Stop announcing games so early: The Metroid Prime 4 lesson


It has been well over 18 months since Metroid Prime 4 was first announced. Nintendo came to E3 2017 with a single asset: a title logo. That was enough to get fans beyond excited. The third Prime title launched a decade earlier; it was about time that the series’s fans got another game. After waiting through nearly two more E3s without any further updates, Nintendo yesterday revealed that Metroid Prime 4‘s development was being restarted. Nintendo’s Shinya Takahashi said American Retro Studios would take the reins of its production because the game was seeing a troubled development.

After ages of silence and fans eagerly awaiting an update, all we learned was that Metroid Prime 4 was still many years away.

A preventable situation

This was a completely preventable situation. Someone at Nintendo made the decision to announce Metroid Prime 4 far too early. Eighteen months ago the game may have been in preproduction. It is very possible that the game at that point in time was a series of drawings, ideas, and meetings. Knowing what we know now, the logo may have been from a pitch meeting and the game itself may not have had a single line of code written. Yet, Nintendo felt the need to illegitimately excite its fanbase.

Unfortunately, there is still much uncertainty when a game is so early in development. At that point in time, there was no way Nintendo already knew the game’s launch date, let alone if it would be finished at all. Despite the company’s mature and transparent update on Metroid Prime 4, its initial reveal was reckless and irresponsible. If a company keeps promising games that it can’t deliver, it can quickly lose the trust and goodwill that its fanbase has.

Not the first

Obviously, Nintendo is not the first and certainly not the last company to make this mistake. Companies including Square Enix are famous for promising games that launch a decade after their initial announcement. These delays hurt the reputations of companies, though. When Square Enix announces a game, not a single gamer worth their salt actually thinks the company is going to deliver the product in a timely fashion. With enough undelivered products, Nintendo can quickly tarnish its generally stellar reputation.

Overall, video games are complex products with thousands of moving pieces. An assumption that everything will come together is an inherently incorrect assumption. Things are bound to go wrong that you would never be able to foresee after four months of development.

Transparency or reality?

Some people prefer early game reveals because they are more transparent. Who wouldn’t want to know all of Nintendo’s current ongoing projects? However, a company’s current development plan is bound to have inaccuracies because game development is inherently a hectic industry. A quarter of Nintendo’s ongoing projects are bound to be greatly altered and scrapped entirely. It is part of the development process!

Some would prefer to see every disappointing decision a company makes. For me, I’d prefer not to get my hopes up for every potential game. My energy is much better spent getting ready to play games that actually stand a chance of launching in the foreseeable future. For now, I’ll wait for Metroid Prime 4.

Double Take is a series where we take recent announcements and occurrences in the gaming industry and offer our immediate thoughts on them.

Eli Pales
Eli buys virtually every Nintendo title that comes out but has expanded his collection to include amiibo. He hasn't taken them out of their boxes, though, so he might be a bit insane. When not playing video games, Eli likes writing about politics and games. He also runs a decent amount. Outside.