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Metroid Prime 4 Development Rebooted: Now Retro Studios Project

by Donald Theriault - January 25, 2019, 5:16 am PST
Total comments: 34 Source: Nintendo

How about a nice bombshell for your Friday morning.

Metroid Prime 4 is headed back to the drawing board.

Nintendo's senior managing Executive Officer Shinya Takahashi has made the announcement on Nintendo's video channels that due to difficulties with the project, Metroid Prime 4 has reset development. Series producer Kensuke Tanabe will be working with Retro Studios, who developed prior Metroid Prime titles in a previous incarnation, to create the game.

Previous Nintendo release lists have listed the game as a "TBA" release; there is no new timeline for Prime 4's release.

Talkback

TOPHATANT123January 25, 2019

The transparency is good to see. It'll be interesting if details about the cancelled version ever leak out.

AdrockJanuary 25, 2019

This is interesting but not particularly exciting news. Most people involved with the original trilogy are long gone by now. The team is still good, but this is like giving the project to any good team. One has to wonder what Retro Studios was working on before this and whether it got delayed or cancelled.

Also, this is why companies shouldn’t announce a game with just a logo years in advance.

ShyGuyJanuary 25, 2019

Takahashi is a man of honor! Although I'm a bit surprised that Furukawa didn't make the announcement.

nickmitchJanuary 25, 2019

Was Retro's last game DKC:TF? It's been such a long time since they've really put out anything.  Prime 4 for Switch 2 confirmed.

Seems like there's no time like the present to actually go back and try the Metroid prime games, that way I can tell if this should be disappointing news to me or not.

That said, I'll second - it's nice to see Nintendo being refreshingly transparent about it.

Luigi DudeJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: Adrock

One has to wonder what Retro Studios was working on before this and whether it got delayed or cancelled.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's that Star Fox Racing game everyone was talking about before E3 last year.  With quite a few people hearing stories of it's development, I have to believe there was at least something there.  With the reports saying it was suppose to be like Diddy Kong Racing and pretty ambitious for a racing game, I could see why it might have been causing trouble.

The rumors for the original Prime 4 team was a Namco studio in Singapore.  If things weren't going to well, and the Star Fox Racing game wasn't meeting standards either, I can see Nintendo deciding to just shelf Star Fox to make Retro work on Prime again.  At least with Metroid Prime there's already a winning template they can have Retro work with and follow.

Of course the good thing about all this is I imagine the rumored Prime Trilogy HD is guaranteed to come out now.  If a game like this is at least 2-3 years away, they'll want something to hold the Metroid Prime fans over and an HD remaster of that Trilogy would certainly make the wait easier.

Ian SaneJanuary 25, 2019

The fact that this was even necessary isn't great.  Handing of a franchise to some unrelated team is often risky.  It has worked before in F-Zero GX, Donkey Kong (twice actually) and the original Metroid Prime.  But it also can result in mediocre or outright poor games.  Critically Metroid is one of the most respected franchises in gaming and it's annoying that Nintendo doesn't treat it with the same respect it does for Zelda, which has a comparable critical reputation but is also a big commercial hit with mainstream recognition.  Unless the games are losing money I don't see how having a series known for very high quality is a bad thing.  The entire indie game scene pretty much sprung up from people trying to make their own take on Super Metroid.  The series influenced a generation of game designers but Nintendo blows it off because it's not big in Japan.

But I am thrilled that they realized things weren't going right and decided to change things up and obviously going with Retro is the safest route to take.  It could be very easy to just dump whatever to the market and hope the brand spurs enough sales to make a profit.  Hell, with the Switch being such a success Nintendo doesn't even really NEED this to be a hit.  They have a lot of wiggle room to survive the odd flop.  Only a few companies will turf or reboot a game like this (pre-Activision Blizzard having two prominent examples) and it shows enough awareness to realize that dumping a half-baked product in the short term can hurt a brand in the long term.

But if Retro had to cancel whatever they've been working on for years and it was because it wasn't really working out then that's a little discouraging.  Obviously there has been turnover since Metroid Prime 3 and if the current Retro team just wasted years of development on a cancelled title how competent are they to work on this?  Ideally I want to see Retro's prior project get released, maybe with some other team just adding the last bit of polish to finish it up, and ending up being a great game.  Hopefully the reason they could switch gears was because they had done enough that a different team can finish the final QA.

One thing Nintendo should probably consider doing with Metroid is giving a 2D eShop game a go as a stopgap.  Show the indie devs how it's done.  It's a low budget project that would be incredibly popular with the target audience.  And if it went well then it opens the door for Nintendo to release similar retro-themed budget titles on the eShop.

KhushrenadaJanuary 25, 2019

Truthfully, we have no idea if Retro has been working on a project and it has been scrapped to make way for Prime 4. For all we know, Retro is finished or is in the stages of finishing a project that Nintendo still might be ready to show as a surprise in a Direct real soon. Because of that, they may be in the best position to take on and start work on Prime 4 now because of that. Or maybe it is similar to when Nintendo bought Retro and then had them scrap all their other projects to just focus on Prime 1.

I think with all the speculation people had at the start of the year that there would be a new Direct in January and hopes of news on Prime 4, NoA probably conveyed to NoJ that they should get ahead of this delay and let people know now instead of more future freakouts at lack of news from fan's expectations and hopes. And while there will probably be some snarky takes about how Other M was released if Nintendo has such high standards for the franchise, I do take that as a good thing in that Nintendo is being a bit proactive with the Metroid community by expressing that they really do care about the franchise even if some of the worst elements of the fanbase have been overboard in their criticisms of other efforts like Other M and Federation Force to try new things in it. Nintendo is saying they recognize what fan expectations are and want a product to meet that. This could be the sort of Twilight Princess moment for the Metroid series where Nintendo went back to the Ocarina formula and realistic Link art style after the first responses to Wind Waker.

With Ian's point (and this is something that has been discussed over a decade ago on these forums) while Metroid gets a lot of critical praise, for some reason, the games just don't sell as well as other Nintendo franchises. Therefore, as a business, it makes sense to put more resources and releases into the series that will sell a higher volume before getting around to some of the other franchises that sell modestly. Sure, it would be great if Nintendo of Japan took on another Metroid game but if that delays Mario, Zelda, Animal Crossing, Splatoon now and heck, even Kirby then it is not a sound business decision. With the port of DKC: TF to the Switch then I believe the combined sales of it on Switch and Wii U has meant both of Retro's DKC releases have sold better than any of their Metroid Prime releases even if the MP games are probably the stronger games overall. It was you that talked before about voicing your opinion through your wallet and what you purchase. Based on sales, the people have spoken and Nintendo is listening to that opinion by focusing a bit less on that franchise. That's why the idea of voting with one's wallet has always been flawed.

AdrockJanuary 25, 2019

The weird thing about the E3 2004 Twilight Princess reveal is that it was just a moment. Years later, Wind Waker is often remembered more fondly as the better game.

I don’t know if Metroid is popular enough to ever get a similar reaction. Then again, I’m not sure it matters.

Unrelated: I hope this shift results in Retro Studios making a non-Prime Metroid game.

EnnerJanuary 25, 2019

Oh, I hope this means whatever Retro was working on is done and not cancelled. I was hoping for a new and different game from them.

Also, I'm really curious what the cancelled Metroid Prime 4 was like. A tweet I read alleges that the trouble rose from Nintendo trying a multi-studio, multi-national development method(s) that is used by Ubi-Soft and Rockstar.

SteefosaurusJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: Ian

Critically Metroid is one of the most respected franchises in gaming and it's annoying that Nintendo doesn't treat it with the same respect it does for Zelda, which has a comparable critical reputation but is also a big commercial hit with mainstream recognition.

Couldn't you argue though that outright cancelling this project ~2 years in, scrapping everything, and putting one of their most respected studios on it is a real sign of Nintendo treating the series with respect? They could instead have barged on ahead and release a (presumably) subpar game instead. You see a similar thing with the cancelled Metroid: Dread project, with Sakamoto saying if they were they resume it, it would start from scratch.

Bummer news, but I think I prefer good Metroid releases over frequent Metroid releases. Feel bad for the guy in the video, this can't be a fun thing to record. Likewise, I hope the people at Retro can shake off the pressure. I saw on Twitter they apparantly pitched to be on the project themselves, but not sure if that's been confirmed yet?

broodwarsJanuary 25, 2019

Well, I guess I can look forward to Fire Emblem and ONLY Fire Emblem this year. *sigh*

I guess I'd be feeling worse about this if Metroid Prime 4 was ever more than just a logo. Seriously, we'd seen more of Cyberconnect2's FF7 remake when it was cancelled than this game. Given some of the games Nintendo HAS released, that they saw fit to yank this one and start from scratch probably says a lot about that game. I just hope that the current Retro is finally capable of living up to the GameCube Retro.

I look forward to yet more mediocre Wii U games getting Switch ports because of this, since Nintendo apparently still hasn't learned how to make Switch games yet.

Nintendo doesn't announce things way ahead of time unless they're desperate, which they certainly aren't right now. To assume there aren't other games coming later this year just because they aren't announced is silly. Metroid was never going to be a game that could carry a holiday anyway, so they had better have had other things in the pipeline for the second half of 2019.

broodwarsJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

Nintendo doesn't announce things way ahead of time unless they're desperate, which they certainly aren't right now. To assume there aren't other games coming later this year just because they aren't announced is silly. Metroid was never going to be a game that could carry a holiday anyway, so they had better have had other things in the pipeline for the second half of 2019.

Oh, I'm sure there will be something we don't know about at E3. It might even be good. Like I said, Nintendo's not batting a thousand with their releases. Thing is, if I don't have a reason to care about what's on the horizon for a console, it's not hooked up. It's not getting played, and it's not on my mind. I'm not checking the eShop, and I'm not spending money on Nintendo. I'm also not spending money on companies producing games on Nintendo platforms. It's not a good look in the long term for Nintendo to not constantly have a big exclusive game on the horizon drawing interest in the platform.

In the meantime, my Switch will gather dust while my PS4 takes up all my time and interest, as usual.

OedoJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: broodwars

I look forward to yet more mediocre Wii U games getting Switch ports because of this, since Nintendo apparently still hasn't learned how to make Switch games yet.

Yeah, they've only announced five original games for 2019 to go along with all one of those Wii U ports so far. They really need to get it together.

broodwarsJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: Oedo

Quote from: broodwars

I look forward to yet more mediocre Wii U games getting Switch ports because of this, since Nintendo apparently still hasn't learned how to make Switch games yet.

Yeah, they've only announced five original games for 2019 to go along with all one of those Wii U ports so far. They really need to get it together.

Metroid Prime 4 was also due in 2019. That sure worked out well.

Also, Mario Wah-wah is 2 games, so I'd consider that 2 ports.  ;)

OedoJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: broodwars

Metroid Prime 4 was also due in 2019. That sure worked out well.

Metroid Prime 4 never had a specific release window (nor do I remember Nintendo even implying that it was close).

Prime 4 never had a release window more specific than "TBD." Anything beyond that was just wishful thinking, and even in that respect it didn't seem like that many people believed it was coming this year even before today's announcement.

Ian SaneJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: Steefosaurus

Quote from: Ian

Critically Metroid is one of the most respected franchises in gaming and it's annoying that Nintendo doesn't treat it with the same respect it does for Zelda, which has a comparable critical reputation but is also a big commercial hit with mainstream recognition.

Couldn't you argue though that outright cancelling this project ~2 years in, scrapping everything, and putting one of their most respected studios on it is a real sign of Nintendo treating the series with respect?

What they're doing now is respectful but the situation in the first place isn't.  Nintendo would never out source a mainline Mario, Zelda or Pokémon game to some Namco b-team.  That's the sort of thing they do for franchises that aren't enough of a priority for them to assign their internal teams to.  In general Nintendo seems to regard Metroid as that weird series that the American market appears to like but the Japanese one doesn't.

Quote from: Enner

Also, I'm really curious what the cancelled Metroid Prime 4 was like. A tweet I read alleges that the trouble rose from Nintendo trying a multi-studio, multi-national development method(s) that is used by Ubi-Soft and Rockstar.

With the success of GTA V I can see why Nintendo would want to emulate the approach.  But I'm kind of glad it didn't work out, mostly because I don't want Nintendo making games like Ubisoft.  Ugh.  I know Nintendo's goal is create product the same as every other publisher but they at least give the impression that their releases are more than that.

Losing Metroid Prime 4 in 2019 is a blow to the release schedule but the Switch actually gets enough third party support that for the first time since 1996 or so this isn't really a big deal.

Quote from: Ian

Quote from: Steefosaurus

Quote from: Ian

Critically Metroid is one of the most respected franchises in gaming and it's annoying that Nintendo doesn't treat it with the same respect it does for Zelda, which has a comparable critical reputation but is also a big commercial hit with mainstream recognition.

Couldn't you argue though that outright cancelling this project ~2 years in, scrapping everything, and putting one of their most respected studios on it is a real sign of Nintendo treating the series with respect?

What they're doing now is respectful but the situation in the first place isn't.  Nintendo would never out source a mainline Mario, Zelda or Pokémon game to some Namco b-team.  That's the sort of thing they do for franchises that aren't enough of a priority for them to assign their internal teams to.  In general Nintendo seems to regard Metroid as that weird series that the American market appears to like but the Japanese one doesn't.

It's basically the same thing they've done with a lot of the Smash Bros. games, so I wouldn't assume that it was a case of them not regarding the series as important.

RPG_FAN128January 25, 2019

Wow.  If the WIP MP4 got canned does that mean...it was actually worse than Other M?  Is that even possible? 

Sarcasm aside... Oh scratch that I have some left.  With literally thousands of games in existence I always find it baffling how announcements like this even matter to people.  I wrote down a list of about 30 games that I may (or may not) get to in 2019.  This list contains only released games, and these days I only buy one game at a time and beat it.  No more accruing backlogs for me.  And this doesn't even count already-owned games that are due for another playthrough.  But hey, I guess now that it is 2019 some people can't even play games released in 2018 because that just wouldn't be cool or something.

NOW sarcasm aside... It's hard to believe it has been 5 years since I played the Prime trilogy last.  All three of those games would fit on my personal top 20 all-time list somewhere.  Talk about one solid set of games.  It is equally baffling to me how this franchise is not popular in Japan.  But hey, to each their own. 

wcmullinsJanuary 25, 2019

It makes you wonder how many other games Nintendo has done this too and we never saw.

I hope Retro studios previous game is done...and not canceled as well.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterJanuary 25, 2019

Yeah considering that Retro hasn't been able to come out with anything for 6 years now this is hardly what I'd call an improvement.

ThePermJanuary 25, 2019

There is no such thing as wasted development time. If you don't develop the games then you still develop the artists.

KhushrenadaJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: Khushrenada

there will probably be some snarky takes about how Other M was released if Nintendo has such high standards for the franchise,

Quote from: RPG_FAN128

does that mean...it was actually worse than Other M?  Is that even possible? 

Why, oh, why must I be cursed with this gift of seeing the future? Oh, what cruel fate has made me  so intuitive to be able to understand human nature so well and foresee what the outcome of situations will be before they occur? This burden I bear is immense. As another wise forum user once remarked:

Quote from: BeautifulShy

You are so perceptive Khushrenada.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterJanuary 25, 2019

Federation Force 2 confirmed?

Luigi DudeJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: pokepal148

Yeah considering that Retro hasn't been able to come out with anything for 6 years now this is hardly what I'd call an improvement.

Retro is a first party studio so there will be better over-site and supervision compared to Namco.  Even if the current Retro lacks the talent of the old, at least it's much easier for Nintendo to improve one of there own studio's then making a third party improve theirs.

nickmitchJanuary 25, 2019

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

Quote from: Ian

Quote from: Steefosaurus

Quote from: Ian

Critically Metroid is one of the most respected franchises in gaming and it's annoying that Nintendo doesn't treat it with the same respect it does for Zelda, which has a comparable critical reputation but is also a big commercial hit with mainstream recognition.

Couldn't you argue though that outright cancelling this project ~2 years in, scrapping everything, and putting one of their most respected studios on it is a real sign of Nintendo treating the series with respect?

What they're doing now is respectful but the situation in the first place isn't.  Nintendo would never out source a mainline Mario, Zelda or Pokémon game to some Namco b-team.  That's the sort of thing they do for franchises that aren't enough of a priority for them to assign their internal teams to.  In general Nintendo seems to regard Metroid as that weird series that the American market appears to like but the Japanese one doesn't.

It's basically the same thing they've done with a lot of the Smash Bros. games, so I wouldn't assume that it was a case of them not regarding the series as important.

I always thought Smash was made with a speficially carved out NamBam team.  Plus, the rumors around MP4 say that the decentralized approach Nintendo took was pretty experimental.  I don't think that would be something they'd do with Mario or Zelda.

steveyJanuary 26, 2019

It's nice that they told us this is happening but I would've loved to have seen some raw camera footage of the dropped game with some discussion of what caused them to drop it.

Quote from: Luigi

Of course the good thing about all this is I imagine the rumored Prime Trilogy HD is guaranteed to come out now.  If a game like this is at least 2-3 years away, they'll want something to hold the Metroid Prime fans over and an HD remaster of that Trilogy would certainly make the wait easier.

From the rumors going around, Metroid Prime Trilogy HD is 100% finished and was supposed to be announced at the last game awards to be released this February to build up hype for MP4. Now that MP4 won't be shown until E3 2021, the release could be delayed all the way to 2020 or beyond if they still want to use it as marketing for MP4. I see no other reason why they would be delaying the release/announcement otherwise :-\

MythtendoJanuary 26, 2019

Quote from: stevey

Now that MP4 won't be shown until E3 2021, the release could be delayed all the way to 2020 or beyond if they still want to use it as marketing for MP4. I see no other reason why they would be delaying the release/announcement otherwise :-\

There has been no mention or hint of them showing the game at E3 2021 (or any other date).

ThePermJanuary 26, 2019

As far as developing assets go. I don't see the point of starting over completely from scratch. There should be a giant asset base to use from the previous developments. The only thing Retro really should be doing is writing code, and creating new animations at this point.

Whenever I get a new computer I'll restart development of the game I was working on. I pretty much cloned the gameplay of Metroid prime, but I want the environments to be procedural generated like Minecraft. That's one thing I liked about 2d metroid was the greater ability to bomb rocks and find secrets. One thing I like about procedural generation is every-time you play the game it is different. You never know what world you're exploring. Animal crossing had an interesting procedural generation as well. I imagine you could program a game that has dungeons and items to get, but they're not always in the same location.

Luigi DudeJanuary 26, 2019

Quote from: ThePerm

As far as developing assets go. I don't see the point of starting over completely from scratch. There should be a giant asset base to use from the previous developments. The only thing Retro really should be doing is writing code, and creating new animations at this point.

From the sounds of things, the original version was a complete dumpster fire.  According to the reports, Namco actually moved the development during the Summer from their Singapore studio into one of their Japanese studio's in hopes of still salvaging the project.  For Nintendo to cancel it less then 6 months after Namco themselves tried to save it shows they had no faith in previous project even being salvageable.

For all we know the original could have been Sonic 2006 levels of trash that wasn't even coded properly.  In situations like this it's much easier to just start over from scratch then trying to go through the mess Namco left behind.

motangJanuary 27, 2019

I was thrilled when I heard Retro Studios was back to making this. Should have been the case from day one.

SteefosaurusJanuary 27, 2019

Quote from: Ian

What they're doing now is respectful but the situation in the first place isn't.  Nintendo would never out source a mainline Mario, Zelda or Pokémon game to some Namco b-team.  That's the sort of thing they do for franchises that aren't enough of a priority for them to assign their internal teams to.  In general Nintendo seems to regard Metroid as that weird series that the American market appears to like but the Japanese one doesn't.

Hmmm I guess they're kind of right though? Metroid just isn't a sales cannon usually, and the dedicated fanbase it does have has a very narrow idea of what it wants and is swift to reject most attempts at diversification (Federation Force, Other M).

I don't know if I agree that outsourcing inherently signals disdain for a franchise though...
-Flagship/Capcom did 4 Zelda games, 3 of which were the respective, well, flagship Zelda titles for their respective platforms.
-Star Fox Zero & Guard were outsourced to PlatinumGames and Nintendo saw fit to send over Mr. Miyamoto himself to guide development.
-Same story with Metroid: Samus Returns; Sakamoto was the producer after being impressed by MercurySteam's earlier pitch for a Fusion remake.
-Amusement Vision/Sega did F-Zero so well Nintendo reportedly asked to see the source code.
-Lots of remakes (Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Luigi's Mansion, WarioWare Gold) have been outsourced so Nintendo can continue to develop new games internally, I doubt those games' respective reputations were just thrown under the bus to make a quick nostalgia buck, they're mostly polished remasters.
-Smash Bros. has been noted above already.

Basically, for a publisher with such narrow development bandwidth as Nintendo, they're bound to turn to outsourcing if they really want to produce 12 games a year. They've done so for remakes (Zelda), but also for franchise revivals (Metroid 2), and marquee titles (Pokkén Tournament, Smash, Warriors games).

As a Metroid fan, I absolutely understand the wish for Nintendo to treat the series as a third pillar behind Mario and Zelda. But the reality is that Mario Kart, Smash, Animal Crossing, Splatoon, Pokémon, Kirby, the recent solo Yoshi games, Donkey Kong, and arguably even Fire Emblem nowadays are all more popular franchises. Most of them sell better than Metroid too, Splatoon and Fire Emblem are still behind in unit sales but have seen significant popularity boosts recently - and Splatoon already sits at 12.4 million sold copies against Metroid's 17.4m, with just 2 games under its belt.

I guess I see the initial plan for Metroid Prime 4 not as disrespectfully handing it to "Namco's B-team", but rather Nintendo trying a new production model and it didn't pan out the way they liked. I'd highly doubt that Namco wouldn't put some talented developers on the project; Prime 4 would be their most high-profile work with Nintendo since the GameCube days (Star Fox Assault, Donkey Konga 1-3, Mario Baseball), I'd be surprised if they didn't jump at that opportunity.

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