Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: A Hard Time for Samus Returns

Nintendo made some lapsed Metroid fans happy when they announced and showed Metroid: Samus Returns for 3DS at E3 this year, an aptly-named remake of Game Boy title Metroid II: Return of Samus. They made them even happier when they confirmed it would release a mere three months after the announcement in mid-September. Sure, they had some immediate points of contention, like how it was being worked on by a developer who made an incredibly subpar Castlevania game (MercurySteam) and how it was on 3DS despite the recently-launched Nintendo Switch being available, they welcomed the opportunity for Nintendo to show them the franchise wasn’t dead after all.

Nintendo also announced Metroid Prime 4 for Switch, to immediately show how they aren’t using a remake for a console in its twilight years to test whether the brand is still worthwhile. Unfortunately, they provided indications that this new game is early in development, so it will be a while before we even see it.

However, fans have more points of contention with Samus Returns that have recently been more publicized, and they’re all of Nintendo’s doing. They confirmed that bonus features previously included as unlockables in previous games will be exclusive to the usage of Amiibo. These bonuses will include the Fusion outfit from Metroid Fusion, and even a higher difficulty level. This was made even worse by how the special Samus variant and Metroid Amiibo being released alongside the game are already sold out at multiple retailers.

Getting all the Amiibo will require a high cost, especially for those who own an older 3DS and need to buy an NFC reader to use the functionality. A slew of deserved anger was directed at Nintendo as a result, but they don’t tend to address criticism as much as other companies, so it was tough to tell what move they’d make here.

In a surprise, they decided to address some criticism at a preview event when asked by USGamer — and you should heavily emphasize “some.” Here, they clarified that in addition to Fusion Mode, the game will also have a different hard mode that can be unlocked after the game is completed on the standard difficulty level. This will be more difficult than the standard mode, but easier than the Fusion Mode. While it’s nice that those who don’t want to (or can’t, given their price and stock situations) purchase the Amiibo can still replay the game with a new difficulty, they’ll still be missing out on the hardest one.

Nintendo reportedly didn’t defend the other Amiibo-exclusive functionalities, which include the Fusion suit, a bonus piece of concept art, and a music box for listening to the soundtrack. While two of those aren’t a big deal, they could have at least prepared another kind of bonus outfit in the game for those who don’t want to purchase the Amiibo. What’s upsetting here is how Nintendo is price-gouging potential customers who want all the content, and the potential for Nintendo to use it for more games in the future. If it’s successful here, you’ll undoubtedly see it in future games.

It’s possible they didn’t give a thorough damage-controlling explanation to the press because they’re preparing a statement for the entire gaming audience. If that’s the case, they should say something in the next week, to ease this concern within a month before the game releases. That is, unless this is one of those times where they don’t plan to address the situation at all, a phenomenon I referenced above.

It’s a pity this is happening to this particular game, because it looks great otherwise. Press previews went up earlier this week, which included mentions about its superb level design and how enjoyable it is to control. I feel especially bad for MercurySteam, a developer who’s trying to get their name out of the mud after their last two Castlevania games — Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2 — were critically underwhelming. This is shaping up to be the best game they’ve made thus far, and it will be the first 2D Metroid since 2004, but it could get screwed sales-wise thanks to Nintendo’s overzealousness.

There’s still a question of whether the audience that plans on boycotting the game because of the Amiibo functions is a big audience, and we may never find out unless sales numbers leak. Fortunately, the future of Metroid isn’t hinging on this game’s success, but it would still be good for everyone involved if it sold well. However, if it fails, the story should be that Nintendo was at fault, because it shouldn’t be blamed on those who don’t want to support and perpetuate unethical business practices.

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