Nintendo’s Chris Pranger Discusses Localization Challenges

Nintendo of America’s Chris Pranger recently sat down for an interview with Part Time Gamers podcast, hailing from Nintendo’s Treehouse localization group. He joined the podcast to clarify the company’s position on their localization efforts. He explained that localizing highly Japanese games poses a financial risk for the American branch of the company, and that fans of JRPGs often only compose of a small niche.

He explained:

The hardest thing for everyone to understand and to accept — and I’ve seen this first hand in the company, that this is typified — people think that obviously they’re right, and what they like or dislike has to be the norm. Why would it be otherwise? And they just say the classic “Why do you hate money? Why do you hate money, Nintendo?

And it’s like “What are you talking about? We’re trying to make…obviously it has to make calculated risks, but at the same time, one of those risks…and I mean they’ll bring up games that are very Japanese games, like Captain Rainbow for instance. They’ll bring that up like “Look how many people want this. Don’t you want money?” And we’ll be like “Yeah, we do want money, which is why we know it’s a colossal waste if we ever try to localize that in this current market, because look at you people. You don’t make up a big enough group.

The hardest part for people to realize is how much money it takes sometimes to make a game like…if it’s a Japanese game, to bring it over the States. Not just translating and then localizing and marketing, but if it’s a game that has substantial voice text, oh my goodness! That is a colossal cost to bring that over. And some games you look at and you’re like “Well how are they going to bring that over?” and it’s like “Well, they can’t.

Chris also threw Nintendo of Europe under the bus regarding the localization of Xenoblade Chronicles. A game famous for 2011’s Operation Rainfall campaign to bring it westward, he explained that NoE took on the localization at great expense, despite the game only appealing to a small audience.

You look at something like even Xenoblade Chronicles. People love that game, you know, within a certain group. That game is not the type of game that just pulls in enough to justify the costs on that. So that’s like, we got it in the States by luck, that NoE decided “Oh, we’ll take the fall. We’ll localize that.” Okay, cause someone is going to have to eat the costs somewhere, because that game is guaranteed to not sell enough to justify how big that game is. You know, hundreds of hours, all voiced. That’s a lot of money that goes into that.

And people are like “Why do you guys hate money?” We don’t. That’s why you literally can’t make everything. And people don’t like finding out that their fanbase is actually too small to justify the costs of the thing they want.

Chris Prange also took time to defend the Wii U name, complaining about NeoGaf’s overreaction to everything. The name, he thinks, is an issue only seen in hindsight. By contrast, Dan Alderman, formerly of Nintendo, has publicly stated that the Wii U name was a detriment to the console’s sales.

Chris Prange paints the picture of a harsh reality, but it is a reality nonetheless. Nintendo is currently localizing Xenoblade Chronicles X to the west this holiday season with full commitment, a stark contrast from the hesitation shown to its predecessor.

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A man with a plan. My favorite video game franchise is Pokemon, but his favorite video game is Resident Evil 4. I can also tell you trivial cartoon factoids.