It's hard to make one of those "size of your plug" jokes when there's a little kid close by!
With all the buzz and excitement surrounding The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, chances are you completely missed the news that Nintendo released another high quality DS game. Slipping by completely unnoticed was Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol, the semi-sequel to the moderately popular GameCube game from 2006. But don't feel bad about missing Nintendo's other big game of October, because there's good reason why you would never have known about this release.
While small game companies fight to get their games into major retailers like GameStop and Best Buy, Nintendo decided to go the opposite route. You see, Nintendo decided against rolling their hot new Nintendo DS game out to all of the nation's retailers,
The secret depressing life of Chibi-Robo hasn't been explored yet, perhaps we'll see that in the Wii version!
instead they focused on one very specific video game seller: Wal-Mart. Forget EB Games, GameStop, Target or even Toys R Us, the only place you are going to find Chibi-Robo is in the over lit aisles of your local Wal-Mart.
Why would Nintendo decide to limit the game's impact like that? A Nintendo representative sent out an email to 1up.com that tried to put a socially conscience spin on this bizarre decision: "For the new Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol game for Nintendo DS, Nintendo partnered with
In the U.S. the box art has the Wal-Mart exclusive tag printed right on the picture!
Wal-Mart because of Wal-Mart's strong environmental program and social giving campaign. Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol has an environmental theme, and we wanted to make sure that it received exposure among a broad audience of consumers as we continue to get more and more people interested in the world of video games."
We want to make sure that it receives exposure among a broad audience of consumers? If that was the case then why would they limit the places you can buy the game to one retailer? Sure, it's the largest retail store in the country, but not everybody
7 Eleven is good at creating extra large Slurpees, but they fail when it comes to getting Halo 3 on time!
has a Wal-Mart close by. And even if you are one of those unlucky people that has been inflicted by a Wal-Mart coming to town, that doesn't mean that you're the type of person that actually shops there. While I sure this makes Wal-Mart's upper brass happy, Nintendo's decision is bad for pretty much everybody else (including Nintendo themselves).
Unfortunately this couldn't have come at a worse time. At the exact moment that Microsoft is trying to expand the amount of locations you can buy video games (such as picking up Halo 3 at your
If I had more time I would get into all of the reason why people shouldn't shop at Wal-Mart, as it is all I can do is disparage their environmental policies!
local 7 Eleven), Nintendo seems to be doing everything they can to shrink your options. It would be one thing if we were talking about the newest deer hunting simulator or Billy Bob's next-gen game about tractor pulls, but this is a sequel to a relatively high profile GameCube game.
And then there's the issue of suggesting that Wal-Mart has a strong environmental program. One shouldn't forget that the Walton family has donated millions of dollars to elect George W. Bush, the President who has routinely worked against the environment by not signing the Kyoto Protocol, signing the ironically named "Clean Air Act" and relaxing the fines on chemical dumping. And it's not just President Bush, there's the little problem of Wal-Mart
I don't see a *cough* problem with *cough* a little pollution!
importing most of their products from China, a country that is literally choking their citizens with pollution. Suggesting that Wal-Mart is environmentally conscience is like suggesting that Michael Vick loves dogs.
Getting past the stupidity that is giving Wal-Mart the Chibi-Robo exclusive, there's actually more to the story than what meets the eye. Let's say you just read GameSpot's glowing review of Park Patrol and knew that this was the Nintendo DS game for you. Now what are you going to do? If you're the average video gamer then you're probably going to call up one of your local video game retailers to see if they have it in stock. Unfortunately that's not going to help you very much, a call to your local GameStop would probably end in you questioning if the game was real or not. In fact, that's exactly what happened to me. I decided to give three major video game
It wasn't the biggest selling GameCube game of all time, but Chibi-Robo sold well enough to warrant a sequel!
retailers a call to see if they had it in stock (knowing damn well that it was a Wal-Mart exclusive). Not only did the stores not have copies (as expected), but two of the stores told me the game didn't even exist. They didn't say that they didn't stock it, they flat out told me that GameSpot lied to me when they wrote up their review for Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol.
But the game is real; I know it exists because it has its own dedicated website. Granted, the official Chibi-Robo website is the fifth link down on my Google search (below a YouTube video, an IGN review, a Wikipedia entry, and GameSpot's game space), but when you finally find the page there's no denying that the game is very real.
Like most of Nintendo's official game pages, the Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol page is a bit underwhelming. You get a few standard pictures, a write-up that is directly out of the pages of Nintendo Power, a video from E3 2006, and a five-star rating from more than a hundred Nintendo fanboys. The one thing you don't see on this page is any word about the Wal-Mart exclusive. In fact, when you click on the link titled "Where To Buy
This is NOT a cool prize!
This Game" you will find not one mention of the largest retailer in North America. As far as this official page is concerned Chibi-Robo can be found everywhere fine games are sold.
Actually, the official website does give potential Chibi-Robo owners one way of getting the game: The official Chibi-Robo Sweepstakes! All you have to do is register at Nintendo's website and you could win "some cool prizes." Unfortunately Nintendo isn't actually giving away a copy of Chibi-Robo, that would make too much sense. Instead the "cool prizes" are "500 tree seedlings." No, I'm not joking. This entire sweepstakes is about giving you tree seedlings. It's official, Nintendo has lost their damn minds.
For what it's worth, this is not the first time a retailer has scored a game exclusive. Although it's rare, there are several other examples of this very thing happening with other games and
Unless you're a fan of collecting terrible platformers, chances are you've never actually heard of Sneakers!
companies. A good example of this happened with Sneakers, the atrocious Xbox game released in 2002. Released not even a full year after the original Xbox launch, Microsoft decided to unload the game in Toys R Us, where it sat unsold until Christmas (which is when Toys R Us started selling it for as little as $10). More recently GameStop was able to pick up the exclusive for Chulip, the bizarre kissing game for the PlayStation 2. There's just one problem, by the time Chulip finally went on sale in the United States the game was already five years old.
Chances are you've either forgotten about or never heard of games like Chulip and Sneakers, and the same thing is going to happen to Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol. For a game to truly succeed it needs to be available in as many stores as possible, that's the way you broaden the appeal of the game. By limiting the retailers that get to stock the game (and not telling anybody about it), Nintendo has given Chibi-Robo a virtual death sentence. Even if you never planned on picking up this cute little DS game you still have to feel bad for the terrible treatment given to the product. Chibi-Robo deserves better, it's bad enough that it has to compete with the newest handheld Zelda game. Hopefully this isn't a sign of things to come with Nintendo; I would hate to have to go to Sears for Super Smash Bros. Brawl or K-Mart for Super Mario Galaxy.