Random Thoughts – 5.15.2018

baby fox

Q.  Emily, you said there’s a Pokemon title releasing on Switch in 2018. What should we expect from it?

In July 2016, Pokémon Go launched, and became a massive phenomenon, having been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide by the end of that year. Then, by 2017, overall download numbers increased to over 750 million a year.  This all leads to a much bigger question: What lessons should Game Freak and Nintendo learn from Pokémon Go’s success? How could Switch benefit from Pokémon Go’s success, and how could Pokémon Go benefit from Switch’s success?

After all, it was Nintendo who released “Pokémon Go Plus”, a bluetooth wearable device, developed by Nintendo’s Platform Technology Division, that allows players to enjoy the game without looking at their smartphone.  Would Nintendo ever dare to create more Pokémon Go accessories like that — possibly even for the Switch?

Joe Merrick, the creator of Serebii.net, once wrote an article on Nintendo Life titled “What Pokémon Go and the Pokemon series could learn from each other.”

As we wait for an announcement on the upcoming Pokémon title, which will be revealed before the end of this month, think about what Pokémon Go might mean for the future of the Pokémon series. I suspect that the naming/branding for this year’s Pokémon Switch title (there’s two versions) might raise a few eyebrows.

Q.  Emily, what are your thoughts on the Star Fox: Grand Prix rumor?

Star Fox is a Nintendo franchise with a very mixed track record, and unfortunately, the railshooter genre has a very limited appeal in this day-and-age. Anytime a new Star Fox game is mentioned, it’s always met with a lot of caution, skepticism, and even apathy by the gaming community. Although Star Fox SNES and Star Fox 64 are highly regarded among fans as classics, titles such as “Star Fox Assault” and “Star Fox Zero” were critical and commercial duds.

Four years ago, I wrote a piece called “Why Rebooting Star Fox Isn’t Easy for Nintendo”.  Many Star Fox fans expressed their anger with that article. I believe that’s because there was a smidgen of truth to what I was saying back then, and some people couldn’t handle the truth.  Don’t forget that in December 2016, it was Shigeru Miyamoto who said he “wished the Star Fox IP was more popular”.  Nintendo has publicly admitted multiple times that rebooting this franchise has not been an easy task.

If you are a member of Resetera, or even if you’re just a lurker, I dropped some vague teases on May 3rd about how “Retro Studios might be working on an old IP in a brand new genre.”

On May 3rd, 2018I wrote the following:

Well, if what I’ve heard is true…and that’s a very big IF…

Your “happiness” would ultimately depend on two things.

1. Whether you’re a fan of this particular Nintendo IP.
2. Whether you’re a fan of this genre.

That’s why I said I don’t know how the internet will react. You can be a huge fan of the IP, but you may dislike the genre. Or it could be the opposite: you can be a BIG fan of this game’s genre, but you were never a fan of the IP.

Again, that’s assuming there’s even a smidgen of truth to what I’ve heard.

On May 3rd, 2018, I also speculated:

If I had to speculate, I could see Retro’s game being both a new IP and an existing Nintendo IP. Sort of like how Mario + Rabbids is a brand new IP (strategy RPG) based on existing IPs (Mario, Rabbids). I guess something like a “spinoff”? An old IP in a completely new/different genre.

Now that the ‘Fox is out of the hole’, you can clearly see why I made these comments. You can be a fan of the Star Fox IP, but you might not care for racing.  Or vice versa: you can be a fan of racing games (like Mario Kart) but you might not give a damn about Star Fox.

To be brutally honest, this Star Fox racing rumor had been swirling around the game industry since February. Even IGN admitted that they’ve been hearing about this Star Fox racing rumor for many months.

But if the rumor has been swirling around for months, why did nobody report on the rumor until May 14th? I assume it’s because everyone had bad memories of that rumor about “Metroid x Star Fox: Fusion Saga”, and everyone was too scared of repeating that mess.

But this wasn’t the first time that I’ve spoken about Retro’s project.

Back in 2016, I reported that Retro Studios wasn’t working on Metroid Prime or Donkey Kong Country. One year after I reported that – in 2017 – Nintendo revealed that Metroid Prime 4 wasn’t in development by Retro Studios.  Then later, in January 2018, Nintendo announced a Switch port (not a Switch sequel) to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

My tweet from 2016:

emily dk

When I reported that rumor, I assumed one of their projects would release in 2017. My contact, who was super close to Retro Studios, told me that one of their projects had begun life on Wii U and later ‘switched’ over to NX. My assumption, at the time, was that one of their projects had been cooking for awhile — since 2014 — so it should have been ready by late 2017.

But here’s what I didn’t realize back in 2016: the possibility of one of their projects being in development hell. Both Game Informer and Kotaku reported yesterday that one of Retro’s projects (not the rumored ‘Star Fox’) had a very troubled development and could even possibly be cancelled.  Even more interesting, a Linkedin profile of a Retro Studios employee confirms that Retro Studios had two projects in development.

This could potentially explain why Retro still hasn’t released a project in four years — and this may also explain why neither of their two projects released by holiday 2017.