Nintendo takes more risks with prototypes, says developer Metroid Prime
We are still waiting Metroid Prime 4, and yes, it sucks. However, the game’s extended development is indicative of Nintendo and Japanese companies as a whole, according to Jack Mathews, a former staff member at Retro Studios.
Mathews was the senior technical engineer on the Metroid Prime Trilogy and spoke on the Kiwi Talkz podcast about their development.
During the conversation, Mathews touched on the main differences between development for a Western publisher and development in Japan, noting that Japanese companies are more likely to take risks with prototypes before going into full production. which is a much more advantageous way of working:
A big part of the way transactions are structured is that [Western publishers] want – when you go to make a prototype – they want to do a full and detailed tuning of the whole game […] before starting the prototype.
It ends up undoing a lot of what you do in the prototype anyway because you still have to figure out how much all of this is going to cost for this thing that you really don’t know much about.
Nintendo likes to take risks with prototypes; Mathews notes that because many of the company’s games are created by internal teams, prototypes are often considered “sunk costs” until a product makes money. He adds:
[Nintendo] know that this is the right way to go. It’s all about risk / reward, where you place your risk and where you see your reward.
This approach, according to the former Retro Studios staff member, is very common in Japan, where trade agreements are more informal and “handshake”; In contrast, Western publishers don’t tend to trust developers as much, he says, and often worry that a developer might come away with a prototype and team up with another publisher.
In the same interview, Mathews also opened up about how disappointed he was with the Wii.
Metroid Prime 4 was originally announced in 2017, only for Nintendo EPD General Manager Shinya Takahashi to reveal in 2019 that development had relaunched under Retro Studios.