Why Metroid Prime 4 Still Isn't Out

Of all of Nintendo's core franchises, Metroid seems to be the unlucky one, at least when it comes to development. While no game is without its own troubles during the development process, the Metroid series has a bit of a habit being delayed, switching hands, and getting outright cancelled. The recently released Metroid Dread, for instance, had a fairly tumultuous development, being originally conceptualized in 2005, but not fully getting off the ground until just a few years ago.

Nowhere is Metroid's lack of development luck more prominent than Metroid Prime 4, a game announced in 2017, that still hasn't hit the Nintendo Switch. Development has been rife with setback after setback, and while Metroid Prime 4 is certainly still being worked on, it might be a bit longer until it's in players' hands.

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Explaining Metroid Prime 4's Development History

While it may have been officially announced in 2017, Metroid Prime 4's development may have begun almost ten years earlier. Upon the release of Metroid Prime Trilogy in 2009, Kensuke Tanabe, the production lead during much of Metroid's history, spoke about his future intentions with the series. While he didn't give any concrete details, he did confirm that they'd be returning to the Prime series, and that he had a particular interest in working on the series' multiplayer component.

In 2015, during an interview centered around the fan-maligned Metroid Prime: Federation Force, Tanabe was grilled once again about any future Metroid Prime plans. Tanabe speculated on some possible story and setting elements that an eventual Prime 4 could use, saying that a time-shifting mechanic, along with a focus on Sylux, a previous antagonist of the series, would likely be core to the game.

Flash forward two years, and Metroid Prime 4 is finally officially announced via Nintendo's online E3 stream, along with Metroid: Samus Returns, a 2.5D remake of Metroid 2: Return of Samus, made exclusively for the 3DS. Details on the game were practically non-existent, with not even a developer being confirmed. Of course, there was no release date given for the game, although some speculated that it could be out in just a year, those rumors were quickly denied by Nintendo.

The vast majority of fan rumors surrounding Metroid Prime 4's development at this time centered on Bandai Namco, and their possible involvement with the game. In early 2018, some of Bandai Namco's staff updated their LinkedIn pages, detailing that they were currently working on a first-person shooter that was being developed exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.

Eurogamer received a whole host of tips surrounding Bandai Namco's involvement with Metroid Prime 4, and finally reported that Bandai Namco Japan was allegedly working on the game. Fans of the series continued digging, looking for any tidbits of information they could find. Eventually, the LinkedIn profile of a Bandai Namco senior online programmer was found, in which he stated that we was working on an "exciting project." While the detail was fairly innocuous, this didn't stop fan or outlet speculation, that all agreed that this meant Metroid Prime 4 must have some online multiplayer functionality in some form.

As E3 2018 rolled around, a year after the game was initially announced, fan speculation had reached an all time high. However, to the surprise of many, not a single piece of Metroid Prime 4 content was shown. No trailer, no gameplay, and certainly no release date. In response to the widespread criticism, Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime stated that they were only going to show fans something when they had something actually worthwhile to show, and that Nintendo didn't want to repeatedly dangle Metroid Prime 4 in front of fans without any substance behind it.

This news essentially acted as a confirmation that Prime 4 would not be releasing in 2018, which disappointed many, but gave some confidence that Nintendo had faith in the project, and would give it all of the time it required to be the game that everyone was expecting it would be. Unfortunately, 2019 would bring with it some pretty devastating news.

January 25, 2019, saw a video titled "Development Update on Metroid Prime 4 for Nintendo Switch" hit the Nintendo YouTube channel. In just over three minutes, the world was told that Metroid Prime 4 was not meeting Nintendo's standards, and that the tough decision had been made to restart the development process from scratch.

Of course, this meant that any release date rumors were completely scrapped. From this disappointing announcement did come a little glimmer of hope, as it was announced that Retro Studios, the original developer of the Metroid Prime series, would take over the reigns of Metroid Prime 4's development, with Kensuke Tanabe returning as project lead.

Between April and November of 2019, Retro Studios went on a hiring spree, gaining some of the industry's best talents in a variety of fields. IT engineers, an art director, environmental artists, graphics engineers, character and cinematics artists, senior designers, and much more were all added to the project within just a few months. Retro Studios veteran Nicholas Shaw was also added to the team, joining as a lead narrative designer.

This hiring frenzy continued well into 2020, with both Retro Studios veterans returning to the fray once more, and brand new faces joining the crew for the first time to work on this infamous fourth entry. In August 2020, Richard Vorodi, who acted as the story designer in Metroid Prime Hunters, stated in an interview that Sylux has a great deal of potential as a Metroid antagonist, and that their backstory was already laid out behind the scenes. This led to a lot of speculation from fans, with many linking Tanabe's original sentiments of a potential Prime sequel using the character of Sylux to this statement, hinting at their possible return in Metroid Prime 4.

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Explaining Why Metroid Prime 4 Still Isn't Out

Currently, there is no more official news on Metroid Prime 4. There have been no more trailers, no glimpses of gameplay, no potential release dates, and no real confirmation on any aspect of the game. The only official word from Nintendo was during E3 2021, where Shinya Takahashi confirmed that Prime 4 is still being worked on, but they had nothing to show at that moment, instead announcing Metroid Dread.

According to the last few earnings reports from Nintendo, Metroid Prime 4's release date is still "TBA." While the long-awaited Bayonetta 3 and Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel now have release windows on these earnings reports, Metroid Prime 4 still does not, which many believe infers that the game will not release until 2023 at the earliest.

Metroid Prime 4's development issues are certainly the greatest factor in explaining why the game hasn't come out yet. Most Nintendo games have a development cycle of around three to five years, so it only makes sense that starting from scratch in 2019 would lead to an estimated release date of 2023 at the very earliest.

Though, with the lack of any new trailers, or even official confirmation on any details of Metroid Prime 4, it seems unlikely that fans will see Metroid Prime 4 any time soon, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the development of every game right now. However, with the original studio and project lead hard at work on the game, Metroid Prime 4 is likely going to meet its astronomical expectations, just as Metroid Dread did.

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