Warning: Some parts of this article are based on pure opinion/ speculation. Please do not confuse the factual information we’ve presented in this article, and our opinions.
Why is this article split up?
The article was split up because it got too long. It’s nine pages long (without pictures)…which is too way long for the average amount of time spent on this site. In order to make the article more accessible, we decided to release it in two parts. I’ve added a table of contents which previews the points that will be addressed in this part, and the next one. Patrons can read the full article, right now.
Table of Contents:
Sales and Attach Rates
Smash Without Sakurai
Leveraging the Nintendo IP
Dr. Serkan Toto’s Rumor
Immediately following the announcement that Corrin and Bayonetta would be the final DLC for Smash for Wii U/ 3DS, fans began to ask, “what’s next?”. All eyes are pointed towards Nintendo’s upcoming ‘third-pillar’ console, codenamed “NX”. Today, we would like to briefly discuss the points for and against a possible Smash for NX. As with Spazzy’s other Case for articles, this will attempt to take the good and the bad and present a fair argument. Let us know in the comments if you think we missed a point. Special thanks to Soma as he contributed a great deal to this article and made me reconsider several points.
Sales and Attach Rates:
Smash is one of Nintendo’s flagship IPs. The game sells very well, and generates a lot of buzz during it’s development and release. In addition, the DLC for Smash for Wii U and 3DS are some of the best selling pieces of downloadable content for Nintendo, taking up multiple spots in their top ten. Smash is too profitable to disappear off the face of the earth. There will be a sequel at some point — it’s just a matter of when. Reggie also confirmed this when he stated that Smash is a once in a console’s lifespan type of game (like Mario Kart). I’ve included the sales and attach rate of each game to contextualize how each game sold relative to each other. Needless to say, every entry in the series has sold well.
|Game:||Smash 64||Melee:||Brawl:||3DS:||Wii U:||3DS + Wii U|
|Sold:||5 million*||7.09 million||12.93 million||7.92 million||4.61 million||11.40 million|
Smash has never been defined as an annual release, and it’s actually rare for a sequel to come out very quickly. Development for games, in general, take a considerable amount of time and effort. Development time is the time between the first presentation of the project plan and the earliest release date of the game. Wait is the amount of time it took between the last game’s release date and the creation of the next project plan. I used the dates from the Timeline of Masahiro Sakurai’s Life to compile this chart.
|Game:||Smash 64***||Melee||Brawl||Smash for Wii U/3DS|
|Development:||~13 months*||13 months**||~3 years||3+ years****|
|Wait:||—||5 months***||3 years 8 months||2 years 6 months|
|Release Date||JP: 1/21/1999
*Source: “…we had roughly one year and one month for development…”
**Source: “I worked on that game for 13 months straight, after all…”
***The international versions of Smash 64 were worked on and released during this timeframe. Therefore it’s unclear exactly how much time passed between the end of Smash 64’s development and Melee. However, five months or less seems like it’s a safe bet.
****The exact time frame is unknown, but my current guess is 3 years, 10 months. This amount of time is using April 2012 (when a project proposal was shown to Nintendo) as the start date, and February 2016 as the end.
Smash 64 was released near the middle of the Nintendo 64’s life cycle, and Melee was released early in the Gamecube’s life cycle, within a half year of its release. The gap between these two releases is the shortest of the series, spanning 2 years and 10 months. The gap between Melee and Brawl was 6 years and 2 months, and the gap between Brawl and Smash for 3DS was 6 years and 6 months. Looking at the Wait times, we can see that the turnover between Smash 64 and Melee was extraordinarily quick, and isn’t something that will likely be repeated for a full-fledged AAA-scale game in this day and age.
Specifically, Sakurai also said that for Smash 64 what was released was only “60% of the way there to the complete version of Smash I have in my head,” and clearly had a lot of things he wanted to fix, which probably led to the quick turnaround and development of its sequel.
We can also assume that for “Smash 5,” the development time will almost surely exceed 13 months, looking at the general trend of non-annualized AAA development in recent years as well as the relevant development times of Brawl and Smash for 3DS and Wii U. It is worth noting that Smash 64 and Smash for 3DS and Wii U will have ended up finishing development in roughly the same time in their respective console’s life cycle (that is to say, fairly late, past the midway point).
Therefore, it’s fair to assume that we have anywhere from four to five years until the next full-fledged Smash game is released, barring a very fast development cycle. The gap between Brawl and Smash 4 is a bit longer than four to five years, but the Wii U will probably end up having a slightly shorter console lifecycle than the Wii, which explains the slightly longer gap between Brawl and Smash 4.
In my opinion, the NX console will most likely be unveiled during E3 2016, and released the next season. Nintendo has probably been working on NX games for awhile now (As some of their major teams have unannounced projects). Having enough time to create this games has been a major concern for Nintendo.
“The Wii U’s lackluster launch sales can be blamed on one simple problem: it didn’t have the games to support it, said Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime”. – Source
Kimishima has also stated the NX will not be rushed out. Despite this, a holiday release does seem plausible and this is because of the release of dev kits.
For the PS4, certain devs supposedly got kits in early 2012, I’m assuming these are the devs that are in Sony’s inner circle. That would give us around 20 months, I would say, from the first dev kit until release. But according to IGN, the second iteration, which was more something that actually resembled a dev kit and not just a modified graphics card, was given out in November 2012, so from a full-fledged dev kit to release was around 12 months. The PS4 was released in late November 2013.
For for the Xbox One, a dev kit was illegally sold on August 2012, and the console was released on November 2013, so that’s a 15 month timetable. Of course, Durango discussions were happening in early 2012 and as said above, Orbis “dev kits” were handed out by March 2012.
Now, for the NX, all we know is that some type of dev kit was given out in October 2015. If these are more the full-fledged type dev kits, then using the PS4 timeline that would give us about 12 months, or enough time to hit holiday 2016. If it’s more of what the first Orbis dev kit was, that would put it at 20 months or so. Of course, a lot of this is conjecture based on very vague details.
If we’re looking at first public mentions, then the PS4 was officially announced on February 20th, 2013, and came out 10 months later, the Xbox One was officially announced on May 21, 2013, and came out 6 months later, although a ton of Xbox One details had already been accurately leaked at that time. Nintendo tends to confirm news a bit earlier– the successor to the Wii was announced March 2011, officially unveiled as the Wii U during E3 2011, announced a release date on January 26, 2012, and released on November 18, 2012, a 20 month gap between announcement and release.
The NX was revealed March 2015. The Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, Wii, PS3, Wii U, PS4, and Xbox One have all been released in the November-January time frame excluding certain rare cases (Australia and such), so a holiday release seems likely. If there isn’t a holiday 2016 release, then a holiday 2017 release would put them at 32 months since they first mentioned the NX…which to us personally seems way too long and unlikely.
There is also the possibility of one version of the NX with the supplemental computing device (SCD) being released. For a full breakdown of that the SCD is, I’d suggest listening to this podcast. Essentially, the SCD could enhance the experience of both handheld and consoles by unifying the systems in a new unique way. Whether or not this will be the goal of the NX is unclear as Nintendo hasn’t announced anything officially. Iwata did state:
“Since we are always thinking about how to create a new platform that will be accepted by as many people around the world as possible, we would like to offer to them ‘a dedicated video game platform with a brand new concept’ by taking into consideration various factors, including the playing environments that differ by country,…This is all that I can confirm today.”
He did outright confirm in another interview that, ““In contrast, the number of form factors might increase” when discussing the NX. Recently, Kimishima has confirmed that NX is on track and that Nintendo will release an update about the platform sometime this year.
If the NX is released in 2017, then it’s likely we will see a Smash for NX in the middle of the console’s life. I honestly think Smash for 3DS/Wii U came out too late in the Wii U’s lifecycle for a brand new sequel to meet the NX launch window. Smash for NX will probably happen at some point. However, there is one more thing we need to discuss. The elephant in the room– a post-Iwata Smash.
Satoru Iwata was not only instrumental to the success of Smash Bros., but to its creation as well. The original prototype was programmed by Iwata. In Melee, he saved it from multiple bugs, and helped the game launch on time. In Brawl, he brought Sakurai back to lead the series once again. For Smash for Wii U, he once again oversaw the game as a producer. Sakurai was very close to Iwata, who served not only as a mentor to him, but also as a friend. Sakurai took the news very hard, and dedicated multiple columns to Iwata. After Iwata’s passing, Sakurai posted the following statements on Twitter:
“The president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata has passed away. He was my former employer, but even when my situation and location changed, he was always the most understanding [of me and my work]. A hard worker and a virtuous man, he always supplied me with quick, fair guidance. I believe that he was the greatest leader I could have imagined. May you rest in peace.” -Source
“Even though it’s an abnormal day, and I’m an in abnormal state of mind, I went to work as normal and am continuing development as normal. This would be what Mr. Iwata would have wanted, after all. I will do what I must.”-Source
One of the biggest questions that remains is, will Sakurai have the same freedom that he had under Iwata’s leadership if he comes back for the next Smash? It is an interesting question, and one that we cannot know the answer to, as we don’t work at Nintendo or Sora Ltd.
There is a strong draw that would pull Sakurai back to Smash, even without Iwata, primarily his desire to and enjoyment of working with various content creators. Additionally, he is unsure if the “the staff could do it by themselves,” and has strongly advocated that the ideas of the director are very important when making a game. From this statement, I think Sakurai has a hard time imagining a Smash game without his personal involvement. But let’s entertain the thought…tomorrow!