July 1st 2003
Here's a brand new text which, like the previous diary
entry, isn't from me. The author is Rutger ter Maten, and it discusses the
e-Reader's future on the European markets. Please keep in mind that Rutger's
opinions and arguments are his own, and that I do not necessarily agree with
everything he says in this text. :-)
The future is... Europe
By Rutger ter Maten (firstname.lastname@example.org)
During the past few months more and more people have started wondering if the
e-Reader was living up to Nintendo's expectations. Some even believed that the
e-Reader would die a premature death, like so many Nintendo devices did before
it. The recent announcement of an e-Reader release scheduled for Europe,
however, sheds some new light on Nintendo's belief in its newest nick-nack.
Area 3, Europe...
In past times many peripherals and game devices have been created by Nintendo,
but by far not all of them have been world-wide successes. In fact, a lot of
them never left the safe grounds of Japan, Nintendo's home market. The ones
that did, like the Virtual Boy, went to the United States, which normally
serves as a decent secondary market for Nintendo, only to fail there and be
Japan and the US aren't the only two markets open to Nintendo however, there
is a third market that creates reasonable profits for Nintendo and their
competitors alike: Europe. The biggest problem with European releases however
is the diversity of its inhabitants and especially their native languages.
Where in Japan everyone can read and speak Japanese, in the US virtually
everyone speaks English (native or otherwise). In Europe however there are
numerous countries with numerous languages. Although a big part of the
Europeans do speak and understand the English language, most of them prefer
games in their native language.
The problem for any game developer lies in the difficulties encountered when
trying to sell new games and peripherals on the European market. Where they
can create one game in one language for the whole US, it is an absolute
necessity to develop it in at least 4 different languages to release it in
Europe. It gets even worse with the instruction booklets. While markets like
The Netherlands and Belgium are fine with an English game, the instruction
booklet is often preferred in their native language, Dutch. Germany, France,
Spain and Italy require a German, French, Spanish or Italian version of the
game. As you can imagine, the costs for releasing a game or peripheral in
Europe are considerably higher than anywhere else in the world.
No European release is common
It's mainly because of this that many games and peripherals are never
released in Europe in the first place. The Virtual Boy was never released in
almost all of the European countries for this reason. And every year
hundreds of games released in Japan and/or the United States aren't
scheduled for a release in Europe (Animal Crossing for instance will not be
released in any European country, and there are already rumors that Animal
Crossing 2 will be a European no-go as well). After almost ten years of
watching the Japanese, American and European market closely I think it's
fair to say that for every 10 Japanese games released, there are 5 to 6
American releases and 4 to 5 European releases.
The development of the same game in multiple languages isn't the only
problem a European release of a game encounters, though. Since Europe, even
with it's European Union, is still a large group of relatively small
countries, problems on the marketing and legal side occur as well.
Since every European country, even when it's a part of the European Union,
has its own laws dealing with violence in games, it's not uncommon for
games to require different levels of gore throughout Europe. The UK version
of Carmageddon for instance has zombies you should try to turn into roadkill
instead of normal people. Lots of zombie-based games, like the Resident
Evil series, have their blood color changed to green so that it will be less
offending to the parents of the kill-crazed children. Even some other games
have special finishing fighting moves taken out of them because of the
so-called innocence of the kids playing the games. That they even managed to
release Grand Theft Auto in all European countries amazes me to this day.
The combination of different native languages and different laws throughout
Europe create the third major problem: marketing. While an ad showing a
fictional game character smoking would be fine in the Netherlands it would
be absolutely forbidden in France. The same thing goes for the gore level
of some game commercials. The different laws and languages of European
countries therefore require different marketing strategies for every country.
Again it comes down to Europe being a lot more expensive than the US or
e-Reader does good
Since the release of the e-Reader in the US on September 16th 2002, a European
release has been announced, cancelled, denied and announced again. This time
though it is really coming. Which means that Nintendo is willing to deal with
all the above mentioned problems and invest a lot of money in the e-Reader.
This should put an end to all the negative vibes on the internet about the
willingness of Nintendo to support its own new toy. The European release of
the e-Reader, scheduled for November 2003, proves once and for all that
Nintendo is willing to commit to it and the e-Reader's future should be secured
for a long time to come.
The European release has another advantage though: A large number of game
studios have their home offices in Europe. Since they will now be able to,
finally, get their hands on the e-Reader, they too might join the growing
group of game developers that want Nintendo to release an e-Reader dev kit.
The more pressure there is on Nintendo, the more the "Big-N" will start to
see that third-party support is of the utmost importance...