* This Article was originally featured on Pause Your Game, and while it was still written by me, it is an article from a different era, and thus, some things may be broken within the article but are kept that way for posterity.
Nintendo’s strength has always come from its franchises, the likes of Mario and Zelda have become cultural icons. They are a testament not only to Nintendo but games and gaming culture as a whole. Their influence has spread through the entire medium. It is part of, if not the entire, reason Nintendo is still around making new games and new consoles to this day. In that strength, however, lies a large weakness: their strength is unstable (much like a man-made element) and when used improperly, it lashes out and destroys things at random as it reaches its short-lived demise.
The new franchises that Nintendo makes are untempered and unproven; they face a large uphill battle as they don’t only have to stand on their own, but they must also stand among the other Nintendo powerhouses like Mario and Zelda. Fans are, in fact, the problem here; for all their unwavering devotion to Nintendo, they have come to expect a certain… something that makes a Nintendo game a Nintendo game, regardless of how misguided that may be.
Take Code Name: S.T.E.A.M, which was released last year. In case you are unfamiliar, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M is a 3DS game with a very “comic book” art style that plays a lot like XCOM (Tactical Strategy Game). When it was released, it was met with average and above average scores. Most people reviewing the game took issue with slow turn speeds (which was patched out) but thought favorably of it. According to VgChartz, the game only sold around 30,000 in its first month of release (not accounting for digital sales) in the US, which these days is quite low. This was a brand new IP that received decent scores and only sold 30,000 copies.
Compare that to a game that received a far lower score but had the backing of a major mascot, Mario Party: Island Tour. Island Tour received a 6.2 Metacritic user score while Code Name: S.T.E.A.M on the other hand received an 8.2. Now how many copies of Island Tour do you think sold in the US? According to VgChartz, it sold 28,000 copies in its first week. It took a month for Code Name: S.T.E.A.M to reach 30,000 copies sold, while Island Tour sold 28,000 in the first week. Just let that stark contrast between a franchise featuring a beloved Nintendo mascot, and one that represents an entirely new IP sink in for a moment.
Enter Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
If you have been living under a rock or have become overwhelmed by all the E3 news, allow me to fill you in on a new Metroid title being released: Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a spin-off Metroid title which has you playing as…the Federation forces fighting space pirates and what have you. Samus is not at all featured in this game, and while the gameplay has elements of Metroid Prime and the world of Metroid Prime, its focus is quite different opting for a co-op experience rather then a solo adventure and a much different art style. Suffice it to say, fans were outraged; so outraged, in fact, that a petition to cancel the game popped up on change.org and has a little over 20,000 signatures.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force suffers the plight that Nintendo has created. Here we have a game that is something different and currently not available in Nintendo’s wheel(Tree)house. In an effort to give the game a fair chance (and presumably other reasons), Nintendo as opted to make this a Metroid entry. As I have shown before, by mere association to one of Nintendo’s franchises, its sales forecast is much better then being a new IP on its own and offers the opportunity for the franchise to expand into new areas and grow its universe. Sometimes, in an effort to grow that universe, there is a backlash, sometimes a considerable backlash, because it’s not what the fans want. Metroid fans wanted another main entry, another outing with Samus, and instead we’re given this, a game that resembles Metroid but is far from a typical Metroid game.
The Customer is not always right
Despite what you have been told in every retail establishment, the customer can be wrong, extremely wrong in some cases, just as fans are wrong in this situation. Fans are more than welcome to be angry about this Metroid game not being a main Metroid entry (I understand, I am a Metroid fan). But what fans must also understand is that the Metroid franchise is part of Nintendo’s 2nd tier of franchises, the ones that gamers know of, but not the world. These franchises do not pull Mario or Zelda numbers; they bring in much smaller sales and thus aren’t released as often. For these franchises to reach Mario or Zelda numbers, they need to expand and reach a larger audience, and to do that you need multiple entry points to get people hooked. Take a look at Mario for example, he is in everything: Sports, RPGs, Puzzle games, etc. All of those spin-offs serve as an entry point to get consumers interested in the franchise and perhaps pick up the main entries of that franchise. Metroid needs to do the same.
The Metroid universe represents a perfect opportunity for Nintendo to have a more traditional FPS game. Making a new franchise has proven to have a difficult track record with Nintendo fans so it makes more sense to expand on an existing franchise, as they have demonstrated to be more welcoming to those. The fact that fans reacted this way shows the issue Nintendo faces either way they go: either fans are upset its not a traditional Metroid game, or no one adopts the new IP and it falls under. Fans need to understand that they have created this situation by their unwillingness to try new IP’s and give non-main-entry games (such as Metroid Prime: Federation Force) that expand the universe of their beloved franchises but don’t play the same way a chance.
So, to those Metroid fans who are acting out of anger, I say “Stop it.” *smacks with rolled up newspaper*