The Splatoon Gamble

There’s more than sales numbers on the line!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/25/2015 08:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

Nintendo has a lot riding on Splatoon when the third-person shooter launches later this week. Commercially and critically, the squid-centric game needs to hit one out of the park. While the obvious reason is to push system sales and move units, another underlying factor is that the success of Splatoon will be an important stepping stone for the team who masterminded it. Yusuke Amano and Tsubasa Sakaguchi are both co-directors of the upcoming title, and they along with a lot of their fellow creators are some of the youngest workers at Nintendo. The idea for Splatoon originated as a four-on-four multiplayer match using ink to mark territory, with the squids, single-player, and other elements coming later in the game’s development. That initial prototype, however, was enough to convince Nintendo’s brass that the concept was worth pursuing, and the young team began in earnest to flesh out what would become Splatoon.

It’s naive to suggest that every idea at Nintendo originates from the mind of developer Shigeru Miyamoto, but his sage advice often does serve to focus projects that might otherwise fail without his guidance. Splatoon was initially a lot of good ideas without anything cohesive to tie everything together. Once Miyamoto intervened and succinctly pointed out that Splatoon had no hook to draw in players, the team was able to filter through and refine until arriving at the game as fans know it today. Not bad for some rookies! But that’s exactly what Nintendo needs to survive into the future: some young, fearless designers who have the sensibilities of game creators from the past and the present. Miyamoto’s various titles are the definition of timeless, but rarely is he known for bringing fans games with an edge. Splatoon has bite. It’s visually distinct from other Nintendo properties, fast-paced and even a little brash. Yet, it still feels right at home in the House of Mario.

Though the final game has yet to hit stands, between my hands-on time at E3 and the Global Testfire, it’s clear the level of polish on display is everything Nintendo fans have come to expect from the company. If the Splatoon team can follow through with a complete package, it would really help cement their roles as the stable of talent who will carry Nintendo into the future when Miyamoto is no longer working his magic. What’s more, even while the legendary designer is still around, as I pointed out above, Amano and Sakaguchi have created something that has its own feel compared to the usual Nintendo offerings. The people playing video games continues to grow in number as well as diversify, and that means the games themselves have to follow suit, too. Nintendo does a fine job of creating games that anyone can play, but not everyone is drawn to those sorts of titles. I’ll play Super Mario Bros. until I’m an old man, but there are those who have grown up weened on Call of Duty who are going to be tougher to sell on the joys of the jovial plumber.

That’s where Splatoon comes in. It’s bold and bright, with obnoxiously loud oranges and greens and blues popping out of every bit of marketing that’s been released. It doesn’t want to melt into the background, it wants players to stop and notice it. There’s an almost punk aesthetic to the splattered ink and mischievous looking Inklings that practically screams, “This is not your typical shooter! This is not your typical Nintendo game!” It’s an evolution of the company’s brand that doesn’t compromise its principles. There are no exploding heads or flying body parts, but Splatoon is about as “in your face” as anything I’ve ever come across on a Nintendo console. What’s more, it’s also managed to take the over-saturated shooter market and do something original with it. Miyamoto is many things to Nintendo, but creating a title like this is slightly out of his wheelhouse, and thus makes the presence of Amano, Sakaguchi, and others like them integral to the company moving forward.

I always thought that Metroid would eventually take the crown as Nintendo’s premier multiplayer shooter franchise, but let’s face it, the single player is what matters most when it comes to that series. I had fun with Metroid Prime 2 and Hunters‘ multiplayer modes, but ultimately the only real novelty to come from either of those games in that department was the notion that it was happening with Samus in tow. Halo it wasn’t, and never should be, and even if the universe graces fans with Metroid Prime 4, it’s foolhardy to expect that the series would ever become a true powerhouse in the packed online shooter arena (well, never say never with Nintendo, but still!). Splatoon is different. Flooding floors and walls with ink is immensely satisfying, and flat-out unique. Call of Duty and Battlefield will be at one another’s throats until the end of time because they’re both trying to outdo the other. Splatoon won’t have that problem, because there’s no competition for it. Like Mario Kart, Splatoon will be in a class of its own in the realm of online multiplayer.

When Splatoon launches this coming Friday, Nintendo will be throwing its hat in the ring with the likes of Activision and EA, but not directly. Instead, it will be reminiscent of when the company unveiled Wii, and essentially looked at Sony and Microsoft and said, “You guys can slug it out all you want, because we’re just going to make our own gym where the two of you aren’t allowed.” Splatoon has a shot to officially be the boba shop to Battlefield and Call of Duty’s coffee houses. Just like with Wii, Nintendo is once again circumventing the warfront and forging ahead into uncharted waters, instead. It also has a shot to give Nintendo the direction it needs to start reaching out to an even broader audience than it already does. Amano and Sakaguchi could very well be spearheading even more new franchises in the future if Splatoon hits its mark. So no pressure guys, you only potentially have Nintendo’s destiny in your hands if you play your cards right.

One Response to “The Splatoon Gamble”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!