Metroid Prime 4 didn’t even get a mention at Nintendo’s E3 2019 presentation, and for any Samus Aran fans hoping the series will return soon, well, we hope you’re sitting down for this. The latest production update on Metroid Prime 4 suggests we could be in for a very long wait before the release date finally arrives. How long exactly? Let’s take a closer look.
First, a bit of background info. Nintendo originally teased Metroid Prime 4 back at E3 2017. The game went unmentioned a year later in 2018, but last January, we learned that all progress was being scrapped so a new developer, Retro Studios, could take over.
The good news is that Retro is the same studio that made the previous Metroid Prime games, so the franchise is in good hands. The bad news is that this means Nintendo’s internal release date could be pushed back by as much as two years.
In April, Retro shared a job listing on Twitter, announcing that it was hiring developers for Metroid Prime 4 (not a great sign for anyone hoping the game was already far into development). Then, on June 18, the company dropped an even bigger bomb with another job listing announcing that it’s still looking for an art director to “lead the collaborative development of Metroid Prime 4’s artistic development.”
What does this mean for the Metroid Prime 4 release date? Well, it’s hard to imagine that Retro Studios has made much progress without an art director. It’s almost as if Nintendo simply handed the project over to a trusted partner without much concern over how long it would take to actually make the game. Retro could be starting from scratch when it comes to building the type of team required to make a big-budget title worth of the Metroid Prime series.
For a worst case scenario, let’s compare Metroid Prime 4’s development to another major video game: God of War (2018). The PlayStation 4 exclusive officially began development in 2014 and didn’t release until four years later. Even more worrisome, Sony’s Santa Monica Studios actually hired God of War’s art director, Rafael Grassetti, a year earlier in 2013 (according to his LinkedIn profile).
Based on that timetable, it could take five years to go from hiring the art director for Metroid Prime 4 to actually releasing the game. Of course, no two video games are the same, and it’s possible development on the Nintendo Switch exclusive will got a lot faster. But either way, the fact that Retro Studios doesn’t even have an art director yet definitely isn’t a good sign for anyone hoping to play Metroid Prime 4 in the near future.