What can Splatoon teach us about the Nintendo NX?

With time running out for the Wii U, Nintendo are long into the arduous process of planning for its successor, the NX.  But are we already seeing glimpses of Nintendo’s future in how it’s handling the Wii U’s twilight years?

Splatoon in particular is a curious title, because in a lot of ways it’s anti-Nintendo in both its delivery and presentation.

The Japanese publisher is reluctant to launch a new product without including one of its staple characters.  Mario fronts Nintendo’s tennis, go-kart, golf, and board game products, but for Splatoon, Nintendo decided to ditch both Mario, and the rest of their highly successful and marketable crew.  A trick that Nintendo aren’t used to playing.

Splatoon has become a monstrous success, selling just over 4 million copies worldwide.  It’s a figure that’s even more astounding when you consider the console only has an install base of 12 million.  Meaning that one in three Wii U owners have a copy of Splatoon.  A staggering attach rate, especially for a console that has struggled so much.

While those figures may confirm that the Wii U is primarily owned by life-long Nintendo fans, Splatoon’s numbers are not to be sniffed at.  The risk of allowing it room to be something new paid off, and Splatoon will remain one of Nintendo’s key franchises moving forward.

Its success is so remarkable, that Splatoon has sold more copies than rival exclusives Bloodborne, Halo 5, Forza Motorsport 6, DriveClub, and even Nintendo’s own Super Smash Bros for Wii U.

splatoonconceptart

Early concept art for the Inklings of Splatoon

It wasn’t just in sales that Splatoon performed well.  In 2015, critics ranked it as the highest rated new IP, receiving an 81 on Metacritic and being added to our very own Best Games list for Wii U.

With this, plus the general good will from both fans and media professionals, Splatoon should give Nintendo the confidence in pushing new IP ideas.  Pikmin was the last new franchise to be given the go-ahead by Nintendo all the way back in 2001 and we’d hazard a guess that Nintendo’s next venture into new territory won’t take another decade.

After years of treading lightly into downloadable content, Nintendo finally look ready to be a major online player with the NX.  Mario Kart 8 received two hefty downloadable content packs for a pretty penny, while Splatoon’s DLC offering was the total opposite, free and plentiful.

To date, the game has never received any paid-for DLC, instead offering incremental free updates, offering new weapons, items, and maps to keep the player base hooked, and it appears to have paid off.  Splatoon is still regularly played by a high number of people and sales of the title haven’t plateaued just yet.

The DLC updates stopped last month, but Nintendo’s ability to keep the game running for well over six months is a testament to both the quality of the game itself and its delivery of DLC.  Most online only games struggle after the initial launch window to captivate and keep its audience beyond more than a two or three month span.

Both Splatoon and Mario Kart 8’s DLC distribution may tell us a lot about how the publisher plans to deliver content and keep players engaged long after a title releases.  If the quality of its additional content stays at the current level, then the NX is in for some hefty add-ons that will more than likely be well worth the cost, should they decide to charge.

Splatoon was a high-risk for Nintendo, but one that looks to have paid off in the long-run.  Both the game itself and the DLC have, on the whole, got plus marks from those who have played it.  In the future, we might see Splatoon supporting new IP’s from Nintendo, but hopefully they won’t forget about the Inklings who captured so many new fans.

The risks Nintendo took with Splatoon have allowed for the possibility of a sequel on the NX with a better organised Nintendo online system a real possibility.  We’re down for Splatoon 2, but hopefully Nintendo will unlock their crazy side again and push new franchises for the NX too.