One of the most frustrating things about the Nintendo of 2014 is how shallow the company’s decision-making has become. Last week I implored Nintendo to take a break from the Mario, Mario, Mario, but it goes beyond that — these days when it comes time for the company to make a new game, the only thing they seem to ask themselves is “How did the last game in the series sell?”
This one-note, sales number obsessed strategy has led to some disastrous moves. It caused them to launch the 3DS with a new Nintendogs because hey, the last one sold 25 million copies! Unfortunately Nintendogs was ultimately a passing fad, and they almost sunk their handheld business by launching their latest machine with a dog washing sim. They launched the Wii U with New Super Mario Bros. U, because hey, the last one sold almost 30 million! Unfortunately a 2D, nostalgia-heavy platformer is not what people wanted to play on Nintendo’s hot new HD console. The Wii U has yet to recover.
Look at all those coins! Clearly the Wii U is a next-gen powerhouse!
This kind of stunted decision-making has also had a depressing detrimental effect on some of Nintendo’s slightly more obscure franchises, most notably Metroid. Ever since the relative failure of Metroid: Other M (it still sold over a million copies) the company has been dead silent on the franchise. While Nintendo spent all of 2013 (and some of 2014) fawning in embarrassing fashion over Mario’s dorky brother Luigi, they completely ignored Metroid’s 25th anniversary in 2011 and give non-committal, “Oh, Metroid is great, but we have no plans” answers when asked about the series. Most hoped Retro Studios, the guys behind the Metroid Prime games, were working on a new Metroid for the Wii U, but it turned out they were making another Donkey Kong game.
But hey, the last Donkey Kong sold four times the copies of the last Metroid, so aren’t Nintendo right to make another DK game? Not neccessarily. Tastes change. Trends shift. The game that worked five years ago might not work today. Hell, the game that worked one year ago might not work today.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a fun game, but I don’t expect Wii U sales to take off.
A winning company manages to stay ahead of the winds of change, adjusting their strategy appropriately. Look at Activision — yes, I know they’re evil at all, but they’re also damn successful. For years Guitar Hero made them obscene amounts of cash, but as soon as that trend started to wane, they dropped it like a hot potato and now they’re making obscene amounts of cash on Spyro, a series that was all but dead less than five years ago. If Activision ran their business the way Nintendo currently does, they’d still be trying to sell the world plastic guitars and wondering where it all went wrong.
So, with all that said, I think the time for an amazing new Metroid game is now.
On the most basic level, Metroid is what the Wii U desperately requires. The system needs a graphically intense, unapologetically hardcore game. People need to be shown that the Wii U is a real, significant step up from the Wii, and Nintendo needs something that will get core gamers playing Wii U, because their casual Wii fanbase are off grazing in Apple’s pasture now and they aren’t moseying back.
Beyond that, gaming needs its pre-eminent female badass back. Let’s look back at some of the most acclaimed, popular games of 2013 — BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, Tomb Raider — powerful, interesting female characters are in, and they’re going to remain hot as women and guys who aren’t dorky, angry teens become an ever larger part of the gaming population. Samus was 25-years ahead of her time, but now, as strong female characters take the gaming world by storm, Nintendo’s put the character in stasis.
I know Internet fandom often doesn’t translate into cash, but gamers really, really love Metroid. There’s more amazing cosplay and fan art devoted to Samus than possibly any other video game character. Well, except Sonic, but take the furries out of the mix, and Metroid and Samus are tops…
This is a real suit being worn an actual real person. Holy crap.
But wait, if everyone loves Metroid, how to explain the last Metroid game not selling that well? Easy, Metroid: Other M was simply a bad Metroid game.
Well okay, bad may be pushing it a little far — Other M was playable and fun enough, but it was just wrongheaded in so many ways. At a time when the video game industry was finally getting its s–t together regarding its depiction and treatment of women, Nintendo handed over the medium’s most iconic female character to Team Ninja. TEAM NINJA. The guys who have been turning out disappointing blandness for a decade because all they care about is developing new breast jiggle tech. On top of that, Nintendo made the game entirely controllable with a single Wiimote in the misguided hope your mom would be totally into searching for missile expansions and fighting Ridley. Metroid: Other M was a mistake, and you know what you do with mistakes Nintendo? No, you don’t ignore them — you fix them.
First off, get Retro Studios back on Metroid. You don’t have to freeze Metroid co-creator (and the mastermind of Other M) Yoshio Sakamoto out — let him have an advisor’s role, but have Retro do the heavy lifting. Now, start combing the gaming industry, particularly the western portion of it (Metroid has always been more popular in America) for the most passionate, talented Metroid-loving developers out there. Here’s a jaw-dropping piece of Samus fan art done by Jorge Lacera, the lead artist on BioShock Infinite…
Imagine a Metroid game that looks like this. IMAGINE IT.
Hmmm, wait, didn’t the studio behind BioShock Infinite, a visually stunning, first person adventure with well-written female characters, just disband? Hire as many former Irrational employees as possible and make me a mind blowing Metroid game. While you’re at it, hire some of the many, many independent developers who have been inspired by Metroid — get the folks behind Guacamelee and Steamworld Dig working on your game. Get Daisuke Amaya, the creator of Cave Story designing levels for you. Take the massive amount of love out there for Metroid and channel it into an amazing experience.
It’s within you to make the kind of dream games that will make the Wii U impossible to ignore, you just have to look beyond the numbers Nintendo.
cosplay by Yukilefay