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 youtube.com, via nme.com]
It costs money to make these prototypes anyway, so I'm surprised Nintendo, being stingy as they are with their IP, would allow so many prototypes in the first place.
Well, Nintendo doesn't dump the whole war chest into developing the same franchise annually, and is one of the few companies who still have smaller teams for some goofy game every no and again.
This honestly doesn't surprise me, since Nintendo has a history of experimental ideas.
Part of me wants to say it is a little surprising that Nintendo takes risks, considering how often they rely on the same IP year after year instead of coming up with new ones.
As it is, Arms was probably their last major IP, with Splatoon being before that. But Splatoon has two games out already, with a third on the way, and Arms only has the one game.
But at the same time, I'm not surprised. I mean, look at Star Fox. Almost every game in that series was an experiment in different forms of gameplay, some more successful than others.
So it's good that Nintendo takes risks, as long as those risks pay off. Heck, I'd love to see them take more risks with new IP.
But they need to be careful so as to not alienate their fans and consumers, and ultimately go the way of Sega.
Well, if any one company understands the dev viewpoint it's ninty, since it's mostly run by devs.
One can only wish they were half as savvy when it comes to the consumer.
Being in a development organization I entirely agree that this is a healthy way to work. Laying out a whole product plan before setting up a prototype is a much bigger risk. Of course the big temptation to resist is to then let the prototype become the product, which I've seen happen at places I've worked, ultimately to huge cost down the road.
@AstroTheGamosian What I feel Nintendo does lack in is with how many minor IPs are dormant. If they're able to give their biggest IPs to other studios, why not some of their older and smaller ones? Give Ice Climbers or Clu Clu Land to someone and see if they can pull a Kid Icarus Uprising with them.
@NatiaAdamo Well I think Nintendo wouldn’t just hand those to a developer. More than likely developers with an idea come to Nintendo and pitch it to use that IP. Like that one guy who pitched a realistic f-zero game. He didn’t get accepted, but Nintendo seems to be open to allow that.
@NatiaAdamo Personally, I'd love to see them give Star Fox to Ubisoft, considering their phenomenal work on Starlink: Battle For Atlas. Even though it's not an actual Star Fox game, it's the Star Fox game I always wanted to play.
Don't know who would get F-Zero, but whoever does, they could expand upon the GP Legend model with a story mode for every character on the roster, and each "race" is not necessarily a standard 3-lap race. But they could also add online gameplay, and race players from around the world.
And it may be a pipe dream, but I would love to see Bungie take a shot at Metroid or Metroid Prime. Of course, their focus is on Destiny at the moment, so it may not happen for a while, if at all.
@AstroTheGamosian I thought people hate ubisoft?
@MegaMari0 Nintendo is very unique and I think people forget that, why they do have filler games sometimes they introduce a lot more new ideas than some other publishers. For example Sony with all their great games most of their major releases follow the same basic format, and Xbox makes games too I think
Let Nintendo experiment. One of the reason why I like them so much. They try to be different from Xbox or Sony. Whether the end product is good is up to personal taste.
@whitemage couldn't agree more!
Uhh… Nintendo don’t experiment and don’t take risks.
You only have to look at a the roster of a game like Super Smash Bros to see that Nintendo has come up with very few IPs. And even within those IPs they’re often too scared to innovate. Can someone tell me the difference between Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit? Didn’t think so. They’re both just Paper Mario clones, which is itself a clone of the original Super Mario Bros., which is just Super Smash Bros. with one word changed.
This is risk-averse Timmy. He dresses up as a cardboard robot in his spare time because he knows it’s the normal thing to do.
C’mon Ninty. Stop playing by the rule book and take some risks!
@AstroTheGamosian Shin'en would do a great job with F-Zero. Just look at Fast Racing Neo/RMX. They are great games, imagine what they could pull pur with a bigger buudget and more established IP.
Modern day Nintendo "Seal of quality". If there's one thing you can say about Modern Nintendo games it's that they aren't ever "broken" or unfinished at launch.
people seen to forget that make ideas and then see what franchise fit better that idea/inovation they have in mind.
Didn't they make a 2D BotW to test their design ideas. Honestly, the company is so transparent yet people keep struggling to understand them lol.
I need this Kiwi Talkz fellow to chat with current devs on Prime 4 and let me know what happened, what stage they're at, and how things are shaping up. I wish they were more transparent
Must be talking about different Nintendo since Nintendo lately has been lazy and uncreative with overpriced old ports and playing it safe with their outsourced spin off series. That or they mishandling some of their sub series like Paper Mario by turning it something it is not.
@MrHonest I agree. The over reliance on Mario and Zelda has pretty much left many of their older IP's to rot away somewhere, while taking far fewer chances of making a new IP. The spinoff games haven't been all that great at all either.
Paper Mario for instance, gets worse with each entry.
Paper Mario for instance, gets worse with each entry.
And it's so sad, the first 2 (some say 3) were amazing. The most recent was really a decent game, but the combat sucked and I want more variety again. I love enemies as allies, and silly situations involving more than just toads.
@Classic603 I feel the same way. I don't know how to quite describe origami king. There is a great game somewhere in th ere but the overall package is just so-so.
Now that Nintendo has placed creativity limits on the team, we won't get some of the unique ideas we saw in first 3 games.
One of the many reasons why I'm a Nintendo fan. I love how they're willing to put out spin-offs and new ideas such as Paper Mario, Luigi's Mansion, Splatoon, Hyrule/Fire Emblem Warriors, Arms, Pokemon Snap etc etc. Even mainline Mario and Zelda games always offer something different in terms of mechanics and overall themes.
There are a bunch of recent Nintendo games that look light on development time. Splatoon 2 looks like a small DLC for Splatoon, all the 'Deluxe' ports are low dev time offerings because they are just an old game.1-2 Switch is barely a game, Labo is more cardboard than game, Captain Toad could have been DLC for Mairo 3D World, Clubhouse Games, just old, simple games. There are very few games like BOTW, where it is clear it took years to make. Even BOTW reuses a lot of assets. It is not often that Nintendo invest in large scale projects, and if they do, historically, they get stung, like with some unpopular but heavily developed Zelda and Metroid games.
@Greatluigi Never heard that.
I know people are pretty fed up with:
EA for releasing the same sports games year after year with nothing really new (especially the Switch editions), and focusing on microtransactions and pay-to-win schemes (like Star Wars: Battlefront and Battlefront II).
Activision Blizzard for laying off 775 employees in 2018 despite boasting record profits, their support for China over Blitzchung and Hong Kong during the Hong Kong protests in 2019, and the sexual assault scandal from this year.
Bethesda for pushing out broken games like Fallout 76 (amongst other issues with that game), releasing Skyrim for the millionth time, and making their upcoming games exclusive to Microsoft's platforms (Xbox and PC).
But Ubisoft? To my knowledge, I haven't heard anything bad about them so far. Or at least, nothing that would make me boycott them.
@AstroTheGamosian ARMS isn't their last big new IP. LABO comes to mind as a crazy risk (that didn't pay off), they own Astral Chain even if they didn't develop it, and certainly supported it's creation. Ring Fit Adventure also got crazy big as a new IP, and was certainly a risk after Wii Fit U flopped. They published and helped fund both Daemon Ex Machina and Octopath Traveler too.
@AstroTheGamosian You should boycott Ubisoft for making bland open world live service micro transactions gaming experiences.
One thing you can guarantee with Ubisoft games is quantity over quality.
And that is depressing. They are shooting themselves in the foot by enforcing an "only toads, no partners" rule
@AstroTheGamosian you say you'd like Nintendo take risks if the risks pay off. But the whole point of taking risks is that you don't know if they'll pay off in the future.
@GrailUK In this comment section alone there's people who want to both fault Nintendo for not experimenting their games (lol), while simulataneously faulting them for experimenting with series like Paper Mario.
I think some people don't get that freedom to innovate and experiment with prototypes is freedom to change series in both ways that some people may like more, but ways others may like less.
The freedom to get a game like BOTW, Splatoon, Bowsers Fury is the same one that can give Other M.
I think it's worth it. I think some believe innovation should stop as soon as it produces something they like (Paper Mario). But you only need to look at Alphadream's Mario & Luigi RPG series that barely changed and managed to crash and burn on the successful 3DS where Paper Mario survived even on the failed WiiU.
@AstroTheGamosian Ubisoft is often criticized for their general business practices (micro transactions in full price games, confusing amounts of different editions for their games etc.) and for essentially making the same open world game with a different coat of paint over and over again.
They also had their own sexual harassment scandal. It wasn't as bad as ActivisionBlizzard, but several high ranking employees had to leave.
@link3710 ppl always seem to only treat things as new IP if it fits their mold of what a new IP should look like. Ring Fit was definitely new IP.
@Dr_Lugae "I want a new paper Mario! And I want it to be fresh and exciting, but maybe keep the same combat mechanics that worked before? Maybe give us the same paper Mario as the thousand year door but just a different story?" 😏
There's a saying that's often repeated in software engineering (my job): "Plan to throw one away; you will, anyway." Meaning make a prototype and don't be surprised if you need to change everything about it. A lot of software, not just games, is now developed in this way.
Some people are surprised that Nintendo have this philosophy, but they always did. Games like Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 went through so many iterations over the course of their development that the end product looks almost nothing like the initial idea. (Yes, I know, I talk about the N64 too much, but those are both good examples.)
@Dr_Lugae is right on the money. The way Nintendo experiment cuts both ways. Sometimes it leads to experiments that fail disastrously. Sometimes it leads to us all shouting "FFS Nintendo just give us more of the same but better!" Sometimes it completely redefines the concept of what a video game can be.
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