The future of Nintendo: what’s to come after Spring 2016? (1)

E3 has come and gone and all the big players have made some exciting new announcements about their upcoming and future games. Unlike, for instance, Sony, Nintendo decided to focus on games they will be releasing in the coming year instead of in the coming years. For some (including myself) their digital E3 event was a bit underwhelming. Mostly because we already knew about most of their games that will release before the Spring of 2016. Especially when looking at WiiU.

In this series of articles I will look at what Nintendo will most likely deliver after Spring 2016. Of course I do not have a crystal ball, so what I will be presenting here are just some educated guesses about what Nintendo’s (affiliated) studios are most likely to be working on right now.


First off let’s take a look at Nintendo’s main internal development studios in Japan: the Nintendo EAD studios! There are 7 EAD studios, 5 of them are located in Kyoto, 2 of them in Tokyo. We will take a closer look at all 7 of these studios in the coming paragraphs.


EAD 1

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Kyoto EAD 1 Mario Kart 8 May 2014 Mario Kart series

Nintendogs series

(?) New Nintendogs

Mario Kart 8

What are they working on?

EAD 1 has been working on updating the Mario Kart 8 experience after the original game was released in May 2014. The latest DLC pack was released not so long ago, about a year after the release of the original game. No further DLC packs have been announced.

Since I can’t imagine the whole Mario Kart team having worked on the DLC packs for a year, production of the next Mario Kart must be at least a year underway by now. The new Mario Kart will release on NX, as Nintendo is in the habit of releasing 1 Mario Kart per system.

EAD 1’s second team, led by producer Hideki Konno (who is also the producer for Mario Kart) and director Yasuyuki Oyagi, is most likely working on the next Nintendogs, which will probably be released together with Nintendo’s next handheld – whether that be the rumored “Fusion” project or not.

 

What does this mean for WiiU?

EAD 1 is probably not actively producing a WiiU game. A small team may still be working on Mario Kart 8 updates, but since the game is more than a year old right now, chances are slim that we will see more big content updates (like 200cc). A small team may still be working on DLC in collaboration with studios in charge of other Nintendo IPs, but also here chances are slim. If more Mario Kart 8 DLC was incoming, E3 would have been the perfect time to announce it.


EAD 2

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Kyoto EAD 2 Splatoon May 2015 Wii Sports series

Nintendo Land

Animal Crossing series

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

Splatoon 4

What are they working on?

EAD 2 has been working on two Animal Crossing spin offs that will be released in 2015: Happy Home Designer and Amiibo Festival. These games reuse assets from New Leaf (released in 2012) and Plaza (released in 2013).

Although both games are directed by Aya Kyogoku, it is most likely that only a small part of the Animal Crossing team is working on Happy Home Designer and a small part of the “party games team” (Nintendo Land, Wii Sports) is working on Amiibo Festival, meaning that the remaining members of both teams have most likely been working on the next major installments in the Animal Crossing and Wii Sports series since 2013.

While the next Animal Crossing will probably be a cross gen game (on WiiU and on NX), the new Wii Sports game will be a launch game for NX.

The third team working at EAD 2 just finished Splatoon and will continue supporting that game for a while, while most likely starting to work on the blueprints for Splatoon 2 for NX.

 

What does this mean for WiiU?

We may still see a full-fledged Animal Crossing game after Spring 2016 on WiiU after the release of Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival in the Fall of 2015. The other two teams will not be making new games for WiiU. The team behind Wii Sports and Nintendo Land is most likely making a release game for NX (one that shows of the new system’s capabilities) and the Splatoon team will have started working on Splatoon 2 for NX. A small part of the Splatoon team will create DLC for Splatoon until May 2016.


EAD 3

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Kyoto EAD 3 The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds November 2013 The Legend of Zelda series The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

A Link between Worlds

What are they working on?

EAD 3 has been working on The Legend of Zelda for WiiU since 2013. No release date has been announced, but it will most likely release in 2016 for WiiU (and some say for NX as well).

A small team is working on Tri Force Heroes for the Nintendo 3DS, which reuses a lot of assets from A Link Between Worlds, and which is set to release later in 2015.

While it is possible that another spin-off is in the works, it is most likely that most of EAD 3’s work force is working on the next big Zelda game and that no other projects are in the works.

 

What does this mean for WiiU?

The next big Legend of Zelda game will be on WiiU. Whether it will be exclusively on WiiU or whether it will be a cross-gen game like Twilight Princess was, remains to be seen. No other games (unless a possible Zelda spin-off) will be produced for WiiU by EAD 3.


EAD 4

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Kyoto EAD 4 Pikmin 3 July 2013 Pikmin series

New Super Mario Bros series

Super Mario Maker

Pikmin 3

What are they working on?

EAD 4’s New Super Mario Bros team has been working on Super Mario Maker since 2013 at the latest. The game will release in September for WiiU. While it is unlikely that the New Super Mario Bros team was working on anything but Super Mario Maker during its development, work on a New Super Mario Bros game for NX may have started by now.

A smaller team may have started working on another Maker game or DLC for Super Mario Maker. Looking at internal assets, most likely candidate would be Yoshi’s Island Maker, which may or may not be (standalone) DLC for Super Mario Maker on WiiU.

The Pikmin team has probably started working on the next Pikmin, which will most likely not release on WiiU, but on NX.

What does this mean for WiiU?

Super Mario Maker will release in September for WiiU. Depending on its success DLC may still be created for the WiiU game, most likely incorporating Yoshi. No new game from EAD 4 will be coming to WiiU after that.


EAD 5

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Kyoto EAD 5 Steel Diver Sub Wars February 2014 Steel Diver series

Wii Fit series

Star Fox Zero

Steel Diver Sub Wars

What are they working on?

EAD 5 is currently working on Star Fox Zero, Project Guard and Project Giant Robot, which are all projects helmed by Shigeru Miyamoto and are supposed to be released by the end of 2015.

EAD 5 has a history of co-developing games with other developers/developing groups. This isn’t different for Star Fox Zero, as it has been announced during E3 that Platinum games (of Bayonetta fame) is co-developing the title.

EAD 5 has become Miyamoto’s playground in the last few years (he also created the original Steel Diver which is being handled by the studio) and is more of an experimental development group.

On the other hand, EAD 5 also works on the Wii Fit Series, and most likely it has begun working on Wii Fit for NX as well. Will the next Wii Fit be related to Nintendo’s upcoming Quality of Life project? Only time can tell.

What does this mean for WiiU?

With three games still slated for release on WiiU by the end of 2015, chances are slim we will see any of EAD 5’s work on WiiU after those games are released.


TOKYO EAD 1

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Tokyo EAD 1 The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D February 2015 Super Mario Galaxy

The Legend of Zelda remakes

Nintendo (3)DS guide

(?) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess remake

 Majora 3D

What are they working on?

Tokyo EAD 1 once developed Super Mario Galaxy, but that was in 2007. Afterwards they haven’t produced a single big title anymore, which means that they have been working on the next big Mario since 2007 or that they have been demoted.

Since Miyamoto has been working more closely with EAD 5 in Kyoto ever since the release of Super Mario Galaxy, and Tokyo EAD 2 has developed Super Mario Galaxy 2, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World in the meanwhile, the latter seems more likely.

Tokyo EAD 1 has mostly been working together with external developer Grezzo to remake several The Legend of Zelda games for Nintendo 3DS (Occarina of Time 3D, Four Swords Anniversary Edition and Majora’s Mask 3D).

They have also created several guides for Nintendo DS and 3DS (including the Louvre Guide).

Most likely they just started working together with Grezzo on another The Legend of Zelda remake, and the most likely contenders in that respect are: Twilight Princess HD (for WiiU) and Four Swords Adventures Anniversary (for New 3DS and WiiU). While the latter may seem the most feasible for the studio, fans have really been dreaming of a Twilight Princess remake ever since the tech demo shown at E3 2012. With some help of Kyoto EAD 3, it is not unlikely that Tokyo EAD1 is working on making this dream a reality together with Grezzo.

What does this mean for WiiU?

Although Tokyo EAD 1 has not made a single WiiU game (apart from the app: WiiU Panorama view), it is not impossible that they are working on a Twilight Princess HD remake together with Kyoto EAD 3 and Grezzo exclusively for WiiU. The exclusivity of this game may help soften the blow for the fact that the next big Zelda will not come exclusively to WiiU, but will be a cross-gen game. A September 2016 release seems to be possible.

The other possibility is that they are working on Four Swords Adventures Anniversary for News 3DS (and maybe) WiiU.

There’s a chance we may see some of Tokyo EAD 1’s work on WiiU, but this may be more wishful thinking than anything else.


TOKYO EAD 2

Developer Latest game Release date Other games and projects Next game
Tokyo EAD 2 Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker January 2015 Super Mario Galaxy 2

Super Mario 3D series

NES Remix

(?) SNES Remix

Captain Toad

What are they working on?

Tokyo EAD 2 has been in charge of Mario’s 3D outings ever since Super Mario Galaxy 2. They have made some smaller side games, like Captain Toad: Treasure tracker and the NES Remix games, but their main focus is on 3D Mario.

Their next big game will most likely be the next big 3D Mario and the release of that game will most likely coincide with the launch of NX.

It may be Super Mario Galaxy 3, but it may be something entirely new as well. Time will tell. There’s a chance that before the next big Mario we will see something smaller from them, like SNES Remix or something similar though.

What does this mean for WiiU?

We may see a smaller project from Tokyo EAD 2 still come to fruition on WiiU (like SNES Remix), but their next big 3D Mario game will most likely be skipping WiiU for NX. Although, it isn’t impossible that we may still see Super Mario 3D World 2 or Super Mario Sunshine HD before that happens on WiiU, we should not get our hopes up too much. Just like with Tokyo EAD 1 this may mostly be wishful thinking.


All in all, it doesn’t seem likely that we will be seeing many more WiiU games from the EAD studios after Spring 2016. The Legend of Zelda will still apear on WiiU, and maybe Animal Crossing will as well, but apart from those two big games, the EAD studios will have shifted their focus to the next generation of Nintendo consoles. We may still get an HD remake or two and a smaller game or two as well, but that’s about it.

But… Do not fear yet, Nintendo fans, because next time we will be taking a look at what Nintendo’s SPD studios are most likely working on. So, as Marie and Callie would say: until then, stay fresh!

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A weekend @ Splatoon

Friday: Splatoon officially released

Friday noon: my copy (including green calamar amiibo) is delivered.

Friday evening: I play two 1 on 1 local multiplayer matches with my wife.

Saturday: I put the Collector’s Edition box and green calamar amiibo in my man cave, smiling.

Sunday: I finish the first nine levels of the single player campaign and defeat the first two bosses.

Monday:  I tell you all about my first weekend with Splatoon.


Some of you may have been living under a rock. That’s okay. It probably means you are a squid, a troglodyte or a hardcore Nintendo enthusiast. If you count yourself to be part of that last category, as I do myself, then it’s probably not the first time either you heard that reproach. It just means you are part of the select group of people who are most likely to have heard of Nintendo’s newest WiiU game, Splatoon, which is the big N’s first real take on the multiplayer centered third person shooter. If you haven’t heard of the game, don’t blame yourself. Although Nintendo says Splatoon has a marketing budget as big as the latest Mario Kart outing, which is pretty big, it is quite  hard to believe those words, especially when you live in Europe: where are the commercials? Where are the billboards? Right, as I thought, they’re probably hidden underneath some rock. So if you haven’t heard of the game: congratulations! First of all, this means you’re not a squid, nor a troglodyte. Sadly, this also means that you are not one of the 10 million or so hardcore Nintendo fans (nor are you married to one) that Nintendo seems to be reaching these days. Which also means you may be missing out on Nintendo’s first real outing in the genre that has dominated the gaming scene for the last decade or so.

Splatoon 4

Nintendo is notoriously known for showing up late at parties (i.e. they stubbornly hold on to dated hardware architectures, online infrastructure, game mechanics etc.) and when they do decide to party, they oftentimes start another party entirely (i.e. they innovate in ways no other company can, be that with motion controls, glasses free 3D or game mechanics). Nintendo is a unique company. On  the one hand it is very traditional and is oftentimes repudiated for it. It is also one of the most innovative game companies out there, but because of their (let’s be honest) far from perfect communication skills it sometimes seems that they can create a hit out of thin air (with the Wii’s controller being the perfect example, since you were actually moving air with that one) or that they didn’t quite get which way the market was going in.

Splatoon 2

Splatoon is both a traditional Nintendo game and an innovative shooter. You play as an Inkling, meaning you are part kid, part squid – no, I kid (or squid) you not – and you change between the two forms by holding or letting go of the ZL button. While you are a kid you can shoot colored ink with the ZR button at Octolings, other players, and most importantly, the environment. As a squid you can traverse that same environment at greater speed than as a kid, you can make dazzling jumps or you can stealthily disapear. The only caveat is that you can only move quickly, jump dazzlingly or disapear stealthily in your own ink, which is why you want to splatter as much of it on the environment as you can. It is exactly this little trick that makes Splatoon such an exhilarating play.

Splatoon 1

Although I haven’t dabbled in the online multiplayer yet, the single player campaign is very Nintendo-esque.  There are five worlds which you can access from a hub, think Super Mario Galaxy, and each world has six levels (apart from world one which only has three) in which you need to progress from segment to segment, also à la Super Mario Galaxy, by shooting Octolings and learning that specific level’s special gimmick, whether that be moving platforms or filling up spread out sponges with ink so they become platforms. The fact that I used the word “platforms” twice in that last sentence is exemplary of what the biggest part of the single player campaign actually feels like. It feels more like a typical Nintendo platform game in which you happen to shoot rather than an actual shooter. That’s not a bad thing. For me that’s actually a good thing.

Splatoon 3

Every world (apart from the first one) does have an arena level in which you have to confront several NPC’s throughout an open, euhm, arena. You will have to tackle these levels differently than the other ones. You’ll guickly have to get an overview of the whole area, while dodging and spraying ink, since in these levels you’re not trying to get from point A to point B – well, you are, but your trajectory isn’t as linear as in the other levels. These levels are the most challenging for me because they play more like what you’d expect from a shooter game. They provide Splatoon with some needed variety. Also the boss level at the end of each world will really test your shooter skills. These are great fun as well.

Splatoon 5

Apart from the first few single player levels, I played two local multiplayer matches with my wife. The only mode available in local multiplayer (for now) are the 1 on 1 matches in which you have to shoot more balloons than your opponent. One person looks at the TV. The other at the gamepad. Since my wife has a lot of problems with using the camera stick on the pro-controller these matches didn’t prove to be too exciting (poor thing). I’ll let her use the motion controls on the gamepad next time… Maybe… Maybe not… My inner squid just told me he doesn’t like the idea of a possibly lost match.

Splatoon 6

For those of you who own a WiiU: get Splatoon. The single player doesn’t seem to be very long, but it’s very Nintendo. The levels are varied and can provide a challenge for anyone. If you’re into shooters, you’ll love the shooter levels and find a new challenge in the more platform orriented levels. If you’re into platform games, you’ll love the more platform orriented levels, and find a new challenge in the more shooter orriented levels.

For those of you who don’t own a WiiU: maybe it’s time to crawl from underneath your rocks? There’s a plethora of exclusive games from more known (Nintendo) series already available on the system (Super Mario, Smash Bros, Mario Kart, Mario Party, Bayonetta, Donkey Kong, Pikmin), and with the innovative shooter, yet traditional Nintendo game, Splatoon added to that library, there really isn’t an excuse anymore not to get a WiiU. You may say: too little, too late, but I say: just accept that a party isn’t a party until the big N shows up.