at least one petition. Perhaps a game-changer, from Nintendo's perspective, was the flooding of Balloon Fight's Miiverse community in the region with irritated messages — which you can see in the video below — somewhat tarnishing the idea of a fun site where gamers could share screens of high scores.

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Does today's news mean that Nintendo will go to the effort to resolve this issue for all VC releases? Possibly not, and only time will tell, but it's a welcome start. This week has also brought us more surprise additions to Wii U that, arguably, have been driven by a need to placate an online storm. We're referring to this week's announcement that a Rayman Legends challenge mode is coming to Wii U this April as a free eShop download. An online mode that was originally part of the main game, at least we believe it was, is now being bundled up as an exclusive advance offering for Nintendo gamers, to compensate for the fact that a completed game is sitting on Ubisoft's servers until September. Rather appropriately using the social medium of Facebook to give the message, creative director Michel Ancel and senior game designer Michael Micholic also promised that the extra time would also be used to expand the game further, so that technically we should get a bigger, better game alongside the PS3 and Xbox 360 releases in September.

Will that be enough? It's hard to tell, though there will always be those so upset by the original offence that a determination to stand ground will still keep them from the game's eventual release — we would speculate, however, that a number of people will see the free content in April and think that, well, maybe the delay isn't the end of the world after all. Ubisoft also implemented a surprise Wii U eShop sale in North America, which seems awfully coincidental in the circumstances. What we seem to have is a middle-ground — Ubisoft is extremely unlikely (probably a 0.0001% probability) to bring the Wii U release forward from September, but it's providing a free download and a sale as an attempt to warm the icy hearts of spurned fans. It loses little from this gesture, in practice — extra eShop sales won't exactly harm it — but it's a bone for us to chew on.

That delicate balance between companies appeasing consumers while protecting themselves and their profits has also been evident with Nintendo. We need look no further than the 3DS Ambassador Programme. Nintendo had made the decision to slash the price of the 3DS barely six months into its lifespan, and no amount of complaining from early-adopters was going to change that fact. Like with Ubisoft, the decision was final, but the big N offered a take-it-or-leave-it compensation in the form of 20 free retro games — ten NES and ten Game Boy Advance. Some naturally still weren't happy, stating a preference for a reward such as free eShop funds instead, but the free games were all that was on offer. They were basic, competent ROMS, lacking Virtual Console staples such as restore points (though some NES games since on the eShop have been updated for free), with these versions unlikely to have taken Nintendo for too long to get up and running on 3DS. If you didn't want this compensation, tough luck, though many were rather pleased to get so many free games on their new handheld for free.

Were these games "free", as you'd paid more money for your system? It can be debated, but they were factually free, as no-one had forced early consumers to buy the handheld at launch price, and there'd been a solid six months of playtime up to the price cut. For those that had no interest in the VC-lite downloads there was still disappointment, but ultimately Nintendo, and Ubisoft in the case of Rayman Legends, could have done absolutely nothing. We're seeing a trend, however, of companies weighing up the odds — costs ÷ fan fury = benevolent gesture. Both Ubisoft and Nintendo, in these cases, have offered something that costs them little but, nevertheless, are products that have value to the customer. Another example, arguably, is Nintendo of America buckling to eventually release Xenoblade Chronicles in the region. Perhaps it was always the plan, but stalling being accompanied by consistent consumer complaints such as those from Operation Rainfall combine to suggest that fan-pressure had a role to play.

While we don't think game companies are going to throw too much goodwill and free content around — they're interested in profits and sales, ultimately — there seems to be a shift in dynamic to suggest that they need loyal fans more and more. To return to the 50Hz PAL issue, when that originated in the '90s there were less alternatives for gamers who'd had enough. It was more expensive to setup a gaming PC, and the vast range of games and devices on platforms such as Android and iOS hadn't even been conceived. Now, however, games companies are under increasing pressure to act when fans threaten to walk away, as the "traditional" games industry of dedicated hardware and their games is currently in decline. The bare facts are out there; sales are dropping across the board in the retail industry, and companies can no longer act as the big bosses and do as they please — gamers can easily walk away to other sources of entertainment.

While this is arguably a very positive development, with more games companies seeming to actually get rattled and care when fans vent fury, we all need to remain in control and reasonable at our end. We deserve to be treated fairly as consumers and receive good value products, while having every right to expose shoddy practices, but perhaps it's vital that we don't protest too vigorously over comparatively small matters or refuse to forgive. If we want to keep the gaming console industry strong and enjoy fantastic games, we need to keep developers and publishers on their toes and, if they react to appease us, support the industry that we love. If we were to all protest and refuse all Ubisoft games or never buy a Nintendo console on day one again, then we'd cut our noses off to spite our own faces.

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User Comments (43)



Bob-t-Gmaestro said:

I think I can wait if they're promising more content and a challenge mode for Nintendo gamers. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm okay with this.



antipop621 said:

I was sad about the delay but it did free up funds for other releases like Monster Hunter and Luigi's Mansion.



gojiguy said:

Protesting about lack of localization brought Tatsunoko vs Capcom over here.

Protesting about lack of keyboard support prompted Capcpom to create a DAY ONE patch for Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.

Protesting brought the Operation Rainfall games over.

Hopefully we can continue to protest to get things moving. Even though F-Zero and Earthbound fans are quite loud, Nintendo doesn't seem to really care. However, we can never stop!



XD375 said:

SNES PAL games are much more simple to convert to 60Hz than NES PAL games, so I'd suggest you guys stay on the lookout next time a NES game releases on Wii U.



Auracle said:

Very nice article, @Thomas. I think you hit the nail right on the head. We shouldn't let the companies walk all over us consumers, but we should also be fair in return.



mogadon1 said:

Lets have more reasonable download prices on the wiiu e-shop for games like zombiu etc.



AlexSora89 said:

Dangit Thomas, with this post you actually got me to make an account, just to drop by for a comment! (Just kidding, I was already planning to stop just lurking the site.)

My wiewpoint is, simply put, often publishers tend to underestimate protests unless they've messed up epically (see the whole Rayman Legends thing).

As far as my gaming experience goes, I'm both a Nintendo gamer and a Sony one (read: not a purist, sorry folks). My experience as a Sony user (people know me as AlexPSN89 on the European PS Blog) taught me that demand by itself doesn't suffice unless it's a stubborn kind of demand, which I fear is the only way the Spyro trilogy got, after a long wait (Nightsky? Pffft, try waiting for five years!), released in Europe at last.

Unfortunately, this doesn't mean either demand or protests are always acknowledged, let alone satisfied. My status as a die-hard Kingdom Hearts fan wasn't impressed with the latest installment for the 3DS not getting translated in Spanish and Italian, the latter of which being my native language. [EDIT: The reason I mentioned KH3D is, of course, that sadly none of the protests (and there were protests, complete with petitions!) resulted in a patch. What a pity.]

In my opinion, however, fans should always provide some kind of feedback for the publishers, whether it is ignored (Mega Man Legends 3) or it actually helps (Resident Evil Revelations HD - notice how I mentioned two Capcom games?). Developers and publishers alike need feedback just as we do need it as our way to let our voice be heard whenever the higher-ups happen to screw up. They're "holding the knife" in that they're the ones making their decisions, but we're equally doing the same by being the people who, ultimately, decide whether to buy a game or not.



zip said:

"it was more than likely down to Nintendo's VC team saving costs by simply copying the original ROM codes, rather than go to the effort of adjusting to run at 60Hz."

That's BS. There is zero effort in enabling 60Hz on VC titles (at least SNES ones). 50Hz and 60Hz are hardcoded together with the region of each game. It is simply a matter of changing a single value with a hex editor to enable 60Hz. Nintendo didn't do this because they still think a majority of european people use 50Hz TVs.



ThomasBW84 said:

@zip There are likely to be issues with in-game text or other region-specific elements. I believe it's been common knowledge for many years that the 50Hz TV issue has been minimal for a while, so I doubt that's the reason.



indienapolis said:

I agree with this sentiment, and support petitioning companies, but I'd also add that you have to differentiate between longstanding fan requests or complaints (for which a grassroots show of support can help bring about a consumer desire) and full-on boycott, like what seems to be the current message board threat against Ubisoft and is likely going to result in no more Ubisoft games for Nintendo consoles. I think that what Ubisoft is pulling with Rayman is terrible, but unfortunately a full stoppage of support for Ubisoft games on the WiiU, when that relationship is already tenuous, won't get the fans what they want. And although Ubisoft makes some crap games, they also create a lot of quality software that I wouldn't want to see leave Nintendo altogether. I think Ubi made a numbers decision with Rayman, that while I think it is crap for me the WiiU owner, I can understand, and because of a swell of complaint they are now trying to make amends. There's no great answer here, but I think some of the boycott rhetoric seems a little overheated, and is likely just going to result in NO more original IPs, NO Rayman, and NO Assassins Creed in the future, which is lousy. Keep complaining, show support for the games you want, but be realistic about your goals, and don't be too hasty to slap away concessions your protesting won. This is consumerist entertainment we're talking about here, not civil rights.



AlexSora89 said:


Nevermind that Nintendo consoles are always at the receiving end of the "exclusive" treatment in that most multiplatform games are exclusive... to non-Nintendo consoles. The Bill Murray wannabe linked below puts it best.

By the way, does anyone remember the so-called "Capcom 5"? Yeah, only one of those stayed a Gamecube exclusive. Before Ubisoft, there was Capcom (like it's a surprise).



indienapolis said:

@AlexSora89 Yeah, but its always a numbers game for publishers, and I assume a component of that is how much Nintendo is willing to pay for exclusivity and for how long. If the money/support isn't there, they won't publish a game out of charity. That said, I don't see what it would've harmed for Ubi to release for WiiU as originally planned and then rolled it out for PS and Xbox in September. Fans were pissed, the creators were pissed, and now they are trying to offer an olive branch. Does it make it all better, no, but i've seen people talking about not buying ZombiU as a result. And what good is that going to accomplish? I want more ZombiUs (and equally ambitious games) from third parties, not less.



Morpheel said:

Well, the other day I complained about Myst 3DS with the developer... They sent me a free game in return. I'd say that's a win.



WanderingPB said:

This article makes alot of good points. But Ubisofts decision to delay Rayman Legends was not only a bad idea like Nintendos original 3ds price but their reasoning to delay an already finished game was literally a slap in fans faces while when Nintendo dropped the price they apologized and offered the free games for their mistake.
Ubisoft pretty much had no other explanation and offered us sum scraps to shut us up. As for the discounted games on eshop u can go online an see that those prices are not that hard to find especially on amazon so its a discount thats already out there.
But in the end of the day its all business and as a consumer im not particularly fond of downloading this new "demo" or purchasing this title in September.
Im not boycotting Ubisoft but i am taking a stand that when it came to delaying an already finished game i will not support them.
Also isnt it convienient that now an already finished game is going to have more content supposedly added on due to the delay...but hey its free so we should be happy right? Not like by releasing the game in February as scheduled and then in sept releasing a DLC( which i would have paid for) would have made sense right?



FluttershyGuy said:

If it worked for you, my European friends, time for F-Zero fans everywhere to "lightly prod" Nintendo about the lack of any F-Zero for like 10 years now! Of course supporting the franchise by buying this Wii U VC F-Zero for this trivial amount can't hurt either!



ajcismo said:

If we never voice our opinion as consumers, we are doomed to a lifetime of COD clones and barely updated Madden & FIFA annuals. Power to the people!



AlexSora89 said:

@ indienapolis:

Good point. Personally, I just wish the best for the Wii U despite not owning one currently (being unemployed doesn't help, that's for sure), so in my opinion Nintendo needs exclusive in the console's first two years or so. You know, to boost sales. Wii U titles becoming available elsewhere isn't a problem as long as it doesn't happen while the console is still struggling to take flight.

At least, we can still laugh our asses off at the irony of PS360 title Bayonetta getting a Wii U-only sequel. Karma can be delightful when it wants to!



Kyloctopus said:

The customer's always right.
Its why we got games like Kid Icarus Uprising, and Xenoblade Chronicles.



Emaan said:

How about we protest for Earthbound to be released on the Wii U VC? :3



AlexSora89 said:

@ Emaan:

Sadly unlikely. Which is depressing considering European gamers like me always end up getting the middle finger - I mean, Americans DID get the game's original release, while us never saw the game except via emulation. I'd totally get the game via Hanabi Festival, but alas, that's "flying pigs" territory.



AlexSora89 said:

@ MrWalkieTalkie:

As I said before, that's trickier. There should be dozens of petitions already by now.



cornishlee said:

Coincidence? Time will tell.

The power of gaming websites and new platforms like MiiVerse do enable people to express displeasure as never before towards video game companies and it would be strange if they weren't aware of that. It's a little too early to call a sea-change though.

A nice article, all the same.



AlexSora89 said:

I've always been wondering if publishers themselves can at least see backlash coming. Given what happened with Rayman Legends though, I suppose not. I mean, execs should at least tell each other "You know this will backfire, right?", not high-fiving one another and saying "Meh, it's not like any fan will mind". The latter psychology could have worked in the early nineties, back when gaming culture wasn't as unified (read: Internet) as it is today. When games weren't exported for example, probably execs thought they'd "get away with it". Not today. Nowadays, people just know, pure and simple.



zip said:

@ThomasBW84 "I believe it's been common knowledge for many years that the 50Hz TV issue has been minimal for a while, so I doubt that's the reason."

Yes but not for Nintendo. Why are the 3DS VC games 60Hz? Because you don't need a TV to play 3DS. There is no 50Hz/60Hz issue there.
If you think about it, there really is no wonder why Nintendo released their Wii VC titles running at 50Hz. With 50Hz there are no compatibility issues with TVs. With 60Hz there are. Imagine Nintendo had released VC titles in europe at 60Hz and then imagine the complaints Nintendo would have gotten from customers who can't play 60Hz games. Nintendo just made sure that such complaints won't come up in the first place.



nomeacuerdo said:

Worldwide Credit card support!
A global eShop and nintendo network!
Those two issues always frustrate me. If I want to buy at the eShop, I have to find someone who could buy me a prepaid card, seitch my console region over and over, and switch account on the WiiU. That is pretty that my console can suposedly jump from south america to USA and then back to south america on half an hour.



AlexSora89 said:

@ ogo79:

It depends on your interpretation of a crybaby. For the sake of comparison, here are two hypothetical situations I made up (read: two examples).

Nintendo/Sony/Xbox fanboy whines about a DLC costume that doesn't come out for his console? Crybaby, alright.
Same fanboy protests about a game not coming out in his region for a long time, eventually gives up and plays it via illegal means due to the lack of legal alternatives, and then calls out the publisher on the delay because he would have waited if only he knew said publisher would eventually publish the game ("I'm gonna buy your game, but dammit, I wouldn't have used a Free Loader if only you said at least something about the game getting an export")? Legit complaint.

Sure, my examples may suck, but I hope I made my point clear enough. There's an abyss between "this" and "that" kind of complaint. Users "whine", but when they're willing to pay for something (or, even worse, already paid), boy howdy do they ever have the right to do so.



RetroGBHippie92 said:

I guess some of my work didn't go to waste, I'm just gonna post a topic on the forums, just basically the email I sent to Nintendo, why? because I think it may've helped convince nintendo of putting the effort into giving us 60hz games.



StarDust4Ever said:

Why 17.5% ? NTSC is 20% faster than PAL, while PAL is 16.67% slower than NTSC. Why are these figures different? Because a percent is a ratio, not a difference! They're not the same thing. The reciprocal of 50/60 is 60/50. 5/6 = 83.33% and 6/5 = 120%. 83.33% - 100% = -16.67%. 120% - 100% = 20%. Years ago, some person pulled the figure 17.5% out of a hat, and posted it on wikipedia, and it's been misquoted all over the internet for years. Somebody needs to fix this. Nintendolife, you should have known better...



WiiLovePeace said:

Awesome article! We are the people who buy their games so it makes sense for them to listen. Yet if we entirely stop buying those games for whatever reason they'll stop making them & then we'll have nothing to play



Ristar42 said:

Let's not forget that there are still a number of Wii VC games that won’t display at all if you use a component cable (Toe Jam and Earl for example). I don’t think Nintendo's customer services were worried about display complaints, as there can’t be many televisions around that don’t support 60Hz, especially as they now have a console that ships with a HDMI cable.

It just seemed to me that little care or attention (or proper investment) was applied in the VC's administration, the false advertising of Megadrive and Neo Geo imports as running at 60Hz is a good example, or the amount of time it took to remove Last Ninja 3 (only then it seemed, thanks to the efforts of NL user Betagam7).

Miiverse has provided a useful way of making it difficult to ignore complaints, probably not the intention, but good if it makes it easier to get results!

I recently played Revenge of Shinobi on PSN and it includes the 3 regional variations, added features, filter and display modes, multiple save options and a jukebox mode. Its a shame more retro games don’t get this kind of treatment, as Nintendo's consoles have an excellent back catalogue.



brandonbwii said:

Sometimes impulsive fan reaction makes for negative executive meddling.

I believe that Spyborgs was going to be a fun and charming game for example. Fans complained that it was too 'kiddy' and Spyborgs was built from the ground up with an even less interesting style and the promised gameplay variety completely diminished.



Harley said:

I remember making a protest in Nintendo Power well before it was discontinued. It was on the subject of Rabbids Go Home. Specifically, how Ubisoft was deviating from its fan base to produce kiddy games featuring moronic characters. I did get a response in the letters section saying "While Micheal Ancel has no concrete plans for a new Rayman game, you can expect him back in action sometime soon". In a few years, Rayman Origins was on the shelf. Is it sad to think I had a feeling Micheal Ancel read that particular volume at some point and it might have contributed to the game being made?



Harley said:

I forget which volume number it was but it had Red Steel 2 on the cover as a special edition.

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