It's been an unexpectedly busy day for Metroid fans. While we were still tucked away in our comfy, comfy beds, Nintendo of Japan published a video that was considerably more direct than the Nintendo presentations that bear the Direct name.
In the clip, Nintendo's Senior Managing Executive Officer Shinya Takahashi gives it to us straight: Metroid Prime 4's development is starting (or has already started) from scratch. Namco Bandai Singapore is off the project, and Retro Studios, the parents of Metroid Prime through Metroid Prime 3, is in. Takahashi admits Nintendo won't have anything to show or announce about Metroid Prime 4 for a long time and asks for our patience. It's like the big highway signs say during a snowstorm: "Expect Delays."
The Internet's reaction to Takahashi's apologetic video has been surprisingly civil. YouTube's Likes / Dislikes ratio is overwhelmingly positive; at the time of this writing, the "Likes" sit at 41k and the "Dislikes" are a mere 1k. Not bad for a platform that doubles as Dante's Fifth Circle of Hell. Nintendo's disabled the video's comments (smart move, ratio or no ratio), but outside of some jokes that aren't even particularly mean-spirited, Twitter generally appears appreciative of Nintendo's honesty.
I understand why. The video is rather stark, with Takahashi standing against a white background to deliver his three-minute statement. There's no attempt to soften the blow with jokes, no pointing of fingers, no uncomfortable groveling. It's just an update on where Metroid 4 is, where it's going, and an apology for the wait followed by a polite call for patience. It's a refreshingly quick and clean statement in an industry that usually lets rumors about troubled products get tossed around in Twitter forever.
While Nintendo did the right thing by giving us a quick, frank update instead of making us all hang on and then dissolve into chaos after Metroid Prime 4 failed to show up at E3 2019, this incident admittedly makes me rethink my position about publishers using "logo reveals" months before showing off substantial game footage. Metroid Prime 4 was announced with a simple logo at E3 2017. Nintendo's made it clear the game's not coming out this year. In fact, we probably won't see hide, hair, nor feather of Samus until next year at the earliest. We might wind up with the finished product in 2021. That means Metroid Prime 4 will have a four-year development cycle (heeeey!), and that's being generous.
Our beloved Reviews editor Mike Williams detests logo reveals for this exact reason. They're cheap hype. They're less about game announcements and more about kindling excited discussion on Twitter. Should we be giving Nintendo such an easy pass on Metroid 4's delay? It's been years, and Nintendo literally has nothing to show for the game. It won't have anything to show for a long time, yet. It took a gamble on a logo reveal, and it lost. Will Bayonetta 3 (which has existed only has a 30-second teaser for a year now) suffer the same kind of delay? What about Elder Scrolls 6? There's no way we're seeing anything beyond a logo for that game for months, even years. And we've already been over the Final Fantasy 7 remake. It's coming up on two years since the first teaser, and Square Enix has very little to show for it. Frankly, logo reveals and teaser snippets are barely a step up from wishes and dreams.
"So, publishers should just stop doing them, right?"
This is where I heave a heavy sigh and say, "It's not that simple." Yes, the E3 2018 Elder Scrolls 6 logo reveal is practically a joke (Holy cow! It has mountains!), but it served a very important purpose. It threw a sop to Elder Scrolls fans who might've reacted badly to the news about Elder Scrolls: Blades for mobile without an assurance Bethesda hasn't forgotten the mainline games. I still believe the backlash over last fall's Blizzard's Diablo Immortal preview wouldn't have been half as heated if the audience also received a simple logo announcing Diablo 4. It's silly to think a digital Post-It containing a word and a number means so much in this industry, but it is what it is.
The mild reaction to Nintendo's Metroid 4 delay is telling. People on social media don't seem to be angry we've been fed nothing about Metroid 4 beyond a logo. They're mostly happy to know the game exists, and Nintendo wants to make sure it lives up to the series' standards. After all, it's not like the Switch lacks big releases this year. Barring unfortunate delays, we're going to see Animal Crossing, Pokemon Gen 8, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses. That's on top of the usual stream of compelling ports (I am jazzed for Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Dragon Quest XI, and the inevitable Persona 5 revamp) and a killer indie line-up. I can wait a little longer for Metroid Prime 4. My Switch backlog won't be growing any smaller in the meantime.
Flawed as the reveal turned out to be, I am still glad Nintendo showed us that Metroid Prime 4 logo. It's just a nice little reminder I can tuck away in the back of my brain while I'm busy playing the dozens of amazing games that'll be released in the meantime. Much as I hate to encourage the cheap hype driving logo reveals, I understand why publishers lean on them. They make us happy. They make us excited. Most of all, they provide reassurance in a rapidly-growing industry populated by long-time fans who worry they'll be "forgotten" as investors push for developers to make lucrative free-to-play mobile games. We're jittery, panicky animals, and even if "METROID 4!" and "ELDER SCROLLS 6!" are nothing more than security blankets, they're admittedly snuggly, comforting ones.