Forums - Nintendo Discussion - What Nintendo's Developing: Internal and External Studios

I found this great and informative blog post over at IGN. If you're interested in how and what Nintendo's studios are working on, look no further!!!

I've seen an article or two to this effect, and some blogs, as well. Nonetheless, I'd like to take an even deeper look at Nintendo's studios: their past, their present, and their potential futures, including, of course, what games they develop or are developing. Attempting to analyze what games may be in the works over at Nintendo is fruitless if you don't know what tools they have to work with, So let's get started! As I'm splitting this up into several parts to avoid excessive TLDRing (though you can feel free do so if you wish), I'm starting it off with Nintendo's external first party studios. Internal and second parties will follow. So, shall we begin?

Brownie Brown

Brownie Brown was founded by ex-Square members who worked on the "Mana" games and left due to "differing ideals", where they then started up the company on June 30th, 2000. BB is fully funded and owned by Nintendo, and typically works on JRPGs. Starting off with the basically unknown "Magical Vacation" in 2001 for the Game Boy Advance, they kicked things into high gear very quickly with Sword of Mana and, more importantly, helped work on Mother 3.

Moving on to the DS, Brownie Brown quickly began creating titles that never showed their faces in the west. They did, however, co-create many different titles for the handheld, such as Blue Dragon Plus with Mistwalker and London Life in Professor Layton and the Last Spector with Level-5. They also worked on Heroes of Mana, Livly Garden, and A Kappa's Trail, and even helped with some assets in Super Mario 3D Land.

It doesn't seem like anything in Brownie Brown's future is relevant to us in the North American and European territories, as their most recent release, Fantasy Life (which was co-developed with level-5), appears to have no intention of bringing itself out of Japan, and the likelihood of sequels was voiced immediately after the game sold out virtually everywhere. So unless by some miracle NOA decides to bring over more very Japanese games without a fan movement, Brownie Brown's titles probably won't make for anything noteworthy over here. Still - we can hope.

HAL Studios

HAL has an interesting and fairly well-known history. Founded way back on February 21, 1980 by a couple of guys who just plain loved video games (including Satoru Iwata), the studio worked on several different machines, ranging from the Commodre MAX to the MSX to the Family Computer Disc System. Once the Nintendo Entertainment System came along, however, things began to get really interesting. Masahiro Sakurai created his first character and directed a game around that character at age 19 - that's Kirby and Kirby's Dream Land, respectively.

From here on out, HAL became the house of Kirby. That's not to say they didn't release anything else, however - they developed and co-developed an astonishing amount of titles in a very short time. Tons of Kirby games, The Adventures of Lolo, Earthbound, several Pokemon spin-offs, and so much more that I can't even begin to summarize in a few short sentences. nevertheless, in 1993 Iwata got promoted to president of the studio, and in 2002 he succeeded Hiroshi Yaumachi as Nintendo's CEO. Meanwhile, Sakurai was busy crafting a new fighter, which eventually would become Super Smash Brothers, surprising the company with it's success, and after a sequel basically became the studio's second biggest IP. That sequel, however, was the last SSB HAL would create. Due to the incessant amount of sequels made at the studio, Sakurai quit the company in 2003 after Nintendo immediately requested a Kirby's Dream Ride sequel after it's release and sales success.

One Masahiro left, HAL continued it's reputation as the House of Kirby, developing several experimental DS titles in the series and a few Gamecube and Wii ones, too. Aside from helping with Mother 3, Pokemon Ranger, and Smash Bros. Brawl, and making a few small other titles such as Face Raiders, they basically have just made Kirby, and even up to their last few games this hasn't changed. So the question is, what will we see from them in the future? My guess is: Kirby. Mindblowing, I know. As Return To Dreamland released in late 2011, and Mass Attack released early 2012, the time is just about ripe to see what they've been cooking up. More precisely with my guesses, though, logic states that we'll get a 3DS title with a completely new premise for Kirby a la Tilt 'n Tumble and mass Attack, and a more traditional, 2D Kirby game for Wii U. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if we got a new IP from these guys, retail or digital.

Intelligent Systems

Intelligent Studios started as a one-man team used by Nintendo to port Famicon Disk software to the NES cartridge style format. It soon expanded into more members that would help or provide tools for Nintendo to fix, port, and/or program Nintendo games. Eventually, however, the team became a full-on games studio, and a well-loved one, at that.

IS is most well known for creating games in the Fire Emblem franchise, as well as Advance Wars and later the Paper Mario sub-series. On top of that, they make many different downloadable titles as well. Recently, it seems like Nintendo is just pushing the studio too far. Paper Mario, Fire Emblem, Pushmo, Crashmo, and Game & Wario will all have been released within 18 months of each other. For a studio that isn't exactly large, I feel like this is too much, and it seems like Sticker Star's quality may have suffered because of it.

Nonetheless, Intelligent System's future is an interesting one, to be sure. Post-Game and Wario, who knows what we'll get? After Pushmo and Crashmo's massive and moderate successes, respectively, more E-shop titles seems all too likely, for both systems. Paper Mario and Fire Emblem U wouldn't be a surprise, and Advance Wars 3DS is probably on it's way, too. I'd love a new retail IP from these guys, though, especially if it's an RPG. Paper Mario's excellent writing with a doubtless genius new battle system combined with stunning visuals and world would be an instant buy in my book. It probably won't happen; Intelligent Systems has too many money-making IPs for Nintendo to simply let them do whatever; but hey, again, I can hope.

Monolith Soft

Monolith was founded shortly after the creation of Xenogears at Square Soft on October 1st, 1999 by Tetsuya Takahashi, who served as director on the game. Many other members of Square who worked on Xenogears moved to Monolith soon after the project was completed, as well. As Monolith was once owned by Namco Bandai, the studio set to work making six Xenogears games as spiritual successors to Xenogears. Due to a variety of reasons, they had to cut short the series and only make 3. Many know them for the Baiten Kraitos franchise, as well.

In 2007, Nintendo took control of the company and (for some reason) had them make an action game called "Disaster: day of Crisis". It didn't go over amazingly. Nonetheless, Monolith began on their next project just before Disaster was wrapping up production. this game happened to become my favorite game of all time. Called Xenoblade, I think it is. Anyways, they proved their worth with this game, and got a lot more fans in the process.

Many are anxiously awaiting Monolith's Wii U title (which will obviously be a JRPG), and as Xenoblade released in Japan in mid 2010, the potential for a TGS 2013 announcement was there. What many people don't realize, however, is that Monolith Soft were the sole developers of Project X Zone, a crossover SRPG about characters from three different famous publishers - which, to everyone's astonishment, sold awfully in Japan. However, there is hope. On July 8th, 2011, they announced that they were opening an additional studio to focus on 3DS games. For all we know, PXZ was made by that team in a short amount of time, and the main Monolith team has been plugging away at the Wii U. Recent interviews with members of the team, however, seem to indicate that they haven't even started on the project yet. But as long as America gets it (preferably day 1), in my opinion, Monolith can take all the time they need to give us the best game possible.

ND Cube

ND Cube was founded on March 1st, 2000, and from then on... well, haven't done a whole lot. They brought a couple of racers to the GBA, like F-Zero: Maximum Velocity and Tube Slider. Quite frankly, not many of their games reached american shores. At one point, nearly all of the staff quit and left for Sony. At this point, Nintendo bought out the rest of the company's shares and had a massive restructuring. From then on, ND Cube helped work on Mario Party games with Hudson, and made Wii Party all by themselves. Once Hudson shut down, basically all of Hudson's workers moved to ND Cube, at which point Mario Party 9 was conceived.

So what's next? Mario Party 10, Wii U Party, and/or Mario Party 3DS. I guarantee it. Though to be fair, the first two could be pretty awesome with the Gamepad+Wiimotes. I'd say I hope for a new F-Zero from them, but.... that ND Cube is gone. So party games!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!

Nintendo Software Technology (NST)

NST is one of Nintendo's two American first party studios. For a while, they got a reputation as developers that made spin-offs or sequels to previously created series, such as Bionic Commando, Wave race, 1080 Snowboarding, and most famously, Metroid Prime, with Metroid Prime Hunters. In addition to making some small, crappy apps for the DSi and E-shops, they do have their own franchise in Mario VS Donkey Kong, in which there are four entries.

But they've been mysteriously quiet for a couple years, aside from a crossword game for the 3DS E-shop. Rumors about a restructuring floated around a while back, and news came that the sonic creator had been hired at the studio a few months ago. My theory? NST is making something big. I'm actually going to take a shot in the dark here and say that NST is developing a Prime style Metroid game for Wii U. I could be way off here, though. Also, I wouldn't be altogether surprised if an E-shop release of Mario vs DK 5 comes out on an E-shop.

Retro Studios

As if this topic weren't done to death! But honestly, who can resist talking about Retro's next project? Retro Studios was founded in 1998 where they then began creating several new IPs. All of them were eventually scrapped so they could focus on Metroid Prime. They made two more entries to the prime series over the years, all of them getting outstanding reviews and good to great sales. After that, they started work on Donkey Kong Country returns, my personal favorite platformer ever, and after that, part of their team helped Nintendo with MK7 in 2011 due to a lack of resources on Ninty's end.

So what next? Who knows, really. Metroid to DK to Mario Kart doesn't give us a firm base to guess from, it just proves they're capable of anything. Star Fox? Metroid? F-Zero? New Ip (crossed fingers)? We'll see this E3, unless we're unlucky. I know I can't wait.

A few others I didn't mention were Nintendo Network Service Development (NSD) and Nintendo Software Design And Development (SDD), both of which only made small projects no one's heard of, and neither have made a anything for four years. I get the impression they're pretty irrelevant at this point.

So, what do you guys think? What do you suppose these Nintendo devs are making? Sound off below!

I'm on Twitter @DanneSandin!

Furthermore, I think VGChartz should add a "Like"-button.

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EDIT: Well, that's some good timing.

Many know of Nintendo's games, but not what studios they have to develop them. Despite this, many like to predict what game announcements will be made soon. This is basically impossible to do well without knowing what tools Nintendo has to work with, and so I began this blog series about Nintendo's studios: their pasts, their present, and their potential futures. Yesterday I talked about Nintendo's external first party studios, so today, we'll move on to the internal groups. The history here is a bit odd, and the current model isn't set in stone, but nonetheless, let's begin.

Nintendo used to be split up into several R&D groups - four, to be precise. Midway through the Gamecube era, and shortly after Iwata became president, they experienced a massive restructuring, officially splitting up their main software development into 5 different groups titled "Entertainment and Analysis Division", or "EAD". These groups are watched over by Shigeru Miyamoto, while each individual group has their own director.

Entertainment and Analysis Group 1

Watched over by Hideki Konno, EAD1 is most famous for the Mario Kart franchise. Ever since the DS title, they've been the sole developers of the series, aside from Mario kart 7, which was co-developed with Retro Studios. Their first title was actually Nintendogs for the DS back in 2005, and they also worked on Nintendogs + Cats for the 3DS back at the system's launch. And that's about it. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is the team that's probably slaving away at Mario Kart Wii U right now, though I wouldn't be surprised if a downloadable title or a new Nintendogs game comes from this team at some point in the near future.

Entertainment and Analysis Group 2

Officially, this the team that works on the experimental hardware showcase games such as the Wii Sports series, the Wii play series, and Nintendoland. They've also made all the Animal Crossing titles since Wild World. Here's the thing, though: every interview and comment made by any of the developers or by Iwata seems to indicate that all of the experimental hardware titles were made by one team, and all of the Animal Crossing games are made by another, despite both technically being made by EAD2. This means, of course, that some of of the groups have multiple teams working on it.

Nevertheless, EAD2 is probably working on the confirmed Animal Crossing DLC, and possibly a Wii U AC sequel, as well. Wii Sports U, Wii U Play, Nintendoland 2, or something else along those lines is probably in the works, as well. If Nintendoland has any DLC on the way, that's being developed, too.

 Entertainment and Analysis Group 3

EAD3 is, quite simply, the Zelda team. Led by Eiji Aonuma, this team has been cranking out the Zelda titles since 2004. Aside from helping with Link's Crossbow Training, and potentially supporting Dillon's Rolling Western a bit, they've done nothing but create all of the main series titles in Nintendo's fantasy series. Originally, they had two teams inside the group: a handheld team and a console team. After Spirit Tracks wrapped up production, the handheld team moved over to help with Skyward Sword. Whether the entirety of the team did that, though, is unlikely, and they certainly didn't need the ENTIRE team up until SS released. Chances are, they've been working on a new handheld entry to the series for a some time now, though whether they have help from outside sources is up for debate.

And then there's the console team (I've been saying the "team" a lot, haven't I?), who has been confirmed to be making the Wii U entry to the franchise. The director of Skyward Sword did say he would try and make the next game in only 3 years, so we'll see if he lives up to his promise; though if he does, the handheld team's size probably dwindled because of it, making outside help on the handheld front even more likely.

 Entertainment and Analysis Group 4

EAD4 is led by Takashi Tezuka (who, for the record, helps Miyamoto oversee all the studios), and is mainly responsible responsible for the New Super Mario Bros. franchise. Their first game was back in 2004 with a remake of Super Mario 64 for the DS, followed up with Yoshi's Touch and Go and New Super Mario Bros. A couple of "Big Brain Academy"s were made by them as well, with the job of making the Wii remakes of Pikimin falling to this group, followed up by New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

In 2011, Nintendo took a large group of their newest developers and sent them to 'Mario Cram School", where they quickly learned how to properly design Mario levels. These devs ended up being the creators of New Super Mario Bros. 2, along with a few senior designers from the team. Most of these aforementioned senior designers, however, were working on New Super Mario Bros. U, attempting to get it out in time for the Wii U's launch. Apart from all of this, they've also supposedly been creating Pikimin 3. Unfortunately, there's literally no proof that this is true. Still, of all of Nintendo's official EAD studios, 4 makes the most sense to be developing Pikimin - it's possible that at the moment, there are 3 different teams in the group.

If that's the case, what's coming next? If one team filled with new members to the company finished NSMB2 in August and has finished releasing DLC since then, the second team finished NSMBU in November, and the final team is nearing completion of Pikimin 3, what's next? Well, here's what I personally predict. For all I know, though, they're working on yet another NSMB game.

Anyways, part of team 2 has been working on NSMBU DLC, which has both been confirmed, and probably will be revealed soon. The rest of the team has joined team 1 and are working on..... something. A Donkey Kong Country game? A new IP? Star Fox? It could really be anything, and I'm very excited to see what comes from the new, young minds at Nintendo, especially if they have the senior designers from team 2 to help them along. Team 3 is, of course, working on Pikimin 3, and some, if not all, of the team will probably work on some DLC after the release. After that, it's once again up in the air - Pikimin 4, Pikimin 3DS, F-Zero, Star Fox, new IP, Ice Climbers, Balloon Fight. Who knows?

Entertainment and Analysis Group 5

Aside from offering some support to second parties with games like Steel Diver and Star Fox 64 3D, this team has made Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus, and is making Wii Fit U. That's it. I doubt anything else interesting will come of this group, at least not in it's current form. I can't wait for Wii Fit U+ 2, though.

Entertainment and Analysis Tokyo groups 1&2

EAD Tokyo is a large studio that technically has 2 groups, but really has 1 1/4. After every major project, it seems the majority of one team just switches over to the other half of the studio, leaving the rest to co-develop games with second parties and create apps. For example, look at the release schedule for the two teams.

Team 1: DK Jungle Beat in 2004, Mario Galaxy in 2007, a DS guide in 2010, helped Grezzo with OoT 3D and Four Swords in 2011. Team 2: Flipnote studio and DK Jungle Beat New Play Control in 2008, Super Mario Galaxy 2 in 2010, Super Mario 3D Land in 2011. Clearly, the majority of the group moved over to team 2, leaving the rest of team 1 to work on boring things. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Nevertheless, at the moment, only one team at EAD Tokyo is actually doing anything.

So what is it they've been doing since Mario 3D Land? As much as I'd like to say a new Donkey Kong, they're probably making the 3D Mario game for Wii U. It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out. If we're lucky, though, they expanded into two full fledged teams, and we'll get something other then the inevitable Mario. We'll see, I suppose.

Nintendo Software Planning & Development

SPD is Nintendo's other software making collection of teams in-house, but they typically don't make their own games; instead, they help second and external first party studios create titles, and make sure they live up to Nintendo's seal of quality. There are five different SPD groups, all of them specializing in different types of games. But quite simply, there's no need to analyze these guys. Apart from potentially making another Rythm Heaven, everything they'll make will be covered by other studios.

Aside from teams working on hardware, this is it. Surprisingly uninteresting, in my opinion - most groups have very predictable and not altogether exciting futures. With several likely rumors of a restructuring and expansion going around a while back, though, if we're lucky Nintendo's internal group of dev teams will start to get more crazy. I guess in the end, all we can do is wait and see. That said, second parties are easily going to be the most fun blog to do. Thanks for reading, and sound off below!

I'm on Twitter @DanneSandin!

Furthermore, I think VGChartz should add a "Like"-button.


I'm on Twitter @DanneSandin!

Furthermore, I think VGChartz should add a "Like"-button.

Thanks for this info, DS.

Seeing all these developers listed with so many unannounced games reinforces my feeling that 2013 will be huge for Nintendo.

I think this year's E3 might be one of the best ever: Microsoft and Sony teasing their new consoles, and Nintendo dropping a bunch of big announcements and previews. I bet that 2013 will see a 3D Mario, a new Wii Sports game, a new IP from Monolith Soft, and a new game from Retro -- all for Wii U.

I think NST is the wild card. I would love to see a new Wave Race game for Wii U.

In any event, Nintendo clearly has lots of talent; they just need to pick the right projects.

Funny how every studio can be tied up and yet neither 3DS nor Wii U has anything coming out.

What are the plausible E3 games for this year? Mario Kart? Retro project?

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Soleron said:

Funny how every studio can be tied up and yet neither 3DS nor Wii U has anything coming out.

What are the plausible E3 games for this year? Mario Kart? Retro project?

You're kidding me? 3DS has plenty of games coming out this year, and had quite a few last year as well... But I gotta agree that the Wii U is sourly lacking good games!! It seems like everyone's waiting for Retro's and Monoliths projects, the new Zelda, a 3D Mario, Mario Karting and SSB4...

I'm on Twitter @DanneSandin!

Furthermore, I think VGChartz should add a "Like"-button.

Although not up-2-date, you might want to help out there with this info.

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DanneSandin said:
Soleron said:

Funny how every studio can be tied up and yet neither 3DS nor Wii U has anything coming out.

What are the plausible E3 games for this year? Mario Kart? Retro project?

You're kidding me? 3DS has plenty of games coming out this year, and had quite a few last year as well... But I gotta agree that the Wii U is sourly lacking good games!! It seems like everyone's waiting for Retro's and Monoliths projects, the new Zelda, a 3D Mario, Mario Karting and SSB4...

Well, most of them 3DS ones are delays from 2012 or were released in 2012 in Japan (Mansion, AC, Fire Emblem).

No way are the 3D Mario, Zelda or SSB coming sooner than holiday 2014.

Retro and Monolith's projects will most likely not move systems. So that's a long time without a system seller.

Soleron said:

Funny how every studio can be tied up and yet neither 3DS nor Wii U has anything coming out.

What are the plausible E3 games for this year? Mario Kart? Retro project?

I like speculation and educated guesses so here's my two cents for this e3 and potential 2013 releases:

EAD1 - Mario Kart U (very likely)

EAD2 - Wii Sports U (maybe early 2014 but a Wii Sports game doesn't take that much time to develop and they even showed a prototype at e3 2011 - alongside Wii Fit U and Mario U, both of which became actual games!)

EAD Tokyo - 3D Mario (possibly late 2013 as the team making 3D Land was probably smaller than the Galaxy team so Mario U would have a 3 year dev cycle)

Retro Studios - ?? ( some new project, we really don't know but their last game released in 2010 so they should be able to show us some footage at least)


Games for 2014:

EAD 3 - Wii U Zelda (this one WILL be out in 2014 - Iwata didn't ask them to speed up dev time, he commanded it)

Sakurai's Team - Smash Bros. (they will push to get this out by late 2014, as Smash is a long term seller)

Soleron said:

No way are the 3D Mario, Zelda or SSB coming sooner than holiday 2014.

I beg to differ -- I'm sure Ninendo really wants 3D Mario on Wii U this year. They're going to try very hard to make that happen.

I think we'll get Zelda this year, too -- the catch is that it won't be a first-party Nintendo Zelda. It'll be a Grezzo Zelda.