How Metroid Prime 4 Created A Positive Community Moment
Nintendo recently announced that the release of Metroid Prime 4 would have to be delayed, as the company has decided to restart development on the title, with Retro Studios' involvement, due to it not meeting quality standards. While this is not an uncommon event in the industry, and games are delayed all the time, this occasion stands out due to the manner in which Nintendo handled this disappointing news and how the gaming community has reacted.
That is, the overwhelming response from players has been one of patient understanding. Comments on Reddit and IGN are filled with hopeful speculation about the game as well as applause for Nintendo’s transparency and decision to bring in Retro Studios.
In the YouTube sphere, reactions are much the same. For example, in a video by Gamexplain on the subject, Derrik Bitner states that “I think just the fact that it is back to Retro is going to soften a huge blow for a lot of people, and the fact that they are just so open with it and we’re not waiting and wondering.”
YouTuber YongYea also praises the decision, saying “I love that Nintendo went out of their way to admit that the game was troubled,” and “I love that they’re telling us all these things so that consumers and fans can be aware of exactly what’s happening rather than being left waiting and wondering why the game is taking so freaking long”.
Furthermore, Nintendo’s announcement video sits at over 120,000 likes, which is impressive in and of itself, as videos containing bad news are usually disliked. This air of understanding is truly a golden moment — one that Nintendo created by approaching the community with respect and transparency.
In an age where some game studios engage in questionable practices, and then call the gaming community unintelligent and toxic, the relationship between players and developers has become terribly adversarial. This can be seen in the dynamics recently established by companies like EA, Bethesda, and Blizzard, and it comes as no surprise that players have become jaded and cynical, expecting nothing less that deceit, disrespect, and the utmost contempt from game makers.
With the announcement of Metroid Prime 4's issues, Nintendo offers a great alternative for how developers should handle fans, treating them with decency by coming forward with details on the delay and information on how the company plans to proceed. This is the latest in a step-by-step approach the company has been taking to communicate and interact more directly with their fans.
This model sprung from Satoru Iwata’s concept of Nintendo Directs, forgoing the circus of flashy style-over-substance press events, and presenting the games and information to the community, directly and unfiltered. In turn, the community has responded by embracing these Nintendo Directs to the point that they have become events unto themselves.
To speak so directly and honestly to the community about a delay in a much-anticipated title comes as a breath of fresh air in an industry where the game makers typically bury bad news. This type of information often has to be dug up and brought to light by outside parties, and some companies attempt to invalidate criticism by calling any descent entitlement and toxicity.
While it is still very true that there are people that behave badly, as there are in all aspects of life, the overwhelming majority of the gaming community are good people; hard-working, enthusiastic, passionate. They welcome challenges and create and adjust to change quickly.
The myth of the gaming community being toxic by default is perpetuated by people and companies that themselves don’t appear to be acting in good faith. A community that is truly toxic and entitled, and all of the epitaphs that have been carelessly tacked on the community, would never have embraced this news with the grace, respect, and understanding that I have seen following the announcement of Metroid Prime 4's delay.
If more game studios would follow the example Nintendo is setting, approaching fans with and open transparency about the games they make, this industry could finally turn the corner back towards the civility and respect that allows the player, and the studios that truly have a passion for creating games for everyone to enjoy, to flourish.