[Nintendad Coffeehouse] Metroid Prime Trilogy and the Myopia of Fandom

Metroid Prime Trilogy Switch?!

Waking up to a new batch of Metroid Prime Trilogy Switch rumors is about as common as waking up to my cat furiously pawing at my bedroom door. It isn’t daily, but it’s frequent. My reaction to both is just about the same, too. After the original wave of confusion passes, I’m saddled with a familiar annoyance. To the former, I grumble and compose yet another Tweet about yet another retail listing. To the latter, I stumble out of bed and pour even more food into my cat’s dish – far more than he actually needs. It’s important to remember, though, that he wants a mountain of food. I, by contrast, do not want a mountain of Metroid Prime Trilogy rumors. What I want is the game in my hands on Nintendo Switch in a way that makes the most realistic sense. However, it seems that as a community we’ve lost the narrative with Metroid Prime, and have adopted a myopic view of what this series is.

To understand where the script has been lost, we have to establish yet another Metroid Prime Trilogy rumor. According to the Swedish retailer Inet, the Trilogy will launch on Nintendo Switch come June 19th, as per a listing on their site. The rumor itself seems incredibly thin, and a lot less plausible than Trilogy rumors of the past years. That said, various teases, reports, and speculation lead me to believe that there is – at least – an outside chance that Inet is telling the truth. My goal today isn’t to try and compel anyone into believing the voracity of these rumors, though, but instead to try and reach an understanding of what Metroid Prime really is, and why it isn’t talked about properly.

Recalibrating expectations

The two most common refrains with respect to this rumor are that Nintendo wouldn’t stealth release a game of this caliber without hyping it up, and that if such rumors are true, the Trilogy wouldn’t be properly remastered. The commonality here is that Metroid Prime’s importance is being wildly inflated. The dedicated Nintendo community conflates the Trilogy’s masterpiece status – and our mutual adoration of these games – with the Trilogy’s practical importance.

It’s impossible to have an honest conversation about Metroid Prime and the Trilogy’s role on Switch without first acknowledging the truth that these games are not popular on a relevant scale. According to VGChartz, Metroid Prime has sold 2.82 million copies, Metroid Prime 2 has sold 1.33 million copies, Metroid Prime 3 has sold 1.63 million copies, and the Trilogy sold 0.65 million copies. Combined, the entire franchise has moved 6.16 million copies. For perspective, this is barely more than half of what Animal Crossing: New Horizons moved in six weeks. Metroid Prime is nowhere near being an A-tier Nintendo franchise in terms of sales or mainstream appeal.

As such, there is no financial incentive for Nintendo to treat the release of Metroid Prime Trilogy on Switch with the sort of fanfare the community seems to think it deserves. This has nothing to do with the games themselves, nor is it a slight to their completely deserved masterpiece status. It is to say, however, that multiple things can be true at once – the Prime games are amazing experiences, and commercial duds. It raises the question then, what the function of the Trilogy on Switch is, and subsequently why I still believe it is a vital release on the console.

Prime 4 problems

Nintendo is in a unique, high-risk position at the moment with regards to Metroid Prime 4, and the Trilogy is their best chance to weave a safety net. With last year’s astonishing and nearly unprecedented video announcement revealing that Metroid Prime 4 was restarting development, Nintendo found itself with a failing project and a high resource investment. Assuming a rough timeline based around the game’s 2017 announcement, its 2019 development restart, and Retro’s current hiring spree, Metroid Prime 4 spent at least 18 months in some stage of production at an undisclosed studio, before being restarted and locked in some stage of preproduction for almost another 18 months at Retro Studios.

Considering that Retro Studios is still hiring talent to scale up their efforts on Prime 4, the game doesn’t appear to be remotely close to full development, let alone launch. Nintendo has already exhausted almost three years’ worth of resources into a project for a series that historically doesn’t yield results.

This isn’t to imply that Nintendo shouldn’t undertake projects that aren’t guaranteed to pay dividends. If that was the case, the Star Fox fan in me would’ve given up hope years ago. Nintendo should always be commended for their risk-taking and creative vision. Their willingness to tackle projects that are untested, niche or innovative is precisely why I love the company. But it is undeniable that in any commercial artistic endeavor, business sense plays a role. As such, for Nintendo make their investment into Metroid Prime 4 worthwhile, they need to generate excitement, and they need to create way more Metroid Prime fans who will pick up this new game.

The role of the Trilogy

The best way to do that is to put the Metroid Prime Trilogy in front of a new era of fans. However, it needs to be handled in a way that makes sense. The Trilogy is best used as a marketing hook and a trojan horse for the establishment of Metroid Prime 4 hype. Considering this, the most effective route is to touch the games up for the Switch, and price the compilation aggressively. Throw the games into widescreen, give them a new control setup, and call it a day. Put a modest, thirty dollar tag on the package, and release it digitally on Switch as soon as possible. Capitalize on the legacy of Metroid Prime by dropping it in front of an audience that is stuck at home and looking for new games to play. Stealth release the Trilogy, too. There’s no reason not to. Everyone lunges at the opportunity to impulsively buy games that launch immediately. Shadow drops are always one of the most exciting parts of a Nintendo Direct.

This is the necessary trajectory for the Metroid Prime Trilogy. The market has spoken time and time again, saying that Metroid Prime games lack widespread appeal. If Nintendo is going to shift that narrative with Prime 4, they need to treat Metroid Prime Trilogy as what it is, a compilation of old fan-favorites that unfortunately don’t command an extended hype cycle and a special edition release. These games function most effectively as an entry point for new fans, if positioned as a cheap and available introduction to Metroid Prime.

In turn, such a release could get the ball rolling. In conjunction with the rumored 2D Metroid revival, these games could effectively jumpstart the Metroid series. This could position Prime 4 to be a legitimate success, both creatively as it assuredly will be, but financially as well. At that point, the Prime series may be legitimately worthy of the adoration that we as the most serious Nintendo fans show the franchise constantly.

The bigger picture

The conversation surrounding Metroid Prime Trilogy is only the latest example of the hardcore community’s lack of perspective. The National Dex movement was supposed to be the death knell of Pokémon Sword and Shield, but they’re on track to be the second best-selling entries in the franchise. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe was lambasted for being a shoddy port of an underwhelming game, but is now one of the most popular and most profitable Nintendo Switch titles. As a community, we simply must recognize our own scale and the ways that we both represent and don’t represent Nintendo’s target audience.

When you’re insulated within the most dedicated Nintendo circles, it’s difficult to look past our communal fan bias and recognize the realities of scope and importance. We all become entrenched in a myopic view of Nintendo’s franchises and legacy without properly acknowledging that we represent only a fraction of the greater Nintendo ecosystem. And, it is absolutely vital that Nintendo listens to our opinions and attitudes as we’re the backbone of the fanbase. But it is also important for us to pay attention to the larger forces at play, and step outside of our individual proclivities toward to Nintendo’s IP and games. I’d love a Metroid Prime Trilogy HD remake in the Prime 4 engine that comes with a cool Samus statue. However, that’s just not realistic. Only when we recognize our bias and perspective can hold Nintendo to a more reasonable standard, and set our own expectations accordingly.