Nintendo NX Launch Year Predictions

Truth be told, I started working on my E3 predictions a few weeks ago. And when I did so, I started with Nintendo. Back then, I was under the assumption, like many of us were, that Nintendo would actually be holding a press conference this year– and most importantly that they would be revealing the NX.

That isn’t happening, of course, which is why in the end I did not produce an E3 prediction article for them last week. After all, why predict what they’ve explicitly said will and will not be there?

But then I looked back and realized I’d spent an exorbitant amount of time looking through Nintendo’s recent history to try to figure out what we could expect them to show off at E3– and more importantly, figure out what games we were likely to see on NX.

You see, the article today is one you can say is an amalgamation of the work I put into to both imagine what the last few years would have looked like if Nintendo had launched a hybrid console instead of the 3DS and Wii U, as well as my research on what Nintendo is likely to reveal in the near future. Today, I will lay out all my research and make predictions as to what games we can expect on Nintendo’s next-gen system and when we can expect to see them release.

Zelda and Other Rumored Titles

Throughout the entirety of putting together a predictions list for Nintendo’s NX at E3, my entire thought process was on the idea that the console would launch in Fall of 2016. While the announcement a month or so ago completely throws a wrench into that idea, it only did so for the better when it came to examining the possible lineup.

The truth is that this was the intended goal: Kimashima has stated that NX will release in March of 2017 specifically to make sure that the games are there at launch. The cornerstone of that launch will, in all likelihood, after a multitude of delays, be The Legend of Zelda title announced at E3 2014.

The late president Iwata once stated how he thought the release of Twilight Princess on the Wii helped make that system’s launch one of the best in the company’s history, and it’s clear that Nintendo is trying to emulate that success here. You could even argue it’s a sign that Nintendo is putting more focus on getting excellent games on the system over trying to implement a gimmick for a “new way to play.”

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No other titles are yet known for the system, although many have been rumored. The most solid of these is the idea that Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS, Splatoon, and Super Mario Maker are all being ported to NX to provide the install base with some of the most popular, well-liked games on the system. To Wii U owners, it’s not the best scenario, but there’s a good likelihood that anyone who bought a Wii U (as there aren’t that many of them compared to other current gen consoles) are going to buy NX anyway, and the idea of putting these games on the new system is specifically to attract gamers who had not bough Wii U. (because there are a lot of them.)

The second most likely game is a known game in development that many assume to be an NX title. At E3 last year, Miyamoto revealed that not only was Nintendo working on a new Pikmin title, but that it was “almost finished.” And yet, almost a year later, we have not heard a word about it. Announcing it for Wii U right now and releasing it later this year does not sound like a good plan, so the assumption many have then reached is that the title will instead release on NX. Possibly even as a launch title.

One rumor that has constantly been popping up is over the possibility that Next Level Games, creators of Punch-Out!! for Wii, the Mario Strikers games for GCN & Wii, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for 3DS, and now, Metroid Prime: Federation Force for 3DS, have grown large enough to work on a second title– that of which is most likely now an NX game.

The rumor started when, early last year, GoNintendo noticed a stealth edit made by Dan Pratezina, an animations director, on his personal website, in which he removed a specific part of his bio where he mentions that his new job wants to make him buy a Wii U. The rumor died down for a very short period until Liam Robertson of Unseen 64 unleashed a new rumor that Next Level Games was indeed working on a Wii U title alongside the recently revealed Metroid Prime: Federation Force.

Since, like the new Pikmin title, we haven’t heard about it now a year later, many assume that whatever it is Next Level Games is working on, it will likely come to NX instead of Wii U. Several debunked rumors have sprouted from this idea, the most notable coming from 10k– who said that the title would be Luigi’s Mansion 3– before being outed by Emily Rogers over his overly-optimistic NX specs.

Nintendo’s In-House Teams Bulk Up the Lineup

While Nintendo EAD and SPD may have been merged last September under the banner of Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development division, it’s still likely that for at least the next year or so, most of the teams that were working on games at the time of the change are still separated by the initial structure. Which is good, because it makes predicting what games we’ll see from Nintendo’s in-house developers a whole lot easier if we look at the previous structure at EAD.

And for the purposes of this article, that starts with the Tokyo development team that actually still makes games, EAD Tokyo Group 2. Known mainly for all recent 3D Mario games since Super Mario Galaxy 2 (and just a pinch of NES Remix), their last title was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker released near the end of 2014. By the time the NX launches, it will have been a few months past 2 years since that release. Before the March launch was announced, I felt fairly confident that a new 3D Mario game could launch in 2016 alongside the launch of NX, especially since Treasure Tracker may have taken less development resources simply due to being from the same engine as Super Mario 3D World. Now, with a March 2017 release, I’d think a new 3D Mario title is all but assured.

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The Kyoto teams are a little more interesting simply due to the diversity of titles and pure amount they could be producing with the extra time. Kyoto No. 1 are the creators of all Mario Kart titles and, when they have free time, Nintendogs. Like clockwork, Nintendo has released a new Mario Kart game every 3 years since Mario Kart DS back in 2005. The last title was Mario Kart 8 in 2014, meaning a 2017 release for Mario Kart 9 could be very likely. The only question is if the release of DLC for the first time for 8 might contribute to a delay in a new title’s release, or if the fact that the team is capable of developing both a Mario Kart and Nintendogs game at the same time should alleviate my fears.

Kyoto No. 2 are the developers of Animal Crossing, Wii Sports, Nintendoland, and most recently, Splatoon. They’ve shown in the past that they’re fully capable of developing two titles at once, and at the moment, the most likely case is that they’re the ones porting Splatoon to NX. However, those not working on that port were also likely the ones making Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer that launched in fall of last year. Considering that, like a few titles I have and will mention further today, that title was made using the same engine as the previous title, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already started developing the engine for a possible NX title. This means that this studio’s normal 3-year development cycle could be shortened to just 2, putting a new NX Animal Crossing release squarely within the 2017 window.

However, it’s possible that a third game could be in development from the same studio. As I mentioned, this is the studio that produced Wii Sports and Nintendoland, the two games that basically acted as extremely entertaining tech demos for the Wii and Wii U respectively. Those game’s directors, Takayuki Shimimura and Yoshikazu Yamashita don’t really direct any other titles, so it’s quite possible they could be developing the NX its own pack-in launch title as well.

Since Tokyo No. 3 makes Zelda titles, don’t expect another title after launch until at least late 2018/2019, but the same can’t be said for the developers of the new Pikmin game in Tokyo No. 4. With a great history of developing two to three titles at once, the studio mostly known for developing 2D Mario and Pikmin titles could have quite a few things on their plate.

Obviously, the two main games one could assume they are currently working with are the possible Pikmin 4 as well as the port of Mario Maker to NX. But the prior is known to have been almost completed in 2015, and the latter is a port of a 2015 title, which one would assume means there is certainly time for a new title. In 2012-2013, the same studio released New Super Mario Bros. 2 for 3DS, New Super Mario Bros U for Wii U, the standalone follow-up New Super Luigi U, and, of course, Pikmin 3. The chances are good that we could see a new 2D Mario title could be in the works (one that would really need to break the mold after Mario Maker), or even a completely new title entirely for a late 2017/2018 release.

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2nd Parties Fill Out 2017

If there is any studio owned by Nintendo that fans are itching to see more from, its Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country developer Retro Studios. With development times that can span 2-3 years (give or take a couple months), 2017 comes on the long-end after an early 2014 release for their last title, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. While an excellent title, many would like to see Retro get away from the Donkey Kong franchise, and rumors seem to indicate that they might actually have a brand New IP in the works. While possibly delayed due to shifting development to the new console, a 2017 release for Retro’s new title is very, very likely.

Intelligent Systems is possibly Nintendo’s most productive studio, usually putting out multiple titles a year, and apparently being able to consistently sustain the development of three different titles over a 2-3-year development cycle. In 2015 and 2016, they have and will release Codename S.T.E.A.M., Stretchmo, Fire Emblem Fates, and Paper Mario: Color Splash. We already know that the studio is working on a mobile Fire Emblem title, but there is still room for a third title to release in 2017, and of all the titles they’ve worked on in recent years, the one franchise most likely to get a sequel is that of the WarioWare franchise. Anything besides that likely won’t come out until at least 2018.

One of the biggest surprises last year was seeing that Camelot Software Planning was releasing Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. Camelot has a pretty good history in recent years of producing on a 2-year development cycle, but their last title was Mario Gold: World Tour in 2014, meaning a new game likely wouldn’t release until 2016. Releasing a year earlier than expected, Ultra Smash showed just why that was, being a huge disappointment that seemed to lack content around every corner. If Camelot gets back on their previous 2-year cycle, we should very likely see a good Mario Tennis/Golf title by 2017.

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Speaking of 2-year development cycles, Nd Cube has a pretty good history of releasing 2 titles every 2 years. The Mario Party developer’s last two titles were Mario Party 10 and Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival in 2015. Considering the content of those two games, it might be too much to expect them to release two games in 2017, but at the very least, it isn’t too much of a stretch to predict the release of Mario Party 11 for NX that year.

After that, there are likely a bunch of smaller titles to keep an eye out for. Genius Sonority, once known for making some big console Pokémon titles like Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness, have most recently been putting out small downloadable titles such as Pokémon Battle Trozei in 2014, and Pokémon Shuffle last year. Similarly, Ambrella, known for such quality titles as Hey You, Pikachu and My Pokémon Ranch, have spent the last 7 years building up a library of Pokémon Rumble titles. (Most of which I wasn’t aware anyone was playing.) A new game from both developers before the end of 2017 seems very likely.

The last developer likely to release a smaller title in 2017 is Arika. The last two titles they’ve developed for Nintendo were both Dr. Mario titles, being Dr. Luigi in 2013 and Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure last year. While the most likely title to expect from them is a new Dr. Mario title for NX, it would bring me no certain entertainment for them to return to their Endless Ocean franchise– a franchise they haven’t been back to since 2010’s Endless Ocean: Adventures of the Deep for the Wii, but one that would greatly benefit from an HD console.

Looking to 2018 and Beyond

With all the games we’ve gone over, 2017 could end up being one of Nintendo’s best years for game releases ever– and that’s not even including 3rd party titles, including the rumored exclusivity of Ubisoft’s Beyond Good & Evil 2. But what will be interesting is if Nintendo could keep up the development that produced a year full of such big titles. If NX truly is a hybrid console, it would certainly be possible (as I feel I proved in my previous string of articles on the subject).

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Studios likely to have games lined up for 2018 include Xenoblade Chronicles developer Monolith Soft, jack-of-all-trades Intelligent Systems, Kirby developer HAL Laboratories, the Animal Crossing and Splatoon dev team inside Nintendo, as well as Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D & Xenoblade Chronicles 3D developer Monster Games– who could very well even have a title in 2017 if they’re working on yet another port. Then there’s even the good chance that the Zelda team is ready to release a new, albeit more Link Between Worlds-ish, title, and that Game Freak, who is more likely to release a 3DS title in 2017, will have moved onto a new Generation by 2018.

Nintendo’s lineup may look front-loaded right now, but that might just be their plan. With more games at launch and within the first year, there’s more attraction for consumers to buy the system. And with a larger install base, there’s much more incentive for 3rd party developers to produce games for your system. And considering Kimishima’s goal of Nintendo producing more games at a faster pace, Nintendo’s lineup may not be as front-loaded towards 2017 as it first may seem.

So before we wrap it up for the day, let’s take one last look at what Nintendo’s 2017 lineup might actually look like:

  • The Legend of Zelda (NX) [confirmed]
  • Pikmin 4 [confirmed existence, assumed for NX]
  • Super Smash Bros. for NX (Wii U port) [rumored]
  • Splatoon (Wii U port) [rumored]
  • Super Mario Maker (Wii U port) [rumored]
  • Next Level Games Title [rumored]
  • Beyond Good & Evil 2 [rumored]
  • 3D Mario Title [predicted]
  • Mario Kart 9 [predicted]
  • EAD Tokyo 2 Pack-In Title [predicted]
  • Animal Crossing NX [predicted]
  • New Retro Studios IP [rumored/predicted]
  • WarioWare NX [predicted]
  • Mario Golf NX [predicted]
  • Mario Party 11 [predicted]
  • Downloadable Genius Sonority Title [predicted]
  • Pokémon Rumble NX [predicted]
  • Mario NX [predicted]
  • 2D Mario NX (2017/2018) [predicted]
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