The Japanese video games publisher is refusing to let players engage in same sex relationships in English editions of its Tomodachi Life title, despite pressure from an online campaigners. Gamer Tye Marini launched the campaign last month, arguing the need for virtual equality for the game characters, which are modeled after real people.
Nintendo said in a statement it never intended to make any form of ”social commentary”.
It added: “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.”
LGBT charity Stonewall questioned the commercial sense in potentially alienating an affluent demographic, which it says domestically equates to around 4.5 million people worth £96bn annually.
Richard Lane, media manager at Stonewall, says: ”Many game producers already include lesbian, gay and bisexual characters in their gameplay and story lines. It just seems like good business sense to attract as many gamers as possible – including those that want to have a virtual same-sex relationship.”
Ian Johnson, chief executive and founder of LGBT marketing agency Out Now Consulting, says Nintendo’s attempt to define the exclusion of same sex relationships as “whimsical and quirky” runs the risk of becoming a PR problem for the business.
He adds: ”Maybe 15 years ago their stance would be understandable, perhaps even ten years ago, but not now. To be inclusionary in 2014 is not at all to do with ‘social commentary’ – it is simply reflecting youth market realities – and frankly is now smarter business for brands that do not want to look afraid of a more inclusionary future.
“We would have expected a tech brand to be well across that, so Nintendo’s statement is disappointing and rather ill-advised.”
Nintendo’s stance comes as advertisers such as Stolichnaya vodka and Moss Bros step up efforts to target the LGBT community in an attempt to better represent their customer base and tap into a multi-billion sales opportunity.
Tomodachi Life has been a hit in a Japan. Nintendo said last December it had sold 1.83 million copies of the game.