You can read our headline in two ways - that the fury towards Metroid Prime: Federation Force and Nintendo's Digital Event as a whole is justifiable, or that 'entitled' is a criticism of attitudes in consumers that make specific, harsh demands and react angrily when they're not met. That's deliberate, as there's merit to either side - the reaction to Federation Force, in particular, has arguably been spectacularly over-blown, but by the same token it's an announcement that's so peculiar that it makes anger justifiable. Naturally, we're going to try and be balanced, and there's definitely been a significant reaction to Nintendo's presentation as a whole - our focus, however, is on the unique maelstrom around Next Level Games' 3DS project.
First of all, let's sketch out what was announced. First we had the peculiar tease of Blast Ball in the Nintendo World Championships, in which we all assumed it was Metroid-related yet all representatives on stage dodged the name carefully. Then the Digital Event - a little under two days later - had a very quick, unclear trailer that concluded with the logo and name for Metroid Prime: Federation Force, then a segway to a brief confirmation that Blast Ball will be included in that main game as a competitive sci-fi sports extra.
There are broader issues around pacing - such as long segments for well-known games yet a short, rapid-fire trailer for a new Metroid title - but the main reaction was seemingly reflecting the fact this isn't the Metroid Prime game that fans expected. An issue with using the Prime brand is that, while spin-offs are acceptable in regular franchises, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption arrived way back in 2007 - not withstanding Metroid Prime Trilogy in 2009. Fans of the IP have waited a long time. After that wait there's an expectation of a main entry, so to serve up a co-op experience that doesn't even feature Samus (at least not prominently so far) is, to be blunt, franchise suicide.
Rather than bemusement or facepalming, the reaction has largely been furious and angry, at least in online communities. Having scanned social media we've been rather stunned by the focused ire on Federation Force, which has made it the biggest disaster of a Digital Event that was - overall - panned by many; we truly feel sorry for Next Level Games, in particular, which won our hearts with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon on 3DS. Federation Force actually looks like a promising game, based on the Treehouse footage - only Blast Ball is playable on the show floor - but the brand damage has made that practically irrelevant at this stage.
Let's get to the scale of the backlash. Starting with YouTube, the Likes and Dislikes are incredibly one-side for this game. Below are some figures on a few other official trailers, at the time of writing
- Star Fox Zero - around 6000 (85%) Likes and 1000 (15%) Dislikes
- Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam - around 4700 (90%) Likes and 550 (10%) Dislikes
- Nintendo Digital Event - around 6000 (45%) Likes and 7200 (55%) Dislikes
The Digital Event was quite poorly received, but here are the Metroid Prime: Federation Force figures - around 3100 Likes (10%) and 31,500 (90%) Dislikes.
So, that's YouTube, a tough audience at any time, but this reaction goes further. Reaction in live chat in our Digital Event stream - and our series of polls - were extremely tough, with brutal comments there and in our news article for the reveal, while Twitter is an absolute bombardment of disgruntlement. Below are a few select choices, which are about as friendly and family friendly as the responses get.
Then there's the Reddit Metroid Community, though in fairness that overwhelming negative energy is being used by many to create gifs and cartoon strips with dark humour.
Or course, there's the obligatory petition, which is both angry and - frankly - incredibly unrealistic. It demands that Metroid Prime: Force Federation be cancelled, with over 6000 signatures so far:
What we got however is a disgrace of a game with the name "Metroid" slapped on the title. It has no elements at all of what Metroid is about and it's a disrespectful manner to old and new fans of the series of showing them that the Metroid franchise is not dead after all. This is not the Metroid we asked Nintendo to make. We should let Nintendo know what we really think of the game and make them actually LISTEN to their fans for once. Help us stop this atrocity of a game from bearing the beloved Metroid franchise name and make Nintendo halt production on it.
As we stated right at the start, we think it's fair to say that much of the reaction has been overblown, and that - in isolation and ignoring branding - this may actually be a fun game on 3DS. While we may disagree with the extremity of the reaction, however, all of the factors we've highlighted make it understandable. With a 50 second trailer - itself part of poorly received broadcast - Nintendo took a beloved brand and ripped it away from fan expectations, and did so after a prolonged wait.
This is an extreme re-run of Metroid: Other M, in terms of upsetting fans in the portrayal of the IP. It wasn't quite on the same scale, but the same arguments apply - on the one hand Nintendo has every right to do as it pleases with its brands, and there are suggestions this spin-off could play into elements of a future Prime title. On the other hand, brands live and die because of their fans - if you take an IP too far from its popular tradition, the fans can express their disapproval and the game flops in stores. Lest we forget the incredibly hostile reaction that Metroid Prime and Wind Waker received upon their initial unveiling. Had social networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube existed in the case of those two titles, then that reaction would have no doubt been amplified considerably. In those cases, though, attitudes softened and sales were eventually strong.
Ultimately, though, the creator doesn't have all the power - it's a relationship with consumers.
Nintendo has a problem, then, and while Federation Force is an extreme example it's evident elsewhere too. Nintendo put 'transformation' at the heart of its Digital Event message, yet has arguably gone too far. Some are uncertain about Star Fox Zero's controls, for example, and it'd be an understatement to say that Animal Crossing amiibo Festival isn't what this writer had in mind when expressing a hope to see the franchise on Wii U. In pursuing its vision of new control schemes, expanding IPs and pushing more amiibo to us, Nintendo is in danger of losing the essence of some franchises that we love.
Satoru Iwata took the unusual step of a half apology after the Digital Event, promising to "better meet your expectations" in future. When it comes to the Metroid Prime series and getting fans on board, in particular, the only way is up.