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Nintendo cracks down on importers

The legal orders refer to sales of any items which have not been published by Nintendo in Europe – be that software or hardware – and follow on from a number of previous actions by Nintendo in the past, including the suing of CEX Games for carrying imported Nintendo products.

Only last month, the company brought legal pressure to bear on small UK-based importer TQ Games, forcing the shut-down of the operation. Neither Sony nor Microsoft has ever taken this kind of action against importers, and both companies have expressed, privately at least, that they have no plans ever to do so.

Nintendo is demanding that retailers sign agreements stating that they will no longer sell imported items, and provide details of sales and stock records along with information about their suppliers – presumably with a view to chasing the importers further up the chain.

Some retailers recently expressed fears that widespread importing might damage sales of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire when the games finally make their way to European shores at the end of July – four months after the US launch of the games, and eight months after the Japanese release.

“Nintendo has issued a cease and desist letter to a number of independent retailers,” European PR boss Shelly Friend told UK trade magazine MCV. “It rigorously protects its worldwide trademarks and in doing so ensures fair play in the market for all retailers.”

Consumers, particularly Nintendo’s valuable core of diehard fans, might disagree – particularly since the move will prevent them from playing titles which Nintendo of Europe has failed to release in this territory, such as the highly acclaimed Animal Crossing.

The latest figures seen by GI show that even Nintendo’s headline titles aren’t really doing the business for the Cube, with Zelda narrowly breaking the 100,000 unit mark in the UK but Metroid Prime only selling in the region of 50,000 units to date. Given this, and the barrage of criticism faced by the company for its very delayed European releases of software, it’s hard not to see this latest move as the thrashing of a platform holder which is becoming increasingly irrelevant in this territory and is grasping at straws to explain its own miserable failure.

In related news, Nintendo UK general manager Andy Williams has announced that he’s to leave the firm in the autumn – with “pastures greener” in this case being a role as vice president general manager UK of MGM Home Entertainment.

Source: MCV