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Nintendo acquires land to build a new development center in Kyoto

Nintendo looks to boost first-party development

Updated: Apr 12, 2022 11:28 am
Nintendo Switch OLED

Based in Kyoto, Nintendo has been working from Kyoto, Japan since they were founded. Now, the company is looking to expand their offices in Kyoto through the acquisition of land previously owned by Kyoto, which was used as a Foundation Support Factory, in addition to a Disaster Prevention centre in the past. Nintendo seldom opens up new studios, and one that’s so close to its main headquarters means that the company is investing further into its local development, which of course is where titles like The Legend of Zelda, the Super Mario franchise, in addition to many more are created in support with other services and software development that Nintendo might wish to work on.

The site is around 10,000 meters square, and Nintendo will be acquiring the land for around $39.8 million USD, or ¥5 billion. The company has already named the site as being ‘Corporate Headquarters Development Center Building No 2’, which is not really one of the fanciest studio names that we’ve heard. But, in true Japanese fashion, it’s purely utilitarian. The building is pipped to be equipped with 12 floors and be completed by the end of 2027 at the latest. Nintendo states on their corporate website that the studio will ‘carry an important role in reinforcing R&D’.

This is a part of a larger initiative by Nintendo to build more offices in Kyoto. According to Nikkei, this comes as a part of their expansion, which strives to bring more development of Nintendo titles in-house, rather than having to rely on external resources. Another development centre will be rented from two floors of the Kyoto City Waterworks Beaurau building in May 2022, where Nintendo hopes to be fully operational in May 2022.

Due to the popularity of the Nintendo Switch, the company is looking to spend around $880 million USD on expanding game-dev resources, and a further $440 million USD for enhancing ‘non-game’ entertainment like movies, and presumably extravagance like Super Nintendo World, as stated in a Management briefing, according to VGC.

Why does Nintendo want to bring more development in-house?

Metroid 8

Simply put, Nintendo was not anticipating the rocketing success of the Nintendo Switch. During the lifecycle of the console, Nintendo released many titles from mainstay franchises like Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and a remixed version of Mario Kart 8 in the form of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Since those projects have now been long released, they are actually looking at an extended lifespan for the Nintendo Switch itself, due to the sheer number of consoles that have been sold since its launch in 2017. Though it’s already five years old. Both first and third-party software support for the system is still ongoing.

Nintendo themselves are keen to show off new titles like Advance Wars and the recently-released Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Additionally, to support this there are rumours circulating about a Nintendo Switch Pro, which comes after the release of the Nintendo Switch OLED model which featured an enhanced screen, smaller bezels and more.

In a sales call, president Shuntaro Furukawa stated that the Switch was in the ‘middle’ of its lifecycle and that the console would be ready to ‘break a pattern of our past consoles that saw momentum weakening in their sixth year in the market and grow further’. This is why we’re seeing titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, in addition to other upcoming first-party titles on the horizon.

Nintendo has a storied history with first and third-party support, but they are clearly looking to throw more weight behind the Switch in order to retain the enormous install base of users for as long as possible through various retention methods, one is the Nintendo Online subscription, which now offers further content in titles that you might already own, and another is to ensure that there is a steady pipeline of new games to play on the platform that still offer great performance on what is now a fairly aged system.

Nintendo needs to shake up first-party development, and fast.

While Nintendo is indeed one of the greatest creative forces in the industry, they still rely on second-party development houses like Monolith, who is presumably again assisting the developer with the creation of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 in addition to the development of their own title in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Nintendo has not all-out acquired Monolith due to their assistance with their internal software development yet.

But, with the generation of the Switch looking longer than Nintendo’s usual life cycle, they need to pour even more resources into ensuring that there is more software for the Switch that users will flock to periodically. This is reflected through the diversity in their first-party development. For example, occasionally Nintendo relies on external studios to carry what are originally in-house projects such as Metroid Dread, which is a first-party Nintendo published title, but was actually developed by Spanish Studio MercurySteam, who was previously known for developing titles like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, in addition to Metroid: Samus Returns on the 3DS, as well as Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate.

Additionally, we saw Nintendo announce titles that have still yet to see the light of day like Metroid Prime 4, which was originally announced at E3 2017. It was through that Nintendo was developing this alongside Bandai Namco Studios, however, this didn’t go to plan, and Nintendo switched the development studio over to Retro Studios around 2019, meaning that the game had to essentially reboot its development. Now, in 2022, we’ve still not seen any footage from Metroid Prime 4, despite being announced almost five years ago.

The Metroid Prime 4 situation is emblematic of why Nintendo needs to build stronger first-party studios, so they can bring that development in-house to develop their own first-party titles instead of essentially acting as a publisher for first-party franchises, developed by external studios, which can cause delays, issues and more, exemplified through the fact that we’ve seen very little from Metroid Prime 4, despite being announced five years ago.

Hopefully, expanded premises allow the company to expand, and build stronger development pipelines for the company, so they can bolster their own first-party output, instead of having to rely on support studios to develop excellent first-party titles.

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