I've been a fan of Nintendo, quite literally, as long as I can remember; my earliest memory is when I got my first Game Boy Advance and played Pokemon FireRed Version for the first time. Their ability to consistently make both incredible systems (the Wii U being a notable exception) and incredible games puts other big developers and publishers to shame. When was the last time Activision made a game remotely comparable to Breath of the Wild, or EA made anything in the ballpark of anything Super Mario?
Despite their commitment to making good games, there's always something lurking in the back of my mind these days when discussing Nintendo or being a Nintendo fan. They're still a multi-billion-dollar corporation and at the end of the day their motivation is to make money, even at the expense of the players. It still costs $60 to this day, four years later, to play first-party Switch launch titles. Games have had content locked behind collectable figures, a unique kind of paywall that requires physical proximity to a store that has them available, or the wherewithal to find them online. The Nintendo Switch Online service still sucks and they should feel silly for charging a yearly fee for it.
In true compliment-sandwich fashion, let me talk about how amazing the Splatoon series is (or rather, Splatoon 2 since I never had a Wii U). Splatoon is the first really big attempt by Nintendo to start a truly new IP in…what, ten years? More? And it knocks it out of the park.
For those of you who have paid exactly zero attention to Nintendo over the last six years (in which case…why are you reading this?) Splatoon is a 3rd-person arena shooter series in which you play as a squid kid called an Inkling and are equipped with an impressive array of ink-weaponry to paint the arena the color of your team while covering the ink of the other team. It's incredibly charming, has style and personality to rival Persona, and most of all it's ridiculously fun. Splatoon 2, which released two years after the first game, even got an additional horde mode called Salmon Run and a paid single-player expansion that to this day is one of the best DLCs I've ever played.
Now, when I first watched yesterday's Nintendo Direct (praise be to our goddesses Pyra and Mythra), I was pretty excited by the announcement of Splatoon 3. Splatoon 2's live service got discontinued some time ago (late 2018 I believe?) and the trailer for Splatoon 3 looks like the game is going to dive more into the lore that the Octo Expansion started to explore, which I loved.
But then…the more I thought about it, the more something felt wrong about it.
Splatoon 2, at its heart, was an expanded version of Splatoon 1, a two-years-later sequel on Nintendo's shiny new console so that the millions who didn't buy Wii Us could experience the fun for themselves. Same engine, same assets. While I love Splatoon 2, I can't imagine it was a terribly difficult game to develop when so much of it could be reused from the first game.
Meanwhile Splatoon 3, coming next year, will have been five years since its predecessor came out. And from the trailer, it looks…like an expansion of Splatoon 2. That is to say, still same engine, same assets. As many as five years of development time, and it kinda just looks like more of the same.
Is this really what Splatoon 2's live service was discontinued for? Another $60 purchase to have to start from scratch without five years' worth of progress on the part of the players, that inevitably isn't going to sell as well as Splatoon 2 did? Isn't this the kind of thing we make fun of Activision for doing with Call of Duty? I just can't see a good reason that this will be a new $60 game instead of simply continuing support for Splatoon 2 and releasing the new story content as another $20 expansion.
I could continue to go on about yesterday's Direct, namely about how Nintendo is once again remastering a ten-year-old game for $60 (Skyward Sword HD) and giving Zelda's 35th anniversary about as much attention as it's given the F-Zero series in recent years while DC Super Girl High School Sim #73 got more than two minutes of screen time, but it's really the Splatoon thing that got me thinking. It's really just the latest in a long series of bad practices by Nintendo that make literally no sense when examined through any lens other than "this is a blatant cash grab and I should feel insulted that Nintendo thinks so little of me that I wouldn't notice."
Maybe this turned into a bit of a rant, but I just felt the need to talk about it. I've always loved Nintendo the developer, but God am I really starting to hate Nintendo the publisher.
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