Just weeks before Nintendo plans to release its life-simulation game Tomodachi Life in western markets, it has patched out a “bug” that allowed — as the company put it — “strange relationships,” AKA same-sex romances between characters. The decision has sparked an increasingly-popular online petition called Miiquality, which is asking Nintendo to reverse its actions.
Tye Marini, the 23-year-old Nintendo fan from Mesa, Arizona, who launched the campaign last month, said of his hopes for the 3DS game, “I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé’s Mii, but I can’t do that…My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiancé’s Mii, or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it.”
In response to the petition and growing controversy, Nintendo released a statement, saying:
“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…We have heard and thoughtfully considered all the responses…We will continue to listen and think about the feedback. We’re using this as an opportunity to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization.”
When a Nintendo representative spoke with gaming site IGN, the company maintained that the primary purpose of the change was not to remove same-sex relationships, but to fix a data leak. Nintendo’s Bill Trinen also noted that the decision to remove same-sex romances from the game was somewhat of a non-issue in Japan.
Therefore, Nintendo’s challenge here is twofold: not only is the Japanese company attempting to navigate a cultural divide, but also a heated and deep divide within American culture. We think the above statement comes across as genuine, but we wonder whether there is really a way to “better understand [their] consumers’ expectations” and make everyone happy when the consumers themselves do not agree with each other.