Due for release in June, Tomadachi Life lets players forge romantic relationships, but not with characters of the same sex.

Story highlights

Online protests grows over lack of same-sex relationships in Nintendo game

"Tamodachi Life" lets players date, marry and have children

NEW: Nintendo apologized Friday for the perceived slight

Player behind protest hopes game can be updated

CNN  — 

Nintendo on Friday apologized to gamers for leaving same-sex couples out of an upcoming “life simulation” game that lets players, flirt, date, marry and have children.

The statement came as an online movement asking them to change “Tomodachi Life” was picking up steam.

“We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life …,” the Japanese company said in a news release. “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.”

Tye Marini, 23, is a self-described Nintendo fanatic. The Mesa, Arizona, man was excited to learn that “Tomodachi Life,” a version of a “life simulation” game previously only available in Japan, would be released in North America for the Nintendo 3DS next month.

He was less excited, however, when he learned that his in-game avatar – or “Mii,” in Nintendo-speak – could only be romantically involved with a female character, as opposed to one representing his real-life fiancé.

And, thus, was #Miiquality born.

Launched last month, Marini’s social-media campaign has begun picking up steam on Facebook and Twitter, where like-minded gamers are asking Nintendo to reconsider.

“By excluding same-sex relationships in a game that’s focused around relationships like this one, they’re really excluding a lot of people,” Marini told CNN affiliate KTVK.

In the game, players create or import their Mii (pronounced “me”), which then can interact with characters that represent other real-world friends in their network.

“The situation wouldn’t be as big of a deal if it weren’t for the fact that relationships and marriage are a huge part of the game,” Marini said in the video he created to announce his campaign. “The relationships and interactions between the Mii characters in the game, coupled with their relationships to you in real life, are what makes this game so appealing. … Not being able to date and marry the gender that I’m attracted to in real life really takes all of the immersion and fun out of it for me.”

Nintendo said it’s too late to change the game, and that allowing same-sex couples would be too big and complicated of an update to release for it. But the company promised to do things differently next time.

“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,” the statement read.

At a time when barriers to same-sex marriage are falling across the United States, Nintendo’s stance could have been a public relations problem for a company already facing slumping revenue amid weak sales for its Wii U console.

Marini acknowledged to KTVK that “there are far greater concerns out there” than relationship options in a video game. But he noted that popular games like “The Sims,” a life-simulation franchise launched by Electronic Arts in 2000, have allowed same-sex relationships for years.

Marini has specifically said he’s not calling for a boycott of the game, saying it would do more harm than good.