Metroid Prime
Image: Nintendo

We're all still waiting for Metroid Prime 4, and yes, that sucks. However, the game's prolonged development is indicative of Nintendo and Japanese companies as a whole, according to former Retro Studios staffer Jack Mathews.

Mathews served as the Lead Technical Engineer on the Metroid Prime trilogy and has been speaking to the Kiwi Talkz podcast about their development.

During the chat, Mathews touched upon the key differences between developing for a publisher in the west and in Japan, noting that Japanese firms are more likely to take risks with prototypes before entering into full production, which is a much more beneficial way to work:

A lot of the way that deals get structured is that [Western publishers] want – when you’re going to do a prototype – they want to do an entire long-form agreement of the entire game […] before you start the prototype.

It ends up negating a lot of what you’re doing in the prototype anyway because you still have to figure out how much the whole thing is going to cost for this thing that you really don’t know much about.

Nintendo famously likes to take risks with prototypes; Mathews notes that, because many of the company's games are made by internal teams, prototypes are often considered to be "sunk costs" until a product makes money. He adds:

[Nintendo] know that that’s the right way to go. It’s all about risk/reward, where you put your risk and where you see your reward.

This approach, according to the former Retro Studios staffer, is very common in Japan, where business deals are more informal and “handshakey”; in contrast, western publishers don't tend to trust developers as much, he says, and are often fearful that a dev might walk away with a prototype and team-up with another publisher.

As part of the same interview, Mathews also spoke about how he was disappointed by the Wii.

Metroid Prime 4 was originally announced in 2017, only for Nintendo EPD general manager Shinya Takahashi to reveal in 2019 that development had been restarted under Retro Studios.

[source, via]