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Nintendo unhappy with development of Metroid Prime 4, starting over with Retro Studios developing
News reported by 
January 25, 2019, 15:36:07

This is not a rumor, Nintendo themselves just released a video with Takahashi explaining the situation. This is a huge chunk of transparency from Nintendo about behind the scenes happenings. Apparently it wasn't going well so it seems they are straight up giving it back to Retro Studios who will start development from the beginning again.

As some of you probably know, I was very wary of the Metroid Prime 4 is coming but we won't tell you who is making it announcement (eventually revealed to be some Namco-Bandai staff?), and was keeping my hopes up but had some skepticism that it wouldn't be done right. Unfortunately, my skepticism was not unfounded. On the other hand, maybe it was, because Nintendo seems to understand that this is a big game and they can't just throw anything out there. They clearly understand the stakes here, and seem to be doing what they need to do to make it high quality.

Anyway, the negative here is that with development starting over it'll probably be late 2020 at the earliest that we see this game, more likely 2021 or 2022. It's ok, I can wait for an amazing Metroid Prime trilogy follow-up.

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Posted: 01/25/19, 15:36:07  - Edited by 
 on: 01/25/19, 18:04:11    
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I feel bad for me, selfishly, because it means in all likelihood whatever Retro has done for the past many years is now either on a far back burner until 2025 or in the garbage bin entirely. I feel bad for the creative team at Retro who had to go through that - as a gamedev artist I know it sucks and feels like crap. I am glad Nintendo announced this and was up front about it. I am so disappointed in them that they are shackling Retro with yet another Nintendo's-own-IP instead of something original when literally an Earth's worth of dev teams exist and would be chomping at the bit to put their heart and soul into this game, and who are not deep (years) into development of something else.

And that's that. No point in crying about any of it, it will do literally nothing to change it. Instead going back to work on my own games and projects.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 16:37:52  - Edited by 
 on: 01/25/19, 16:39:44
I think Metroid Prime 4 releasing in 2020 or 2021 is optimistic. If they are truly just beginning development now, then I can see it releasing at the end of 2022. But hopefully I'm wrong.

Also, just because Retro is developing MP4 doesn't mean they can't also be finishing up another project to be released this year. What have they been doing for the past 5 years since Tropical Freeze? Surely they have something else to show soon?

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 17:04:02
Now that I'm watching it again, he never explicitly says Retro is the new lead developer. He just says Tanabe will work in "trust and collaboration" with Retro Studios. He then later says "by collaborating and developing with Retro Studios" which suggests Retro will be doing development in some form and not just in some consulting role or whatever, but it is not clear that this means they are the lead developers. It could be some big hybrid thing keeping the old dev team and having some Retro members working on it as well, I dunno.

I THINK that this all points to Retro essentially taking over and development happening more or less the same way it did with the first 3 Prime games, especially since the whole thing is starting over, but it's a bit unclear in the wording.

@canonj Yeah I guess I was thinking that A. this decision might have been made at some point last year and we're only hearing about it now and B. Metroid Prime 2 only took 2 years to develop. But of course that was a same system sequel so 3 or 4 years is more likely.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 17:54:00  - Edited by 
 on: 01/25/19, 17:59:11
Yeeowch. That stings.

Knew Retro was having problems but Prime 4 being in hell kinda sucks.

This whole thing is a bit worrying now.

When I saw the vid I interpreted it as Retro merely helping the new team out but I guess this is just gonna be another Tanabe/Retro joint?

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 18:12:12
carlosrox said:
Knew Retro was having problems but Prime 4 being in hell kinda sucks.

Retro is having problems? I haven't heard much from them one way or the other in years.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 18:16:40
I'm okay with this. I'd much rather a late MP game that lives up to the series' quality than a weak entry. The last time Metroid got a sub-par game, the entire series almost exploded.

I'm wondering why they didn't just have Retro do it in the first place. They obviously know how to make fantastic Metroid titles.

Also, the timing of this will probably be pretty awkward now. Assuming the Switch has the usual 5-year lifespan, it's possible MP4 might get stuck in another "release-too-late" windows like Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild, where they're held off for the new systems as well. I hope not.

Hopefully this ends up like RE4--a game with troubled development that had previous scrapped versions, but ended up all the better for it.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 18:36:56  - Edited by 
 on: 01/25/19, 18:38:34
Retro was probably already working on... whatever they are working on? I wonder if that Star Fox racer was real and will ever see the light of day? So they weren't free? But now they maybe are?

It actually seems VERY common in game development for some big killer studio to create a franchise (Retro didn't create Metroid, but "Prime" is kind of its own franchise) and then it gets taken away and handed to lesser developers. Probably with the idea that they can make the game for less but still bring in the crowds who the greater developer established, and meanwhile the greater developer gets put on something new in an attempt to establish another big new franchise or something? But I hate that, it mostly just leads to the franchise getting weaker over time. And Nintendo usually doesn't do that with their big ones.

Yeah, not really sure what happened here.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 18:46:11
That's what I mean about problems though. They've been radio silent for like 5 years now and now they're only starting (unless we hear otherwise) their next project? And by the sounds of it maybe they're only helping?

Either way this sounds a long way out and this whole thing strikes me as a tad fishy.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 19:41:37
@carlosrox There is no reason to believe they weren't working on something else this whole time. And it may or may not release.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 19:43:45
Hopefully, Retro can finish up whatever they're currently working on, since I'd be more excited about something new/weird than yet another scanfest.

Speaking of, I was always pretty cautious in my Prime 4 optimism, since I liked the idea of a radical shift in the series, but Namco Bandai had seemed like a weird choice. I mean, they have quality teams for fighting, flight, and racing games, but do they really have any first/third person in-house chops? Which team were they putting on this? Their generic anime game team? The freakin' Lost Reavers team?

Nintendo often has the ability to pull the best out of its collaborators, but not always.

In conclusion, just make a mind-melting 2D Switch Metroid, Nintendo.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 19:51:20  - Edited by 
 on: 01/25/19, 19:52:00
Haha, wow. I want what is best for the Metroid series and am happy Nintendo cares enough to kill the game if it just isn't turning out well. Most publishers wouldn't do that. They would release a crap game knowing that it's a crap game, try to make as much money back as they can, and do irreparable damage to the series in the process. So yeah, I respect this decision and am fine continuing to wait for a proper Prime game from Retro.

... but I really hope this means that Retro is wrapping up work on whatever they've been doing the past half decade and it's awesome. That is what this means, right? Tell me that's what this means...

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 19:56:30
Obviously they were doing something but this is a long wait, especially if nothing comes of it.

Like, this (assuming they've just had dev hell and cancellations) is how they started out with Nintendo.

And this is actually how Prime 1 got its start too. I wanna remain faithful, but my confidence has been stirred.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 20:49:44

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 22:33:34
@J.K. Riki

I'm really hoping that the reason Retro wasn't tasked with making Prime 4 in the first place is because of whatever new game they were working on, and the reason Nintendo has decided to give them Prime 4 now is because they're close enough to finishing that game that the studio feels they can divert some of their workers to Prime 4 now.

Posted by 
 on: 01/25/19, 23:04:10

This makes the most sense to me. Why would Nintendo give Metroid Prime 4 to a studio that's been struggling for the past five years?

Posted by 
 on: 01/26/19, 00:27:00
Anand said:
Hopefully, Retro can finish up whatever they're currently working on, since I'd be more excited about something new/weird than yet another scanfest.

Same here.


I hadn't considered that, but you have sparked a small flame of hope in me that, if dashed, will crush me even more. :P

Here is to that hope!

Posted by 
 on: 01/26/19, 00:48:11
I'm actually more interested in those rumours about a Prime Trilogy port being done and Nintendo just sitting on the announcement.

Posted by 
 on: 01/26/19, 00:55:43
When I saw this headline this morning, I really did a double-take. Right up there with "Dick Cheney shoots man in the face". I was like, "Whaaaaaaa...this can't be real."

Even crazier the level of transparency from Nintendo. They're rarely - if ever - this open about a game in development, especially one that's in trouble.

While I won't say I ever really had any concerns about MP4 - there really wasn't any reason to (yet), as all we had seen was a logo - the new development team did leave open the possibility that this wouldn't be the same Metroid Prime that we knew and loved. But I figured with Nintendo overseeing development anyway, things would turn out okay. I suppose that's still the case, as they clearly weren't willing to release a substandard product, but we're going to have to wait a while.

Obviously, knowing Retro is back at the helm gives me full confidence in the project. I know a lot of the people who worked on the Prime trilogy have left, but that's the reality of game development. People come and go. Until Retro puts out a game that isn't great, I see no reason to doubt their ability to make another great game in whatever series they're brought on to do.

As for their current (pre-Metroid) project, it being cancelled would probably be even more disappointing than the MP4 delay, regardless of what it is. A studio of that caliber not releasing a single new game between 2014 and ~2022/23 would be a huge shame. I'm hopeful that today's news means that their current project is nearing completion.

TriforceBun said:
Hopefully this ends up like RE4--a game with troubled development that had previous scrapped versions, but ended up all the better for it.

One of the craziest things about RE4 is how quickly they released the final version. As of mid-2003 they were still working on the RE 3.5 version, and the final game came out in January 2005. A year-and-a-half at the very most and they put something out that good and that polished. Insanity.

What's interesting for them as it compares to MP4 is that they didn't exactly have to start from scratch. A lot of the art assets, game mechanics, music, engine, etc. were re-usable from the earlier versions of RE4. So even though Retro is basically starting over as far as making in-game content goes, I wonder if there's anything from the cancelled version that they can salvage and start building off of. You'd hate to see all of that work go to waste; even though it wasn't coming together, it couldn't have been all bad...right???

Posted by 
 on: 01/26/19, 02:04:24  - Edited by 
 on: 01/26/19, 02:12:50
Hmmm, almost seems like the exact reason it's not a good idea to announce a game too early. You never know how development is going to turn out.

Posted by 
 on: 01/26/19, 06:32:29
It felt like the announcement was rushed, right? Like they just needed a big game to announce and didn't have anything ready to show off so it was like uh yeah we're also doing Metroid Prime 4, here is a logo and GOOD NIGHT.

I have a feeling it was more to fill in perceived gaps in the Switch lineup than it actually being ready to announce. Even if this version was going ok it probably wouldn't have made 2019.

Posted by 
 on: 01/26/19, 08:36:21
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