By all accounts, Retro Studios has done a fantastic job of bringing the Metroid franchise into 3D with their award-winning Metroid Prime games. Both games, which appeared on the Nintendo GameCube, received critical praise while garnering apparently good sales on Nintendo’s underperforming console. Arguments have been made, however, that Nintendo made critical mistakes in both the marketing and retail distribution channels that prevented the two Metroid games from reaching their full sales potential.
Nintendo’s own anti-online philosophy during the GameCube era either prevented or deterred Retro from competing in an area that has proven to be a big reason why Microsoft’s Halo franchise has thrived. Halo has become one of the most recognized franchises in videogames. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s decision to release the second game in the series, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes in close proximity to Halo 2 meant that it got lost in the absurdly elevated hype that drove that game to sell several million within the first 24 hours. By not having a robust online multiplayer mode and not nearly the marketing muscle behind it, Metroid simply sold to the Nintendo faithful and failed to make a dent in the consciousness of other hardcore gamers who flocked to Halo 2.
Did Nintendo learn any lessons that it will apply to the latest game in the series, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption? Unfortunately, I don’t think it has. New information about the title is basically non-existent, half a year after it was scheduled to launch with the Nintendo Wii. It would appear that Nintendo is severely limiting this game’s sales potential with this self-imposed information blackout. There’s a lot that can be done before a game launches to build hype, and the talented folks at Retro definitely deserve a lot more attention.
Whether it’s storyboards, developer diaries, concept art, etc. there are ways to allow the community to get excited and grow in anticipation while at the same time provide enough secrecy towards whatever you want hidden. Nintendo needs to learn a lesson from Microsoft in terms of marketing games. With Gears of War and now Halo 3, Microsoft has shown a knack for building consistent and growing hype, without necessarily giving away everything about the games. This “rolling thunder” approach would benefit both Retro Studios (by allowing their game more exposure) and the information-starved fan base. After all, how is a Metroid Prime fan going to get excited (and in turn get non-Metroid fans excited) if they have absolutely nothing but old trailers and screenshots to go by?
Videogames magazines and websites (including ours) would absolutely love to give Retro Studios and their game more exposure. For the franchise to garner the sort of sales dictated by the quality of their games, more has to be done to market the title and raise awareness beyond the Nintendo faithful and especially beyond the current Wii demographic. While Nintendo has experienced phenomenal success with their new console, they still need titles to appeal to the rabid hardcore base that made games like Halo and Gears of War such smashing successes. Properly marketed, Corruption can go a long way in filling that void. Both GCN Metroid Primes were criminally under appreciated by non-Nintendo fans, and it’s Nintendo’s job to ensure that the latest game in the series doesn’t suffer the same fate.