One of our earliest articles of 2016 was focused on five key reveals and releases that will define Nintendo's 2016. That was focused very much on the tentpole announcements and releases that are confirmed or suspected, such as NX, My Nintendo accounts, major Anniversary franchise celebrations and more besides. Yet there are other areas that have us intrigued for the year ahead, and are certainly worth considering as we cross our fingers and hope for a memorable 12 months.
Of the five entries below three are 100% confirmed products that should make some kind of appearance this year. The other two entries are either semi-confirmed or extremely likely to be part of the year, so we're pretty confident all five of these reveals / releases will be worth following.
With that said, let's get to it.
Ever since it established itself with two entries on GameCube, Pikmin has evidently been one of Shigeru Miyamoto's most treasured creations; his penchant for Pikmin plushies and t-shirts drove fan speculation crazy for multiple reveals that never happened. When Pikmin 3 finally arrived on Wii U it brought the franchise into the HD age and, we think, did a rather good job of kicking the series on.
Naturally, due to Miyamoto-san's leadership role at Nintendo, this is a franchise with a future. What was slightly surprising in September last year, however, was that Shigeru Miyamoto told Eurogamer that Pikmin 4 is "very close to creation". It was a rather off-the-cuff remark at the time and - considering the protracted development of Pikmin 3 - a very welcome confirmation. Miyamoto-san refused to elaborate on a platform, however, leaving fans to trawl through clues and allusions online.
With that in mind we're rather keen to see what comes of Pikmin 4. We'd be rather surprised if it's on Wii U, in light of the system's modest worldwide sales, while the 3DS is an older system with technical limitations; the thought of a numbered release on smart devices isn't exactly welcome, either. That leaves NX as the logical platform - maybe as a launch title?
Whatever the case, we're looking forward to its reveal.
The Mega Evolution of amiibo (and Pokémon)
If Pokémon amiibo cards aren't a big part of the franchise's 20th Anniversary we'll be rather amazed, while fans are naturally expecting a 'main' release this year; there wasn't one in 2015, only spin-offs. Those products could certainly align, while the NFC technology could conceivably also be used with compatible smart devices with Pokémon Go.
Let's not forget, too, that the first Pokémon amiibo card will actually arrive on 18th March - Shadow Mewtwo cards will come with first print copies of Pokkén Tournament worldwide, unlocking the character in the game. That has 'trial run' written all over it.
With the collect 'em all motto of the series, the relatively successful 2015 roll-out of amiibo cards with Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and the natural relationship between Pokémon and card collecting, it seems like an absolute slam dunk. If the Anniversary, a new series release and a dedicated series of amiibo - possibly with special figures, too - don't happen, fans will quite rightly ponder an opportunity missed.
Anything from Retro Studios
Retro Studios hasn't been sitting on its hands since it completed the excellent Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on Wii U, especially as the studio is known to quietly assist and contribute to other major Nintendo releases. Of course, fans of the studio want to know what its next full project will be, and as E3 2015 passed with no mention of the Texas-based developer thoughts have instinctively turned to it contributing to the NX generation.
As good as Tropical Freeze is, it didn't seem to generate the same hype (or sales) as its Wii predecessor, a situation not helped by the home console's challenges in this generation. We'd suggest a third DK title is unlikely, and after Retro's non-appearance at E3 multiple members of our team immediately thought of Metroid Prime IV and NX; it makes sense on multiple levels, in terms of providing a first-person experience on the system, allowing Retro to revisit the franchise that it mastered in past generations, while also keeping desperate fans like this writer happy.
Whether this is a secretive project to blow minds with a reveal this year or not, we're simply keen to see Retro Studios back with its own game. Many would no doubt love it to be Prime IV, but a big-budget reveal of any kind would be enough to put smiles on some faces.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force and Next Level Games
We like Next Level Games. It's a studio that's independent from Nintendo, yet is working solely and exclusively with the company; it's established itself not only as a safe pair of hands but also as one of the big N's strongest partners. After fun sports games and re-imaginings on Wii, particularly, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was a stand-out on 3DS and a fantastic effort.
So the reaction by many to Metroid Prime: Federation Force at E3 2015 was disappointing on multiple levels. For one thing many simply seemed furious that it was not the Prime game they wanted, and on the other hand Nintendo did a lousy job with its reveal trailer; the Treehouse team tried to show the best of the co-op shooter in its streams, but a lot of damage had already been done by the Digital Event's quickfire and vague unveiling.
That's a shame, but we think Next Level Games has enough credit in the bank to deserve a chance to make the spin-off concept work. As we argued in an editorial calling for an optimistic outlook on 2016, it'll be worth giving this one an opportunity to turn around fan perceptions. It's all gone quiet with Federation Force since that E3 reveal, but it still has a 2016 release window; let's see what it and Next Level Games have got to offer us.
Quality of Life
When this writer mentions Quality of Life some colleagues groan, roll their eyes and say 'let it go'. Yet it needn't be frozen out (sorry), as late last year Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima confirmed that it's still in development.
There's absolutely no doubt that it's a relatively low key project compared to when the late Satoru Iwata first announced it, and it's also fallen behind schedule in terms of its reveal and planned release. Whether it's still the planned product in development or not, in early 2015 it was explained that the range of products - a separate 'pillar' from game systems - would kick off with a sleep sensor, designed to monitor sleep patterns and help users to improve their rest. Around the same time Satoru Iwata talked about it as a business area that could expand into areas such as education.
Beyond some patents spotted online little has been seen of it since. With a whole 12 months ahead of us we'd like to think that, at some point in 2016, the QoL initiative will take a step forward.
Those are five alternative reveals and releases we're interested in for 2016. Let us know what you're particularly keen to see in 2016 - apart from obvious stuff like NX from our previous list, perhaps! - in the comments below.