Soapbox: Nintendo Soundtracks - Where Are They?

Kerry wonders why Nintendo's not wired for sound

I’ve recently (finally) got around to playing Fire Emblem: Awakening, and like all other beings with functioning ears after the first few battles I decided the soundtrack was incredible; so I took off into the wilds of the internet to try and buy a copy for myself. The joy of hearing such wonderful music soon turned to despair when I discovered that the cheapest used copy on eBay is almost £170 ($280USD) – so, using my finely-honed import instincts I turned to Amazon Japan, and while it’s certainly much cheaper over there (¥10000 – about £60/$98USD) there’s one minor problem to deal with, and that is that the vast majority of sellers won’t ship outside Japan.

But this is all really besides the point, and the point is that in this day and age it shouldn’t be so difficult or expensive to track down the eleven-month-old soundtrack of a critically acclaimed Nintendo game that’s sold bucket-loads of units in any region you care to mention.

So why are Nintendo still so reluctant to release the music for their games? Why are most of them locked away as Club Nintendo exclusives (Mario Galaxy, etc.), out of print (everything that’s not currently available on Club Nintendo), or simply non-existent (Kirby’s Epic Yarn)?

With some soundtracks we can give Nintendo a bit of leeway – as excellent as Smash Bros. Brawl’s OST is, surely anyone can appreciate that it must have been a licensing nightmare to organise. Yet even then, why go to all that trouble hiring so many famous composers and then not go just one step further and make sure they’re getting the best use out of that time and money?

Popular Nintendo soundtracks are almost routinely out of print and expensive – a fact that must go some way to proving the desire gamers have to own them. Yet in spite of their reputation as a business-minded, profit-driven company the announcement that Pokémon X & Y would have its soundtrack released on iTunes worldwide was a newsworthy event, not a matter of course for the Japanese gaming giant.

In those dark days before the internet Nintendo would have needed to consider production costs, jacket design and distribution expenses before releasing some of its legendary game music into the wild; yet these days at a bare minimum a working email address at either end is all that’s needed to transfer MP3 files to a paying customer. If using a third party (such as iTunes) to handle sales is putting Nintendo off, why not introduce eShop bundles of games with their soundtracks included, as Sony has recently done in Japan with games such as ICO and Shadow of the Colossus?

Surely there can only be benefits to exploring better distribution of Nintendo soundtracks – gamers get to listen to the music from their favourite games, and Nintendo makes more money from work it's already completed – so why is this innovative company still ignoring something that fans are obviously willing to pay for?

What do you think of Nintendo’s current soundtrack efforts? How do you think they could improve? Let us know in the comments section below.