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metroid prime 4
metroid prime 4

Metroid Prime 4 is in Deep Trouble

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2020 has been the bearer of bad news for many people. From the COVID-19 outbreak to numerous delays, the heralded “greatest year of gaming” is spiraling toward a soured conclusion. The year hasn’t been without its gaming triumphs, but these often get overshadowed by disappointments and looming uncertainty.

Such is the case with Metroid Prime 4, a game that gave off a sign of life, though, probably not the kind for which eager fans were looking.

The Update—sort of

Retro Studios, the team tasked with the Metroid Prime 4 project, broke their silence on Twitter on August 14 after nearly a year of radio silence. Fans excitedly opened up their feeds to be greeted with… well, this.

“We are looking for a Lead Producer to join us on our journey to develop Metroid Prime 4!”

Needless to say, fans were not too happy. Knowing Metroid Prime 4’s history thus far, it was an understandable reaction.

Metroid Prime 4 was in development as early as 2017, when it was unveiled during E3 2017. Of course, unveiled is used loosely in this context. Nothing was shown aside from a fancy logo and that logo has been the only thing representing the game for the last three years.

Further updates were sparse, with only a comment of reassurance by then Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime in 2018 that Metroid Prime was “well into development” and “proceeding well.” However, in the end, these assurances were for naught when Prime 4 announced a project restart in early 2019.

In an update video, Nintendo EPD general manager Shinya Takahashi stated the development of the game was not up to Nintendo’s standards. As a result, it was handed off to Retro Studios, the developer responsible for the Prime Trilogy. Producer Kensuke Tanabe, who produced previous Metroid titles, would continue to stay with the project.

Since then, Retro has been using Twitter and other advertising avenues to recruit and hire “world-class developers” to come aboard the Metroid Prime 4 development train. These positions ranged from art directors and product testers to IT and sound engineers. These job offerings were seen as early as April 26, 2019 and stuck around until late 2019, implying Retro found all the people they were seeking.

With the latest update, the world now knows that was NOT the case.

Producer Woes

Retro Studios claims to be in need of a Lead Producer for Metroid Prime 4.

Producers own the project—or a major part—on which they’re working. The producer bears the responsibility of assembling and managing the team undertaking the game. On top of this, the producer is in charge of outlining, scheduling, and tracking tasks to ensure  the game they are working on is progressing smoothly and heading in the direction the director and team envisions. They are also responsible for public relations, whether it be advertising or apologizing.

It’s easy to get producers mixed up with directors, but directors are more responsible for the creative direction a game takes rather than the project’s logistics. Thank goodness Retro wasn’t looking for directors!

Simply put, the producer oversees the entire project, start to finish, and ensures it delivers.

One may ask why the project needed another producer when Prime 4 already had Producer Tanabe on board. The answer to that could be simple. Producer Tanabe may be a producer for Metroid Prime 4, he was also a producer of numerous games that came out during Metroid Prime 4’s development, such as Luigi’s Mansion 3 and most recently Paper Mario: The Origami King.

These other responsibilities may have made it hard for Tanabe, and the dev team, to oversee the project, thus requiring another producer, a lead producer with more time than Tanabe, to take up the mantle and guide the game and team. If this wasn’t the case, then it means the development team is facing too many hurdles to function effectively, prompting the need for a lead producer to streamline the development process. Another pertinent issue could be the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have added an immense burden to the development team.

The reason is not yet known.

For Metroid Prime 4 to be in need of one after so many years since announcement is worrisome. This implies the game is lacking direction and organization from a development standpoint and suggests Prime 4 will not be seeing the light of day anytime soon—perhaps not even in the original Nintendo Switch’s lifetime.

Still, better late than never. At times like these, the words of Shigeru Miyamoto are an odd comfort:

“A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

Hopefully, the wait will be worth it.

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