Shinya Takahashi, in charge of development at Nintendo, recently announced that Metroid Prime 4 is being rebuilt from the ground up by Retro Studios:
This change will essentially mean restarting development from the beginning, so the completion of the game will be delayed from our initial internal plan.
You can read more details from KeenGamer about the development restart.
WHY THIS IS GOOD news
At the core of a good game is good gameplay. This is what separates interactive experiences from other forms of media. Rebuilding the game from the ground up was likely the only solution if these issues were gameplay related. Metroid Prime and even 2D entries from the wider series are praised for their smooth and fun controls. In order to live up to the prestige and love of the originals, the new entry will need solid gameplay first and foremost as a foundation for the rest.
With the abundance of buggy and unfinished games that the industry has seen in recent years, it’s clear that deadlines and high expectations can lead to a rushed final product. This is particularly true with concepts funded by fans via Kickstarter or other crowd funding sources. Many other companies, and even at some points Nintendo themselves have put out games which fall short in one way or another. Particularly in smaller development teams, we have seen that some game elements promised to fans may not even be implemented, or the game is simply unplayable.
Shinya Takahashi says:
We did not make this decision lightly.
This is clear also from a business perspective, as restarting such a big title will mean a lot of money and time wasted – almost a full development cycle. This concern for their artistic integrity says a lot about Nintendo's standards, especially at this high point with the success of the Switch.
Nintendo's Recent Success
Nintendo has had seemingly non-stop success these past two years when it comes to great titles and sales. It was recently announced that the Nintendo Switch was the best selling console of 2018 in the United States. Super Smash Bros Ultimate was also just revealed to have outsold Red Dead Redemption in December. After playing 2017’s stellar Switch exclusives it seemed like things could only go down from there. The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey were hard leads to follow, but nonetheless, Super Smash Bros Ultimate and the likes of Kanto remake Pokémon Let’s go Pikachu/Eevee allowed for another amazing year.
What does this mean for Nintendo in 2019?
Nintendo has confirmed Animal Crossing is coming to Switch this year. We know little to no information about this game and whether it will have any connection to the ‘Pocket Camp’ mobile game. Animal Crossing 2019 will also likely have a Fall release date as previous titles New Leaf, City Folk and Wild World all released in November. Luigi's Mansion 3 (Working title) was also announced last September and we have seen some brief gameplay in the reveal trailer. This is another title confirmed for 2019. We can also expect a new main series Pokemon RPG this year. Yoshi's Crafted World will be the first big exclusive due to launch March 29th.
A new Metroid Prime game this year or next really would've made a phenomenal first half of the switch's life that bit more special. Metroid Prime 4 was expected to be Nintendo’s big seller for Winter or at least predicted to have some gameplay showcased, but this news likely means we won’t see a release until 2022. This huge offset in release time means this is expected to release close to the end of the Switch's lifecycle, as Takahashi suggested:
It will be a long road until the next time we will be able to update you on the development progress, and development time will be extensive.
The fans disappointment will hopefully be outweighed by their relief that Metroid Prime 4 is being taken seriously and will, as Takahashi says:
[S]tand shoulder to shoulder with the past Metroid Prime series titles.
So although Metroid fans will likely see the title and sigh, at least there is a silver lining that Nintendo is trying to avoid releasing a game that disappoints fans. Nintendo understands the weight of these expectations.
As to whether this return to Retro Studios will lead the series in the right direction we will have to wait and see. Although with the track record of the studio – and the prime series in general – it seems Metroid Prime 4 is in good hands.
This decision to restart development can only be coming from a good place. The developers understand the excitement from fans for a long-awaited return to the series and chose to be transparent instead of pushing out a game that didn't have pride from its creators. Even in the case of Retro Studios producing a bad or lower quality game, at least Nintendo and fans will have peace of mind that there was a lot of deep consideration and an attempt made at a different solution.
Nintendo’s honesty with fans comes at a much needed time. The last thing either party needed was a highly anticipated game to flop. This transparency is what I and many other fans would like to see from the company going forward.
It would be interesting to eventually see what the scrapped game looked like – although this is quite unlikely.
Shigeru Miyamoto said it best:
A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.
Watch the full announcement on Nintendo's Youtube channel: