#Miiquality: Can Nintendo NOT afford to change at the behest of gaymers?

In a recent social campaign rallying for Nintendo to include same-sex marriage in Tomodachi Life, the company refused to change. Their stubborn ways could prove unfortunate for the brand’s future.

tomodachi life mii nintendo

Upcoming title Tomodachi Life, the direct sequel to the Japan-exclusive Tomodachi Collection, was released in April 2013 in Japan and will hit American shelves in June 2014. Currently, it’s getting a lot of PR — but not for good reasons.

Tomodachi Life is a life-simulator game, much like The Sims — you use your Mii to experience its virtual world. Its look is similar to Animal Crossing, but the gameplay seems much more than anything we’ve seen in games, and is even being touted as the company’s next big title.

tomodachi life for the usThis game, however, really stresses the importance of love, relationship and marriage, as most of the its content is unlocked when your Mii gets married to another Mii. Here’s the nuance: you just can’t marry a Mii of the same sex.

Tye Marini, a 23-year-old gamer in Arizona, is looking to change that. Standing up for LGBTQ gamers and allies, with his social campaign #Miiquality, he’s asking Nintendo to allow its players to marry whoever they wish, so that they can enjoy the game to its fullest and reap the same benefits as other ‘straight’ players would.

*Note that allowing gay marriages to happen will not affect a heterosexual Mii from enjoying the game as it’s intended. Just like in real life.

Sounds like a good deal, right? You include gay marriage in the game, we get to play the game happily, and you’ve gained not only our hard-earned money, but also our increased loyalty.

Well, then Nintendo released a statement to the AP:

Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life. The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that ‘Tomodachi Life’ was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.

The ability for same-sex relationships to occur in the game was not part of the original game that launched in Japan, and that game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan.

Personally, I feel that was a cop-out response. Jason Schreier of Kotaku noted succinctly:

Of course, denying gay people the right to get married in a game about relationships and marriage is itself “social commentary.”

Being based in Japan, this is to be expected. The country has yet to legalize gay marriages, so why should we think that their games would reflect that? Oh, right — because they now want to sell the game to a country embattled in LGBTQ equality. Every developer, and any business, knows that if you want to sell a product to an entirely different culture, your “localization” efforts have to go beyond script translation, and really understand all of the culture’s nuances, not just some of it.

As Tye noted in his video above, this issue wouldn’t be such a pressing one, if the gameplay didn’t rely so heavily on your relationship with another Mii.

marriage in tomodachi life

Hetero marriage

Of course, no one can legally force Nintendo to include same-sex marriage in their game. No government, not even LGBTQ-friendly Obama, can lay down the law on them. The #Miiquality movement is simply to tell Nintendo that if you want to tap into our wallets, you’ll need to tweak your product. In a world where The Sims and hell, even Skyrim, allow gay relationships, you better be sure as hell that your game can deliver at least the same standards.

Otherwise, your product won’t sell to its full potential.

It’s all well and good for Nintendo that they’ve decided to move on with releasing Tomodachi Life as-is, however, is that particularly a smart decision, given where they stand today?

These are dark times for the once-beloved company. Recently, we’ve heard about their disappointing sales — posting $228 million/23.2 billion yen net loss for previous fiscal year, which is only slightly better than 2012’s loss of 36.4 billion yen. Many will claim though that Nintendo’s silver lining is their upcoming titles for Wii U and 3DS, hopefully reinvigorating people’s drive to the consoles, and also the fact that they’re spending more money on advertising and R&D.

Apparently, there wasn’t enough “R” when localizing Tomodachi Life for the U.S.

mario brothersBut will it be too little too late, as gamers, new and veteran, are focusing on other titles from other consoles, and are just tired of seeing the same rehashed worlds of Smash Bros. and Mario Kart? Is Nintendo’s reluctance to “simply manipulate some code” to allow same-sex marriage in their game a sign of the company’s kinks in the big machine with slow-moving parts?

Let me make this one point clear — Nintendo will not face any legal ramifications and will not go extinct if they do not include the ability to marry the same sex in Tomodachi Life. The company is free to design their product however they want. But, in a social media-savvy, increasingly accepting, highly competitive world, where consumers are making smarter, better-informed decisions, buyers can lose interest and stock in your brand quicker than ever.

Twitter has brought down governments, and it can bring down you. Innovate, relate, subjugate — or die.

What do you think — is Nintendo a company still worth rooting for, or are they destined to drastically shrink, a la Sega?

UPDATE: Nintendo posted this on their website today, May 9, 2014

We are committed to fun and entertainment for everyone

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.

If this were the original response to the Miiquality campaign, there would have been no media backlash. So there you have it — let’s just hope that the next possible installment of the game will finally be representative of the fans it caters to.

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Rocky Vy
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<a href="http://www.artofonline.com">Digital marketing consultant</a> by trade, a freelance writer by passion. Also, anything that involves innovative tech, fashion, entrepreneurialism, Pantone 021C and pandas are cool, too. Follow him <a href="http://www.twitter.com/rockyvy">@rockyvy</a>.