The most famous science fiction series in gaming may be Metroid. Since debuting on the NES 33 years ago, Metroid has gone on to become iconic. Samus Aran is one of gaming's most popular characters. The Metroid Prime series in particular has been hailed as a great success in the jump from 2D to 3D. As a first-person shooter, the first Metroid Prime succeeded in every way for critics and fans. The Prime series seemingly ended in 2007 with the release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. However, the game's true ending featured a cliffhanger, so fans have been waiting and hoping for a sequel announcement. Dreams came true 10 years later during Nintendo's E3 2017 Direct.
With just a logo, Nintendo had everyone's attention. The anticipation for Metroid Prime 4 matches, and may even exceed, the hype for the Breath of the Wild sequel. Some fans were perhaps surprised that Metroid Prime 4 was absent from Nintendo's E3 2018 Direct. Despite there being two years from the initial reveal, it's actually quite simple why the game was not featured.
Things were suspiciously quiet after Metroid Prime 4's reveal. The development studio behind the title wasn't even stated. (Retro Studios, the developer behind the Metroid Prime Trilogy, was confirmed to not be doing the fourth game.) There were reports that Bandai Namco was developing the game, but Nintendo never confirmed this. However, in November of 2018, then Nintendo of Americas president, Reggie Fils-Aimé, stated Metroid Prime 4 was "well in development." Sounds good, right? Well, in January of this year, Nintendo posted a major update. Nintendo Senior Managing Executive Officer, Shinya Takahashi, took to the stage and surprised viewers by saying Metroid Prime 4's development would be essentially starting over from scratch.
To summarize what Takahashi said, Nintendo did not find the development of Metroid Prime 4 up to the company's standards. So, instead of going forward with a product Nintendo would not have been confident in, the company decided to restart development with another developer. This time, Retro Studios was brought back.
Nintendo still did not confirm who was developing Metroid Prime 4 before Retro Studios came on board. It makes sense now, however. Nintendo probably didn't want to publicly say which developer did not meet the standards, which could have potentially severed a good business relationship, assuming it was indeed Bandai Namco. (Bandai Namco helped develop Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.) Of course, many fans wonder why Nintendo didn't utilize Retro Studios to begin with. There are no confirmed reasons for this. At this point though, it doesn't really matter. Retro Studios is now developing Metroid Prime 4.
Why Wasn't Metroid Prime 4 Featured At E3?
Metroid Prime 4 didn't make an appearance at E3 simply because Nintendo had nothing to show. If we take Takahashi's statement, "This change will essentially mean restarting development from the beginning," literally, that means Nintendo has scrapped everything the previous developer worked on. There is no gameplay to show, no cinematics, nothing. Takahashi did say it will be "a long road" before the next update. It would be surprising to get even a mild update this year.
What does this mean for Metroid Prime 4's release? It's unlikely the game will be ready in 2020, unless Retro Studios is working overtime. It's much more likely we'll get a teaser in late 2020, and see the game hit shelves sometime in 2021 or 2022. It may even take longer, however. Simply put, don't expect to play the title anytime soon.
Although an E3 absence is disappointing, many fans would agree it's best to wait for something concrete than for Nintendo to show another teaser just saying the game is still being developed. The Metroid Prime series has left an impact on the gaming community, so Nintendo wants to make sure the fourth installment is a worthy followup. In the meantime, there are numerous other first-party Nintendo games coming out to hold fans over, such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Luigi's Mansion 3. There have also been rumors that Nintendo will release the Metroid Prime Trilogy on Switch. If so, that will be a great way to get caught up in the series in anticipation for the fourth title.