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Nintendo: Metroid is ‘an important franchise for us’

That’s why Metroid Prime 4 was announced early

Metroid Prime Samus Retro Studios/Nintendo
Chelsea Stark (she/her), executive editor, has been covering video games for more than a decade.

Nintendo’s announcement of Metroid Prime 4 — with just a title screen during its E3 2017 Spotlight presentation — was at first exhilarating for fans of the first-person version of the franchise. That was until they saw how little information about the game was available.

With no studio attached — only confirmation that the original trilogy’s creator Retro Studios wasn’t on the project — fans were worried. Couple that with the lack of release window, art, gameplay or anything else about the project. “Now in development for Nintendo Switch” was the only additional messaging, along with later confirming that series producer Kensuke Tanabe was back on board.

Metroid Prime 4’s early announcement seems to be directly linked to Nintendo’s announcement of Metroid: Samus Returns, a 3DS remake of Metroid 2. Polygon spoke to Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime about that announcement at E3.

“We wanted to make it clear that Metroid is an important franchise for us,” Fils-Aime told Polygon, “As we think about how to satisfy the needs to the Metroid fans, we needed to make sure they understood there was a great console experience coming, in addition to Metroid: Samus Returns coming on Nintendo 3DS.

“That's what we wanted to make sure it was clear that it wasn't one or the other, that we were going to support both of our platforms with a great new Metroid experience.”

Fils-Aime explained that Metroid: Samus Returns wasn’t included in the pre-recorded presentation for two reasons, one of those being the the company has learned people seem more interested in learning about Switch (and other console experiences) first, at least at E3.

“We've learned through lots of experience that the consumer wants to get that upfront information on the console experiences.”

But it’s also that Fils-Aime thinks some games need to have longer demonstrations and maybe feature commentary from developers when they debut.

“Anyone whose passionate about a particular franchise envisions what the next one is going to be like,” he said. “Oftentimes, until they see it, until they really understand it, there's going to be some dissonance.”

This could also be related to Metroid’s rocky past. Fans and critics have been cool to many of the franchise’s more recent releases, including 2010’s Metroid: Other M. And when Metroid Prime: Federation Force debuted at E3 two years ago, it received an angry reaction — the trailer had an overwhelming percentage of dislikes on YouTube.

“I really do think we need to help our fans understand what we're doing, why we're doing it and give them all the examples of why we think it's going to be a fantastic experience, and certainly I have confidence in our developers on what they deliver is going to be first-rate.”

There were also some rumblings as to why the Metroid: Samus Returns wasn’t brought to the Switch instead, as the console-handheld hybrid seems to receive almost all of Nintendo’s attention during E3.

“There's over 66 million of these devices out in the hands of consumers,” said Fils-Aime, holding up a 3DS. “From our perspective, what better way to re-engage fan love with the Metroid franchise then to create a game that's playable on 66 million devices, and then follow along with a Metroid experience on Nintendo Switch, when at that point the install base for that system will be significantly higher than what it is today.”

Metroid: Samus Returns is out Sept. 15. Metroid Prime 4, a working title, has no release date.

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