Road to NX: An Analysis of Nintendo’s Developers part 2


Welcome back to the Road to NX, an analysis of Nintendo’s developers in order to try and get an understanding or idea of what sort of games they might be making. In part 1 of this article I talked about Nintendo EPD, the internal development studio that Nintendo has in Japan, and for part 2 we are going to be focusing on the external studios that Nintendo own as well as the developers that have made a partnership of exclusivity to the big N. 

In part 1 I had to stress that Nintendo’s teams may not be 100% as i described them because of a reorganization back in September 2015. That issue is not present with these teams however as the reshuffling only affected Nintendo’s main internal teams like EAD and SPD. These teams have not been greatly affected by Nintendo’s reorganization of the company and so I feel like an analysis of how these teams operate and what they might be making is more appropriate and will lead to more accurate results.

I do want to stress the same two points from my last article again here. I don’t work for any of these studios and so my knowledge should not be taken as 100% fact. These are my conclusion based on studying the patterns, interviews and software output of these companies but it may be possible that I overlooked some information or that their internal structure is not as clear-cut as I have been lead to believe. However I think my conclusions are quite solid and will be looking forward to the future when I can see if I was right or wrong. My other point to stress is that in most cases I cannot predict when Nintendo will make a New IP. The decision to make one can come at anytime and without any prior forewarning so I have only included a New IP in my conclusions when I feel like it is 100% certain that this is what they are doing.

So with these points out of the way, let us begin (in alphabetical order) with the companies that Nintendo do own.


1-Up Studios

Series known for
A Kappa’s Trail
Recent Games
-A Kappa Trail (DSi, 2009)
-The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes (3DS, 2015) (co-developed w/Grezzo)
Average Development Cycle
1-Up Studios is a weird company much like SPD 2. While they have made games their release schedule is so spotty that it’s hard to figure out when we might see them release a game. What we do know is that they assist with other studios where needed in order to make a game and so they are probably doing that right now in order to make sure the NX gets all of its planned launch games out.

Intelligent Systems

Series known for
Fire Emblem
-Codename S.T.E.A.M.
-Paper Mario
-Puzzle League
Recent Games
-Paper Mario Color Splash (Wii U, 2016)
-Fire Emblem Fates (3DS, 2015)
Average Development Cycle
-2-3 years for Fire Emblem
-4 years for Paper Mario
-1 year for Pushmo
-2 years for wars
So this one’s a doozy as Intelligent Systems is a massive company. It is possible that they may have no less than 4 teams who all work on different game series simultaneously and unfortunately it seems unlikely that we will see anything major from them for the NX launch. There two biggest studios, the Fire Emblem and Paper Mario division, have just/is about to release a brand new game in both series. There is a Fire Emblem game for mobile phones being developed for autumn this year but we don’t know how involved Intelligent Systems is with that (although it is probably a lot). As for their other two teams one could release something, being their puzzle team who make Pushmo and Puzzle League. It is entirely possible we can see a new game in either of these series or a new puzzle game entirely for the NX launch as an eshop game. The other team is in charge of their Wars and Codename S.T.E.A.M. series of games. It could be possible that we see either of these franchises in late 2017 although I feel like the lack of experience this team has developing for consoles will push the game back to 2018 instead. I also think that it will probably be a sequel to Codename S.T.E.A.M. Although the first game only did poorly, this is still a new IP with a lot of potential and I feel like the team may try once more, on a HD console, to get this right.

Monolith Soft (Kyoto & Tokyo)

Series known for
-Soma Bringer
Recent Games
-Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U, 2015)
-Project X Zone 2 (3DS, 2015) (Published by Bandai Namco)
Average Development Cycle
-4/5-years for Console
-2/3  years for handhelds
Monolith Soft recently released their two main titles last year and so it is unlikely that they will have anything ready for the NX launch. We may have some hints to what their next game is but nothing concrete. Director Tetsuya Takahashi has talked about making another story focused title like the first Xenoblade Chronicles and production on this will have already begun and is a safe bet for the NX in a few years, maybe 2020. Whether it is a new Xenoblade or not we really do not know. As for their handheld division we still don’t know the status of the mysterious 3DS RPG they were hiring for back in 2013. Now it should be of note that the artwork shown is not actually for a game and was just example to potential employees. However we do know they were hiring for a 3DS RPG and it is unlikely to be Project X Zone 2 as the art not only looks nothing like the example but the first Project X Zone was already out. They already had a framework to build a sequel from without the need for specific 3D modelers and concept artists. We have no idea whether this RPG is still in development or not but if it is then it may be Monolith’s next project with a planned 2017 release. If that truly is the case then I believe that it will still be on 3DS rather than NX, as Nintendo has always supported their handhelds for at least a year after the next system is out in Japan (assuming the NX also has handheld capabilities), and that may very well mean that Nintendo of America and Europe may not bother bringing this game over, much like Mother 3 and Rhythm Tengoku for the GBA, both of which came out a year after the Nintendo DS. But hopefully I am wrong.

One thing to note about Monolith is that they have two studios, one in Tokyo and one in Kyoto. The Kyoto studio is the one that makes games while the Tokyo studio co-develops games with Nintendo EPD, such as Happy Home Designer and Splatoon. Last October they recently hired a lot more support staff so perhaps Monolith Tokyo will play a big role in making sure that Nintendo has a stronger first-party output for the Nintendo NX.


Series known for
-Mario Party (from 9 onwards)
-Wii Party
-Amiibo Festival
-F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
Recent Games
-Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival (Wii U, 2015)
-Mario Party 10 (Wii U, 2015)
Average Development Cycle
-1 ½ years
In my honest opinion it seems too soon for this studio to get another game out for the NX launch. With that said, this studio has essentially rehashed the same game 3 times for the Wii U with some slight alteration so, to be completely honest, I could totally see another Mario Party game in 2017. Let’s hope it is better than the last two.

Nintendo Software Technology

Series known for
-Wave Race
-1080 Snowboarding
-Mario Vs. Donkey Kong
Recent Games

-Mini-Mario & Friends: Amiibo Challenge (Wii U/3DS, 2016)

-Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping stars (Wii U/3DS, 2015)

Average Development Cycle
-2 years for big games
-1 year for small games
Recently this team has been getting smaller and smaller. While we don’t know anything concrete, rumours suggest that the president of this company wants to move over to focus on mobile gaming, much to the dismay of the rest of the employees. In recent years they have done nothing but Mario vs. Donkey Kong games with no signs of stopping. They also sometimes are brought in to make minor parts of other games (like Brawl’s Chronicle) but that is only a small part of someone else’s game. They recently just released a new game so I don’t expect any games just yet. Their future is a bit unknown but hopefully someone finds out soon.

Retro Studios

Series known for
-Metroid Prime
-Donkey Kong Country (as of returns)
Mario Kart 7 (co-developed w/ R&D1)
Recent Games
-Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U, 2014)
-Donkey Kong Country Returns (3DS, 2013) (Co-developed with Monster Games)
Average Development Cycle
-3-4 years
Retro Studios is in a weird place as we know very little about what they are doing however there are rumours that have shed some light on their current project. I am inclined to believe these rumours as they match up exactly with how Retro have worked in the past. It seems that Retro Studios is working on a brand new IP for the Nintendo NX that is scheduled with a holiday 2017 release. This will put it right at the end of the launch window for the system.

The rest of these teams are partners to Nintendo. This means that Nintendo does not own these studios however they have stated that for the foreseeable future they will be working exclusively with Nintendo.

Creatures Inc2

Creatures Inc.

Series known for
-Pokemon Ranger
-Detective Pikachu
Recent Games
-Great Detective Pikachu (3DS, 2016)
-PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond (Wii, 2011)
Average Development Cycle
-2 years
Another nice and easy company to figure out. This team is currently making Detective Pikachu which looks to be episodic, going throughout 2016 and probably into 2017 with their current pace (and depending on how many episodes they make).

HAL Laboratories

Series known for
-Super Smash Bros
-Vegas Stakes
-Pokemon Snap
-Pokemon Stadium
-Face Raiders
-Picross 3D
Recent Games
-Kirby Planet Robobot (3DS, 2016)
-BoxBoy 2 (3DS, 2016)
Average Development Cycle
-2 years (Kirby handheld)
-4 years (Kirby Console)
Just like Intelligent Systems, HAL has seen a lot, but not all, of its main teams releasing a game this past year. Japan got a sequel to Picross 3D last year as well as a new BoxBoy in January 2016. We also just got a new 3DS Kirby game with Robobot so it is unlikely that any of their main teams will have a game out and ready for the NX launch. The only team we don’t know about are the home console Kirby team who last released Kirby and the Rainbow Curse for Wii U also last year. They have definitely decided on their next Kirby game but that is also unlikely to make the NX launch. The most likely thing from HAL we will see in 2017 is a BoxBoy 3 and even then it will most likely still be on the Nintendo 3DS if it even exists.

Next Level Games

Series known for
-Metroid Prime: Federation Force
-Luigi’s Mansion (as of Dark moon)
-Mario Strikers
Recent Games
Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS, 2016)
-Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon (3DS, 2013)
Average Development Cycle
-2-3 years
Next Level Games have at least two teams working on games and we know one of these already being Metroid Prime: Federation Force for the Nintendo 3DS. However, we also know thanks to an animator at Next Level Games that they were working on a Wii U title as well. This has definitely been moved over to the NX and is likely well under way. They were making it as early as Q1 2014 so it should be nearing completion. For what this game could be I would love it to be a new Punch-Out!! but in all likelihood it is a new Luigi’s Mansion. This would fit with Nintendo’s recent trend of making a handheld version of a game (3D Land, Mario Tennis Open, Paper Mario: Sticker Star) and then re-purposing the engine for the home console (3D World, Mario Tennis Ultra Smash, Paper Mario: Colour Splash). So a sequel to Dark Moon as an NX launch title is very possible.

This covers it for the remainder of Nintendo’s 1st party teams and partners. None of these teams went through a restructuring so we can look at their teams and figure out what is being made. Now onto the big question, how many games can we expect then from all these teams and when might they appear. Well here are my conclusions (again, these dates are just rough guesses):

  • Metroid Prime Federation Force: August/September 2016: This one already has a release date so I am 100% sure that’s when this game will come out.
  • Fire Emblem Mobile: November 2016: This game has been confirmed for a Fall release and I think November is a good month for it. Animal Crossing can be early Fall while Fire Emblem is late Fall so that they do not compete.
  • BoxBoy 2: 2016: This game randomly launched in Japan last January and so the same thing could happen in the west. We received the first one so I see no reason for us to not get this sequel at some point this year.
  • Picross 3D 2: 2016: Japan got this game last Fall and there was no sign of a western release until earlier this year when Picross 3D 2 seemingly got outed for at least a European release. We will just need to wait and see what happens
  • Great Detective Pikachu: 2016-2017 (episodic): Japan got this game randomly last February and those who played it commented on how it seemed like it was an episodic game. Its very probable that its sequel pieces will also get randomly revealed in japan as well, making them hard to predict. The bigger question is the West, however I would be surprised if we didn’t get this game. I don’t think there is a Pokemon game that we have not gotten unless it is mobile or arcade related (but correct me if I am wrong).
  • Paper Mario Colour Splash: November 2016: With the NX launching in March and the Wii U seeming to not have anymore major software coming in 2016 I believe that Paper Mario has been pushed back to a fall release in order to be Nintendo’s holiday title. I imagine this game launching around the same time as Mario Tennis Ultra Smash did last year.
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3: March 2017: As much as I would love a new Punch-Out game I think all signs point to a new Luigi’s Mansion from Next Level Games. I think  Nintendo are aiming to have a software line-up that is similar to both the GameCube and Wii’s and so I believe Luigi’s Mansion will be used instead of a 3D Mario game to push software. A 3D Mario will absorb sales more than a Luigi game and Nintendo will not want a 3D Mario and a new Zelda competing at launch. However it does need a game exclusive to the NX for launch and Luigi’s Mansion is a lot safer to put out.
  • 3DS Monolith Soft RPG: June 2017: Nintendo, at least in Japan, have always supported their handhelds after launch, even if it is just Pokemon. If Monolith have really been working on this game since 2013, even with a small team, I think it would be unwise to move it to NX at this point. So It will most likely be used as a swansong for the 3DS, coming out in the Summer.
  • New Pushmo: Q2 2017: Pushmo games, much like BoxBoy, have had random releases on both the 3DS and Wii U. It has been a while since the last Pushmo game however and so another one is due and could very well be used as one of the NX’s first eshop games. It could also be a new puzzle IP entirely but I really cannot say.
  • Mario Party 11: September 2017: The Mario Party games are basically treated as light releases that fill in the software gaps, or used to push new amiibo. If Pikmin is planned to be Nintendo’s summer game and Retro’s game is used as their holiday title then this game can act as a nice little gap between the two.
  • New IP for NX by Retro: November 2017: The only thing I really have to go on with this game is the rumours and that it matches up with Retro’s usual development cycle. What this game could be I do not know but if it is a big title that Nintendo has confidence in then I could definitely see it being their holiday 2017 title. Retro have a good track record so it is very possible.
  • Codename STEAM 2: March 2018: If Nintendo want to try Codename STEAM at least one more time then this is a good time for it. A year after the NX launches, Nintendo can treat this game like its next major release between Retro’s game and Mario Kart NX. However, just like with Pushmo, this game could also be a new IP entirely, I really not sure. So for now, I will say it is a Codename STEAM sequel and we will see what happens.

With that we have all of Nintendo’s 1st party companies covered but those are not the only companies that make Nintendo games. Nintendo have a number of 2nd party companies that chose to make IP for Nintendo or are brought on by the big N to make games when needed. Some are more exclusive than others so some prefacing will certainly be needed but look forward to that article later this week.


Twitter icon

Share this!


  1. I believe the only Pokemon game not on mobile or arcades was Pokemon Trading Card Game 2 for the GB, but that hardly matters and is ancient history.

    1. Ah your right! I completely forgot about that (despite using it in my 365daysofNintendo). Nice catch but yeah I think nowadays Pokemon is so big an IP that the system doesn’t really matter, even if its outdated.

Leave a comment below!