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Why Isn’t Nintendo Revealing Its Partner Devs Before Launch?

Image: Nintendo Life

Welcome to the Wild West of the modern gaming landscape.

Game sales are soaring. Film and TV adaptations are crawling out of the wilderness quicker than they can be counted. All eyes are on the saloon doors of a bar named ‘Nintendo’ as the smell of something tasty wafts from the kitchen and out into the nostrils of hungry customers after some fresh grub.

And yet, there’s tension in the air. This is a town built on the work of game developers and that’s one tough gig. The hours are long, the stability is lacking, and even after pulling in a prize bounty, there’s no guaranteed ride off into the sunset as the big-wig sheriffs making cuts by the bucketload all while keeping their pockets lined with the rewards.

Those who step into Bar Nintendo might notice a range of sweet-sounding dishes on the menu — Princess Peach: Showtime!, Another Code: Recollection, and a vintage cut of Super Mario RPG, all ‘locally sourced’ according to the labels. There’s no sign of which band of famed developers rounded up each project, nor any indication that they have, in fact, come from outside the saloon doors themselves. In Bar Nintendo, everything belongs to the house.

Princess Peach: Showtime!
Ah yes, the Wild West — Image: Nintendo

What we have here is a very literal case of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: regardless of the game’s quality (good or bad), the treatment of those behind it feels ugly. But look at us, we’ve ridden so far into this Western analogy that we’ve begun to talk in a funny voice and walk as if we’re experiencing painful thigh chafing. Let’s rein it in and get right into the action.

It seems that Nintendo has a strange aversion lately to crediting third-party developers on games it is publishing before they are released. Many of the big titles come (primarily) from inside the Big N itself, of course, but for every Tears of the Kingdom, Mario Wonder, and Pikmin 4, there’s a big-brand game that was helmed by other companies — titles that, from the outside, might appear to be created by Nintendo in-house, but actually come (for the most part, at least) from an entirely separate studio.

There is no problem with this — Nintendo is busy developing its own big hitters (*cough* and hardware *cough*), so of course third-party partners are being brought in to help carry the load. The question is, why be so secretive about it?

Just last week, Princess Peach: Showtime! arrived on the Switch. Despite nine months of marketing and build-up, it was only on launch day that it was officially revealed that Good-Feel was the development team behind it. Nine months and there was not one mention of the people that built the game — in fact, Nintendo said, “The development team will be credited in the game credits,” when asked.

Luigi's Mansion 2 HD
Image: Nintendo

What’s strange is that this secrecy is a relatively new fad. We mentioned that the mystery of the developer was similarly maintained in the marketing of Super Mario RPG (ArtePiazza) and Another Code: Recollection (Arc System Works porting Cing’s original games), whereas in the past we have seen MercurySteam openly attached to Metroid Dread, Grezzo acknowledged to be working on Link’s Awakening, and an official video apology detailing Retro Studio’s takeover of Metroid Prime 4 (whatever that is). Why have things grown so mysterious all of a sudden?

Well, we, the hungry customers, may be somewhat to blame. We struggle to remember the last big game that was released without some kind of leak or slip-up to sully its otherwise watertight launch. If Nintendo were to go revealing that [insert other studio here] was working on the next [insert big project here], then said studio would suddenly have a target on its back for bounty info hunters.

Badgering emails, scanning social media channels for clues, listening to the every word of the developers involved, scouring LinkedIn for an innocent CV slip — if Nintendo were to reveal its studios, so too would it multiply the risk of pre-release slip-ups and leaks. It’s just a simple way to save the inboxes of the third parties involved, and to keep security tight.

Or maybe it could be simpler still: Nintendo is the brand that people buy into, Nintendo makes Zeldas and Marios, Nintendo is the name that people know. Why break that illusion? For the vast majority of players, the question of who actually develops a game is of little concern. We are interested, but we’d be kidding ourselves to believe that more than a tiny percentage of the blue-ocean Nintendo masses know their Grezzos from their Good-Feels. If the vast majority of people don’t really care, why burst the ‘all my favourite games come from Nintendo’ bubble?

Metroid Dread
“Metroid is my favourite Smash Bros. character” — Image: Nintendo

Without contacting our uncles, who all work at Nintendo (coincidentally), we’re never going to know the exact reason behind this recent developer secrecy. What we do know, is that in the year 2024 — a year in which hundreds of developers are being laid off by the day and blamed for failures by those in charge — it doesn’t quite feel right to be hunting through the credits on launch day to find out who made something.

Now is the time when we need to be crediting developers more openly than ever, praising them for their work, and getting their studio titles in our brains. Forget The Man with No Name — these lone rangers deserve to be named and ‘famed’ from the very beginning.

What do you make of Nintendo’s recent pre-release developer secrecy? Why do you think it’s happening? Are you bothered by not (officially) knowing the primary developer on a game until launch day? Ride down to the comments and let us know.

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