Road to the NX: An Analysis of Nintendo’s Developers part 3

Nintendo developers Part 3

Welcome to the final part of our analysis of Nintendo developers. We’ve covered all of Nintendo’s 1st party studios, both internal and external, as well as Nintendo’s close partners who chose to work exclusively with Nintendo. In this article the focus is now on the rest of the studios that often work closely with Nintendo. The ‘2nd party’ developers like Game Freak and AlphaDream are not owned by Nintendo and can make games for other publishers, but for various reasons they often stick close to them. I will also briefly mention the more distant “2nd party” developers and 3rd party publishers that might be working with Nintendo, but I won’t go into as much detail with them.

Before you read any further I need to clarify that the term ‘2nd Party’ technically does not exist. What I am using this term for is a shorthand to refer to the various 3rd party studios that are not major publishers and developers themselves but have plenty of experience developing games for Nintendo.

So without wasting any time let’s follow these studios in alphabetical order starting with a one-note company.

AlphaDream

AlphaDream

Series known for

Mario & Luigi
-Tomato Adventure

Recent Games

-Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (3DS, 2015)
-Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS, 2013)

Average Development Cycle

-2-3 years

Late last year we saw the release of a new Mario & Luigi title in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. Thanks to this the team will have likely just started work on their next title, probably another Mario & Luigi game for the 3DS or maybe the NX if it has a handheld component. However it won’t be out for the launch window.

Arika

Arika

Series known for

Dr. Mario (since Online Rx)
-Endless Ocean
-3D classics
-AR Games (co-developed)

Recent Games

-Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure (3DS, 2015)
-Dr. Luigi (Wii U, 2013)

Average Development Cycle

-2 years
In recent years Arika have been working close to Nintendo in order to make Dr. Mario games. They were working on ports for the 3DS from 3rd Party companies and we could see them doing the same with the NX but I think an NX version of Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure is more likely. If any studio is going to make a sequel to Nintendo Puzzle Collection however it would be Arika.

Arzest

Arzest

Series known for

-Yoshi’s Island
-Mario & Sonic Rio 3DS (co-developed)
FlingSmash

Recent Games

-Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (3DS, 2016)
-Boost Beast (iOS, 2015)
Average Development Cycle

-2 years for console
-1 year for mobile
At the moment Arzest has been co-developing Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympics for the Nintendo 3DS which is scheduled to come out in June. While this probably is not their only focus, there are rumours that Mistwalker is bringing Terra Battle, a mobile game that Arzest lent some help to with the art design, to consoles. Sakaguchi stated it would not be a straight port, so Arzest may have been brought in to design some new assets for the game.

Camelot

Camelot Software Planning

Series known for

Mario Tennis
-Mario Golf
-Golden Sun

Recent Games

-Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (Wii U, 2015)
-Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS, 2014)

Average Development Cycle

-2 years

So here is a major one. Camelot recently got back into making Mario Sports games after being on hiatus across the Wii-era of games; however they have expressed interest in making a Golden Sun 4. So the question is, which one will they do. Now, if I had to be a realist here, I would say that they are probably just working on an NX version (or maybe even Wii U version as one final game for that system) of Mario Golf: World Tour, just like they did for Mario Tennis Open and Ultra Smash. Basically reusing the same engine but in HD. If they do do this, I hope it is for the NX and they get more time so it does not end up as bare-bones as Ultra Smash was. However, it should be noted that when Dark Dawn came out there was a lot of RPGs already on the DS and that damaged the games sales whereas the first Golden Sun was a success because it was a launch title and did not have to compete with other games of its genre. Camelot are aware of this and this means that if they were to make a new Golden Sun game, then they would aim for it to be a launch title once more. Unfortunately, most of the team who worked on the original games no longer work at Camelot and the Takahashi brothers have claimed that their current team is not really ready for a new Golden Sun game. So it will most likely be Mario Golf again.

Curve Studios

Curve Studios

Series known for

-Fluidity
-Stealth Inc.

Recent Games

-Four Sided Fantasy (various, 2016)
-Stealth Inc. 2: a game of clones (Wii U, 2014)
-Fluidity: Spin Cycle (3DS, 2012)

Average Development Cycle

-2 years
Curve Studios is so random that it is completely impossible to tell whether they are making a Nintendo game or not. While I am sure they will eventually release a game on the NX, I very much doubt they have an NX development kit as they are a small indie company. In recent years, the studio has helped a number of indie developers port their games from PC to all consoles, Wii U and 3DS included, so they may continue with that line of work. However they are due an original game, probably a third game in the Stealth Inc series.

DeNA

DeNA

Series known for

-Miitomo
-Final Fantasy Record Keeper

Recent Games

-Miitomo (Mobile, 2016)
-Legend Borne (Mobile, 2015)

Average Development Cycle

-n/a

While DeNA is not making any of Nintendo’s mobile games on their own, they are assisting with the architecture and are in control of Nintendo’s online servers moving forward, with stuff like My Nintendo. They are confirmed to be working on the Animal Crossing mobile and Fire Emblem mobile game I mentioned in the previous parts, as well as 2 more unannounced mobile games for Nintendo.

Game Freak

Game Freak

Series known for

-Pokemon
-Drill Dozer
-Harmo Knight
-Yoshi (Puzzle)

Recent Games

-Pokemon Sun & Moon (3DS, 2016)
-Tempo the Badass elephant (Xbox One/Ps4/PC, 2015)

Average Development Cycle

-1 year for Pokemon (with an occasional year break).

I am starting with an easy one here and that is because everyone knows what this studio is making and that is Pokemon Sun & Moon for Nintendo 3DS. I imagine all their focus is going to be on this title so I wouldn’t expect another game before it. As for other potential games, there was a three year gap between HarmoKnight and Tempo, which leads me to believe that we won’t see another small project just yet. Instead, if we are to follow typical Pokemon release schedules, we will probably get a Sun & Moon 2 or a Pokemon Eclipse in November 2017. Game Freak has always released a Pokemon game on the tail end of a system’s life cycle so I would not be surprised to see it again.

Genius Sonority

Genius Sonority

Series known for

-Pokemon Colosseum
-Pokemon Trozei

Recent Games

-Pokemon Shuffle (3DS/Mobile, 2015)
-The Denpa men RPG Free (3DS, 2014)

Average Development Cycle

-1-2 years depending on the scope of the game

As it is Pokemon’s 20th anniversary, it is possible we could see a new Pokemon game from them, like a retail version of Pokemon Shuffle, following the path of Rumble World. However I have my doubts. They currently have their own series with the Denpa Men and I think it is more likely that we will see a new one of those instead but you never know.

Good-Feel

Good-Feel

Series known for

-Wario Land Shake It
-Kirby’S Epic Yarn
-Yoshi’s Woolly World
-Looksley
-Streetpass (Squad & Zombies)

Recent Games

Yoshi’s Woolly World (Wii U, 2015)
-Streetpass Zombies (3DS, 2015)

Average Development Cycle

-2 ½ years

I have no doubt that Good-Feel is working on a new 2D platformer for the NX probably based on another IP like Donkey Kong, assuming Retro is not working on the series anymore, or an entirely new IP. However, as Yoshi’s Woolly World only came out last year and they are moving into a new console generation, I would not expect this game until Summer or Fall of 2018.

Grezzo

Grezzo

Series known for

Zelda (remakes)
-Line Attack Heroes
Streetpass Garden

Recent Games

-The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes (3DS, 2015)
-The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (3DS, 2015) (co-developed w/ Tokyo SD1)

Average Development Cycle

-n/a

Grezzo has been brought in by Nintendo as an assistant Zelda creator, possibly even replacing Capcom for that extra Zelda handheld developer. They got to shine withTriforce Heroes last year and before that they assisted with all the Zelda remakes apart from Twilight Princess HD. So, it is, in my opinion, that they have been brought in to help with the NX port of Zelda Wii U. That way the main team doesn’t need to worry about making two versions of the game as Grezzo can handle all of the porting process while EPD deals with actually making the game.

Grounding Inc

Grounding Inc.

Series known for

Sakura Samurai
-PictureBook Games

Recent Games

-Gotouchi Tetsudou: Gotouchi Kyara to Nihon Zenkoku no Tabi (Wii U/3DS, 2014)
-Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword (3DS, 2011)

Average Development Cycle

-2-3 years

Grounding Inc. are due a new game but whether it is a Nintendo published one is unknown. The last Nintendo game they released was Sakura Samurai: art of the Sword for Nintendo 3DS in 2011 however that is not their latest game. Their latest game is a Bandai Namco published title that only released in Japan called Gotouchi Tetsudou: Gotouchi Kyara to Nihon Zenkoku no Tabi. The game was a cross-platform release for both Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. So the question becomes whether or not they have an NX development kit although I do not think they do. I think we will see another 3DS title from Grounding next year. Whether it comes outside of Japan will depend on if Nintendo are the publishers or if it is someone else.

Jupiter

Jupiter Corporation

Series known for

-Picross
-Pokemon Pinball
-Game Boy Camera
-Pokemon Mini

Recent Games

-My Nintendo Picross The Legend of Zelda TP HD (3DS, 2016)
-Pokemon Picross (3DS, 2015)

Average Development Cycle

-n/a

Jupiter Corporation sometimes gets hired by Nintendo to make Picross games based on their notable IP, like Zelda and Pokemon. Depending on the success of My Nintendo Picross, we could end up seeing more Picross games as My Nintendo rewards for Nintendo 3DS and eventually the Nintendo NX. However, Jupiter also makes their own self-published Picross games on the Nintendo 3DS under the Picross e line of games so I expect them to continue that into the near future.

Monster Games

Monster Games

Series known for

-Excite (since Truck)
-Pilotwing Resort
-Ports

Recent Games

-Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (N3DS, 2015)
-Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze (Wii U, 2014) (Co-developed w/ Retro)

Average Development Cycle

-2 years

In recent years Monster Games has done nothing but handheld ports of home console games like Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. This along with Iwata’s suggestion that they were looking to make more ports to the handheld implied to me that Nintendo was considering porting Tropical Freeze over to the New 3DS, and now possibly the NX, instead. This could still be happening though I do have to acknowledge the leak on LinkedIn from a Monster Games employee that seems to hint at them making an original racing title. A lot of people are hoping it will be a new Diddy Kong Racing game which could happen; however I feel like it is more likely to be a new racing game in the Excite series as Excite Truck did noticeably well as a launch title. So, is it a port or is it a new racing game? With Nintendo having a huge focus on wanting a stronger software line-up for the NX launch and my theory that we won’t see Mario Kart NX until 2018, I think that a new Excite racing game in the style of Excite Truck is being made as a launch title for the NX.

Niantic

Niantic

Series known for

-Pokemon GO
-Ingress

Recent Games

-Pokemon GO (Mobile, 2016)

Average Development Cycle

-n/a

Another easy company to figure out, Niantic is currently hard at work on the mobile Pokemon game, Pokemon GO. The title is slated for this year, probably launching in the months leading up to Sun & Moon

Skip

Skip. Ltd

Series known for

-Chibi-Robo
-ArtStyles
-GiFTPiA
-Captain Rainbow

Recent Games

-Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash (3DS, 2015)
-Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder (3DS, 2013)

Average Development Cycle

-n/a

Although Chibi-Robo is their big mascot at this point, I think that sales of Zip Lash do not justify a sequel just yet so don’t expect a big NX Chibi-Robo game, even if Tanabe expressed interest in a Wii U game. The problem with Skip is that they are currently rather small and made up of mostly people who worked on the ArtStyle games. They have trouble releasing a full retail game hence why Vanpool had to co-create Zip-Lash with them. So, it is my belief that in order to generate some more money the team is going to revisit the ArtStyles games and release them on the 3DS next year in Japan. Whether they release them as eShop downloads or an ArtStyles collection game for retail, I cannot say, although I find it unlikely that Nintendo of America and Europe would find it worth their while to localize the games, unless they require very little effort.

Syn Sophia

Syn Sophia

Series known for

-Style Savvy

Recent Games

-New Style Boutique 2 – Fashion Forward (3DS, 2015)
-PriPara (Arcade, 2014)

Average Development Cycle

-2 years for Style Savvy

With a new Style Savvy game launching just last year, I do not believe that we will see another one for the NX launch. Syn Sophia likely does not have an NX development kit, so it may focus on making games for arcade or mobile for now and wait and see what the NX is before deciding whether to continue on the next system.

Vanpool

Vanpool

Series known for

-Dillon
-Tingle
-Co-developed Sticker Star and Zip-Lash

Recent Games

-Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash (3DS, 2015) (co-developed w/ Skip)
-Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger (3DS, 2013)

Average Development Cycle

-2 years

As Vanpool recently finished work on Chibi-Robo Zip Lash I doubt they are working on anything that will make it out for the NX launch. Kensuke Tanabe has stated that he likes to rely on them when he needs to get a game out and so they may be helping with Federation Force but we won’t know that until the game is released. I do believe Vanpool is one of the studios that is close enough to Nintendo that they may have access to some NX development kits so it becomes a question of whether they want to make a full retail game or stick to the eShop. If they choose the eShop route, then we could see a new Dillon game for NX as early as holiday 2017 but as this is the company’s first attempt at making a game in HD, we probably won’t see it until 2018.

Vitei

Vitei

Series known for

Theta
-Rock N’ Roll Climber
-Steel Diver (co-developed w/ R&D5)

Recent Games

-Steel Diver: Sub Wars (3DS, 2014) (co-developed)
-Steel Diver (co-developed)

Average Development Cycle

-n/a

In recent years Vitei has just co-developed games for Nintendo. Whenever Vitei makes a unique game, it often takes advantage of some special gimmick that the console has so if the NX has a gimmick, then maybe they could make something on it. However, to be entirely honest, Vitei is such a small company that I doubt they even have an NX dev kit. The last time they worked with Nintendo was 2 years ago so it may also be possible that they are busy working with other companies instead right now.

Unlike the other articles where I now give a tl;dr version of what games I expect and when I expect them, I am first going to quickly cover the other studios that might be working with Nintendo in the future and then end off with a big timeline image that covers all three articles, predicting the Nintendo games we may very well see from now until mid-2018.

Other 2ndparty

Beginning with the developers who don’t always work as close to Nintendo, we have a classic company like Tose who has worked with tons of publishers. Tose is the creator of the Starfy series but also made the Game & Watch Gallery games and Super Princess Peach. They may assist with creating some games in the background if Nintendo is hitting a deadline but in terms of making their own game, Starfy is the only one they actually co-own, but I see no evidence of a new one coming anytime soon.

Q-games developed the latest X game known as X-Scape but they also co-developed the handheld Star Fox games. If Nintendo wants to make another Star Fox handheld, then maybe Q-games will be called in. However they are meant to be working on a PS4 title called The Tomorrow Children for Sony so I would not expect anything from them for Nintendo anytime soon.

During the era of the Wii, both Ganbarion and Mistwalker worked with Nintendo to publish some original first party titles with the former producing Pandora’s Tower and the latter creating The Last Story and ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat. Ganbarion’s usual resume consists of anime-related games, most notably One Piece, and they are currently working on Dragon Ball Fusions. While Ganbarion is big enough to have multiple teams, I don’t see any evidence of them working with Nintendo currently. However, just like with Tose, they could be brought in to co-develop some games as they helped Nintendo with Wii Fit U. Mistwalker is a lot easier to figure out and it does not look like they are working with Nintendo on any existing IP, although it is likely that their games will come to Nintendo systems. A console port of Terra Battle may be in the works, as they revealed concept art for a new RPG they are making. But it is not expected to launch until 2018 and recently they announced a partnership with Silicon Studio to create a new game for an unspecified platform.

Platinum Games has worked very closely with Nintendo these past few years, producing games like Bayonetta 2, Wonderful 101 and more recently working with Nintendo to make Star Fox Zero. Currently the company is putting all its focus on Scalebound for the Xbox One, so making a game for the NX launch seems unlikely. However, the relationship has been made and I could definitely see Platinum working with Nintendo in the future on some first-party software

The final developer is one that has recent experience with Nintendo and that is Tantalus who ported Twilight Princess HD to the Wii U. Nintendo praised Tantalus’s work on earlier Wii U ports for other companies and if Nintendo is looking to expand their NX library with quick and easy ports, then Tantalus may very well be the developer chosen. Games like a Super Mario Galaxy HD Collection or Skyward Sword HD could very well come from Tantalus and I honestly expect some, maybe not in 2017 but definitely in 2018.

3rd party

Next I will give a quick shout-out to the 3rd party publishers who have been working with Nintendo in recent years. Bandai Namco seems to have a very good relationship with Nintendo right now, having developed the latest game in the Super Smash Bros series and rumours claim that they have plenty of NX games for launch. One of these is a port of Super Smash Bros for Wii U which is currently aimed for the launch window.

Tecmo Koei is another developer that has worked closely with Nintendo over the years, being the developers behind Metroid: Other M and more recently the Hyrule Warriors series. Hyrule Warriors was one of Tecmo’s bestselling Warriors games ever in the west and was on a platform with a low install base. The company has also expressed interesting in making Warriors games based on other Nintendo IPs so I would not be surprised if 2018 saw the release of a new Nintendo Warriors game, Zelda or otherwise.

The next studio is Square-Enix who seem to have a good relationship with Nintendo thanks to the Nintendo 3DS market which has been very successful for the company with games like Bravely Default, Final Fantasy Explorers and the new Dragon Quest remakes. The company has already expressed interest in the Nintendo NX with Dragon Quest 10 & 11, due to launch next year, and there have been various rumours claiming that Final Fantasy XV will be an NX launch game as well. In terms of working directly with Nintendo, there has not been anything concrete yet but “insiders” have heard mumblings of a Hyrule Fantasy, what basically sounds like a Zelda RPG, in the works. However whether this got past the initial concept phase into something feasible, we just don’t know.

The last three major companies I wanted to bring up are Sega, Capcom and Konami. For Sega, they have worked with Nintendo on the Mario & Sonic series and Atlus, which they own, is about to release #FE. I imagine the will continue on for more games, but not the latter due to its sales so far. For Capcom they have had some collaborations in the past with Zelda and Monster Hunter but the only new game rumours between them and Nintendo is that Yoshio Ono wants to make a Nintendo vs. Capcom game, although he has said this before in the past. Finally Konami has licensed off their Momotaro to Nintendo already, which implies that Nintendo is looking to make a new game in this series. Whether it is on the NX or 3DS and whether it even comes to the west is a complete mystery, however.

So, before I get to the grand timeline here are the games we might expect from all the companies I listed and why I think this:

  • Pokemon GO: (September 2016): It is of my belief that Nintendo will aim to get this game out before Sun & Moon.
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon: (November 2016): Pokemon Sun & Moon already has a November release date so this is confirmed.
  • Excite NX: (March 2017): If Mario Kart NX is a 2018 game then I see this taking the place of it as a Nintendo racing game for the NX launch.
  • Dr. Mario NX: (March 2017): The Dr. Mario games do not seem difficult to make as they have been essentially expansions of each other since Dr. Mario Online Rx. If Nintendo wants to expand their eShop roster, then this seems like an easy pick.
  • Grounding Inc. game for 3DS: (2017): it will most likely be a new IP so the real question is whether it gets published by Nintendo or not as that will decide if it leaves Japan.
  • ArtSyles rerelease: (2017) Skip is in a weird position but I do feel like this is the most logical next step for them. The ArtStyle games were ported from GBA to DSi to Wii and so to now bring this to the 3DS keeps this game series alive and would also work as an easy creation from Skip that may earn back some money, especially if they sell them as a retail collection.
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon 2: (November 2017): Game Freak usually releases a Pokemon game every year with the occasional break. We just had a break between ORAS and S&M so I doubt we will have another one after this but I don’t think it will be a Sinnoh remake just yet.
  • Dillon NX: (Q1/2 2018): To be honest, they could also do a completely new IP rather than Dillon but as that is not possible for me to tell, I am just going to say that a new HD, Dillon game is the most likely here.
  • Good-Feel platformer: (Q3 2018): This game could also be a new IP or just another platformer based on a Nintendo IP, but given Good-Feel’s usual development time, this is a likely place for a release.

And that covers it for all the games that I believe these companies are either working on right now or will be in the near-future. Nintendo is aiming for a strong first party software output for the NX’s first year though I am sure they will not front-load all of their games in the first year as they would be stuck with a drought, which is why some major games may end up not seeing release until 2018. But, if my analysis of these developers turns out to be correct, then Nintendo certainly looks to have a much better NX line-up for its first 2 years than they had for the Wii U. If 3rd parties also decide to support the NX like we all hope, then it really will be a console worth getting; one that will make all of Nintendo’s fans happy while attracting new fans in the process.

Let me know what you think of my analysis below in the comments. Do you think I have done a reasonable analysis or does this sound too much like a pipe-dream? I am interested to hear from all of you. Before I go, I want to make two extra points. The first is that I will include a timeline in the spoiler tags below, a basic summary of all 3 articles with the games I think will be released and when they will come out. Just remember that these are my conclusions from my analysis but that does not mean they will turn out to be 100% true. This also doesn’t mean these are the only games Nintendo will be coming out with. Who knows what their restructuring will entail, or what secret deals with other studios they have made. So I hope that helps for reference. Secondly I want to give a shout-out to fellow Source Gaming contributor SmashChu who helped me with some of this research for these articles and provided information from Nintendo’s briefings about their relationships with other companies amongst other things.

The Ultimate Release Timeline

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NantenJex

Video Content Lead at Source Gaming
If video game historian was a career that would be my goal in life. I have spent a lot of my life studying various histories and so I am super familiar with sourcing, which is pretty essential for this site and just a good thing to do in general so you do not spread lies. I have a huge fascination with the old days and ips with Nintendo. There is so much potential for old franchises like Balloon Fight, Marvelous, Nazo no Murusame Jo and more to come back in the modern age. At least Smash celebrates those games! My focus for source gaming are the Dream articles and working on Project Omega. I hope you enjoy reading my work.
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8 comments

  1. I really hope Camelot is developing another Golden Sun rather than a Mario spinoff. Seriously the third ended on a massive cliffhanger and Isaac was pretty popular on the ballot

    1. I hope so as well but it is going to be both when Camelot feel they are ready and when they feel it will be most successful.

  2. “They have expressed interest in making a Golden Sun 4”

    You have no idea how much just hearing that makes me elated, even if the chances are still slim.

  3. A couple mistakes I see on this. First, Arika didn’t make Miracle Cure. It seems to be actually developed internally at Nintendo (Arika’s website does not have the title and I think I recall that one of the big guys at Arika denied developing it at its announcement).
    Then there is Curve Studios as Curve merged with Kuju Entertainment a while back. They’ve likely shifted more resources into publishing games with the merge. However Kuju does have a notable relationship with Nintendo, most notably via Headstrong Games, who make the Art Academy games. It’s worth noting you missed these guys though they aren’t too important in the grand scheme of things.
    Spike Chunsoft is a notable developer you missed. On top of publishing some key titles for Japan from the West, they’ve also developed the Mystery Dungeon series and put the main work for Fossil Fighters Frontier. They’ve also supplied manpower for Mario & Sonic at Rio though that may not qualify for this.
    Arzest (made of former Artoon and AQ interactive employees) is probably important to mention too as despite their game quality, Yoshi’s New Island did sell a decent bit and they did help Mario & Sonic at Rio.
    Prope is probably a consideration too though they are kind of small. They’ve developed Monster Manor and Ultimate Angler for Nintendo and also made the Wii version of Rodea the Sky Soldier and Fishing Resort.
    Monster Games is probably out of the picture for now since they are making that NASCAR game though you made this article before that news came out

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