We’ve been looking over Nintendo’s stable of studios to find out what is coming next by analyzing and examining their histories and current statuses. At this point, we’ve covered all of Nintendo’s fully owned teams, both internal and external. Now we move on to the second-party studios.
These groups all have varying relationships with the company. Though all the teams listed here have had at least one game funded and/or published by Nintendo, some have more of a connection with them than others; a few have made games exclusively for Nintendo’s hardware while others have only made one or two.
Either way, they all have the potential to create something in the near future, even if some of the studios have a higher game quality than others. Since there is such a high amount of content to cover this time, I unfortunately won’t be able to go quite as in-depth as before for every single studio, but this should give a fair look at just what all these studios are.
In January 2000, Alphadream — previously known as Alpha Star — was founded and ever since, they have been mostly single-minded when it comes to what games they develop or at least the ones that make it to the States. Though they have created several minor Japan-only games for the Game Boy Color, the Game Boy Advance, and the DS, their primary work is on the Mario and Luigi series.
Starting with Superstar Saga in 2003 for the GBA, they followed the game’s success up with Partners in Time in 2005 and Bowser’s Inside Story in 2009, both for the DS. Their most recent release was Mario and Luigi: Dream Team last August for the 3DS.
When it comes to major games, they seem to be developed fairly slowly. Though Partners in Time was a mere two years after its predecessor, Inside Story and Dream Team each took four years to develop. Because the latter sold over a million copies and certainly made a tidy profit, there is no doubt that Nintendo has asked them to make another game. Another Mario and Luigi is a pretty obvious guess as to what they are making now, though another Japan-only game first seems unfortunately likely. Hopefully, this one comes to the States for once.
Ambrella is a Pokemon spin-off house. Starting with Hey You, Pikachu! for the Nintendo 64, they went on to a develop a few others, such as the Pokemon Channel for Gamecube and Pokemon Ranch for WiiWare. They now focus on the Pokemon Rumble series, the most recent of which — Pokemon Rumble U — was released last August.
I see absolutely no reason why the company might change in the near future. More Pokemon spin-offs are basically a given at this point, as that is all they have ever done. Whether it will be another Rumble game or something new remains to be seen. Because they are fairly small in terms of team size, I doubt that we will see anything anytime soon, but hopefully, it ends up being quality.
Arika has joined Nintendo’s stable of second-party developers recently. Originally created in 1995 out of ex-Capcom members, they went on to develop a large amount of Street Fighter EX games alongside Capcom. They developed a plethora of other, not particularly well-known, games as well. They most recently took charge of the the Bust-a-Move (2011) and Tekken 3D (2012) games for the 3DS.
They made their first game with Nintendo in 2007 with Endless Ocean. Soon after this, they released Dr. Mario Online RX for the WiiWare and Dr. Mario Express for the DSiWare. Endless Ocean 2 followed the year after that.
In 2011, we discovered they had been working on a variety of 3D Classics for the 3DS eShop: remastered retro games that had been improved and given 3D visuals. They did five at first and then, in early 2012, went back and did Kid Icarus for the impending launch of Uprising. Dr. Luigi, their newest game, was released for the Wii U eShop on December 31.
This studio clearly has talent and I think they have a lot of of potential currently untapped. I can’t say I have any idea what their next project is, as their games have been rather inconsistent — though, if I had to take a guess, I’d say Dr. Mario 3DS. However, given that they have not gone more than a year without releasing a game in over a decade, I think we’ll see their next project very soon and hopefully, their next game fulfills their potential.
Arzest was formed in 2010 partially out of key members of Artoon — a now-closed studio that worked on games such as Flingsmash and Yoshi’s Island DS with Nintendo. Not a ton is known about the new team, but they did help in a small way on a few games, such as Wii Play: Motion and StreetPass Mii Plaza.
Their first game recently released: Yoshi’s New Island for the 3DS. It is hard to judge the quality of a studio so soon after their first game releases, but considering that it is a new team with only one announced game after three years, I don’t expect them to have another in development. What they might make next is something to be considered and it could be absolutely anything. This is their beginning project, so it is impossible to predict their pattern. However, with a mixed reception to New Island, only some of us will be getting excited to see what’s next.
This is without a doubt one of Nintendo’s less consequential studios. Their first game was Freakyforms: Your Creations Alive! for the 3DS eShop, which was followed up with a sequel in Freakyforms Deluxe in 2012. Since then, they have been completely quiet. Whether we will see anything from this studio, let alone what it might end up being, is still up in the air. It seems that this is a small group, so I doubt it will end up being anything bigger than an eShop title for either the 3DS or the Wii U.
Camelot Software Planning
Camelot was originally a Sega studio where they exclusively developed the Shining series. After a brief stint with Sony making golf games for the PlayStation whilst still trying to pull away from Sega, they joined Nintendo where they started off with a Mario Golf title for the Nintendo 64.
They quickly became the primary developers of Mario sports games or at least, the Mario Tennis and Mario Golf series. The other franchise they are responsible for is the Golden Sun RPGs. Their most recent games have been Golden Sun: Dark Dawn for the DS in 2010 and Mario Tennis Open for the 3DS in 2012.
They have Mario Golf: World Tour set to release this May, also for the 3DS. Camelot has traditionally been a studio which only has one game in the works at a time and that’s pretty clear, as their past several releases have been around two years apart. I find myself doubting that they have another game in development currently and if they do, it is likely still in the planning stages.
It will be fascinating to see what they do next, however. Mario Golf or Tennis for the Wii U is probable, though a new Golden Sun is also a possibility. Dark Dawn didn’t sell fantastically, though, so I suspect we may have seen the end of that series. With luck, it will be something brand new, not to mention ambitious, as clearly this is a hugely talented studio that still has a lot of potential.
Curve is a small indie studio. Though they have worked on a few other games, their Nintendo titles have been limited to the Fluidity series, the second of which released for the 3DS eShop last year. Though I doubt that the series will continue, it does seem plausible that they will continue a partnership with Nintendo in some way. I fully expect some sort of eShop game at some point in the future.
GameFreak is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Nintendo’s most important second-party studio. They are the developers of the main series Pokemon games ever since Pokemon Red and Blue came out in 1996 and they haven’t deviated much from developing the series since.
Their last game was, of course, Pokemon X and Y last October and, if history is anything to go by, we will see some sort of adjusted version of those games later this year. Perhaps it will follow in the vein of Pokemon Black and White and we will receive sequels instead. There is also the possibility of getting a remake of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire.
In non-Pokemon developments, the studio is very flexible. Recently, they have begun to make more downloadable titles, which they use to funnel creativity back into their Pokemon games. Their first was 2012’s HarmoKnight and followed up with a solitaire/horse-racing game last year. It seems likely that we will get another this year, though there is no possible way to imagine what it might be.
Ganbarion’s main franchise are the One Piece video games published by Namco, but they have occasionally partnered up with Nintendo as well. Pandora’s Tower, the third game in the Operation Rainfall movement from a few years back, has thus far been their only experience developing a game for the company by themselves, though they did help some on Wii Fit U.
They have a new One Piece game set for release at some point in the future, but it is always possible they have another game in the works. Though Pandora’s Tower didn’t sell, that they continued to have a working relationship with Nintendo in Wii Fit U makes me think that perhaps we’ll see something more from them in the future. I’d imagine it will be another new IP of some sort if anything, but time will tell.
Starting off with Pokemon Colosseum in 2003 and followed by Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness in 2005, this is a group that started as yet another Pokemon spin-off house, doing little else that is of particular note. Recently, however, they started changing things up.
In 2012, they released The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave for the 3DS eShop, which was followed up by a sequel in 2013. Then, they did a third game in the franchise, which has not yet been localized. Whether or not they will continue the series, I cannot say, but I would not be surprised in the slightest to see that happen.
Good Feel has created several educational video games in the past, but those aren’t exactly what they are known for. Though they have also helped with games such as Wii Play: Motion, Mii Force for Streetpass Mii Plaza, and Mario and Luigi: Dream Team, they became popular, thanks to their platformers.
Starting with Wario Land: Shake It for the Wii in 2008, they followed up with Kirby’s Epic Yarn in 2010. Both have been generally well received and now, we’re receiving their next confirmed game: Yarn Yoshi for the Wii U. Obviously, not much is known about it at this point, not even a release date. Based on the studio’s history, it appears that they only have one major title in development at a time — though they might work on smaller projects on the side, or help out on someone else’s game.
Grezzo’s first game was Line Attack Heroes for the WiiWare. They followed up with a game that really got people talking, however: a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the 3DS in 2011. Soon after this, they released Four Swords: Anniversary Edition for the 3DS eShop.
After that, they went quiet for a long time, only resurfacing recently to come out with Flower Town for StreetPass Mii Plaza last June. Naturally, there is the obvious assumption that we will see a remake of Majora’s Mask, also for the 3DS, and I think that is a very real possibility. They already have plenty of the assets and they have experience developing on the console. It’s an obvious choice financially for Nintendo and considering how well Grezzo did on Ocarina, I doubt Nintendo would look elsewhere if they want it made.
It has to be considered that they have been utterly quiet aside from a StreetPass game since 2011 and somehow, I doubt a Majora’s Mask remake would take that long to create. Which begs the question: could they be working on something bigger? I certainly hope so; clearly, the team has at least some modicum of talent if they were able to port Ocarina so well. Them expanding enough to work on a full-fledged title is tantalizing and, though I don’t expect them to be working on anything more than Majora’s Mask 3D, I certainly do hope.
This team works on fairly small games. Good examples would be Retro Game Challenge with Namco Bandai for the DS and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy with Square Enix for the 3DS. With Nintendo, they have created games like Electroplankton and most recently, NES Remix, which released last month for the Wii U eShop. A sequel is currently in development.
More partnerships with Nintendo seem more than likely, even if they don’t happen right away. Small eShop games seem a likely candidate for future projects, which are always nice surprises. I don’t expect anything huge in the future, but more pleasant eShop titles are more than fine.
Jupiter has participated in a great many titles, ranging from games for the Pokemon Mini to Spectrobes. Their one constant over the years has been Picross titles, however — their only releases have been Picross e games for the 3DS eShop, the fourth of which released in Japan late last year. Presumably, they will continue to release Picross games for the foreseeable future, though hopefully, they will try stepping out of their comfort zone again soon.
Though they have developed many medium-sized games for other companies (such as Rabbids Rumble, most recently), they have only joined with Nintendo for one franchise: the Art Academy series. Art Academy: Sketchpad released for Wii U last year and Art Academy: Lessons For Everyone! for the 3DS the year before that. Clearly, the relationship with Nintendo is ongoing and as such, we might just see more than Art Academy in the future, though it certainly seems that the series will continue for the time being.
Mistwalker is well known for being the current home of the creator of Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi. They have worked on a variety of DS and Xbox 360 games that were published by other companies.
The game that really got them noticed among Nintendo fans was The Last Story, the second game in the Operation Rainfall fan movement, published by Nintendo in Japan (2011) and in the States by XSEED (2012). They released two games for mobile in 2012 and since then, they have gone absolutely quiet outside of some Last Story-esque concept art posted on their website and Facebook page and a mention that the Wii U has many possibilities for an action RPG.
Obviously, there is not a whole lot of proof, but given that Nintendo is looking more to outside parties and that Mistwalker seems to have abandoned making small mobile titles for the moment, I certainly would not be surprised to see them continue their relationship with another JRPG, this time for the Wii U. I don’t fully count on it happening, though.
Monster has developed a name for themselves by creating several quality racing titles. Originally working on NASCAR games and the like, they released Excite Truck for the Wii in 2006, followed up with Excitebots: Trick Racing, and Excitebike: World Rally for the WiiWare in 2009. They tried out something a bit different for their next project, getting out one of the 3DS launch titles in Pilotwings Resort. They then ported Donkey Kong Country Returns to the 3DS with some help from Retro Studio, which came out last May.
Because of their great work putting Returns on the handheld, Retro asked Monster if they could help them out with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze as well and thus, Monster has worked on some art, level design, and engineering of the game.
Somehow, I suspect that Monster will be taking over the Donkey Kong platformers in the future. At this point, they have a lot of experience with how the games are made and considering that Returns 3D needed to be rebuilt from the ground up, they clearly have the talent. Though they would be quite suited to making more vehicular games as well, I have a feeling Monster will be taking over DK if Retro doesn’t want to continue making one of Nintendo’s most lucrative franchises.
Next Level Games
Next Level is well on their way to becoming Nintendo’s next most important second-party. Though they have made a few games with other companies, their biggest successes have been with Nintendo. Super Mario Strikers for the GameCube, Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii, and Punch Out!!!, also for the Wii, have all been created by them.
Their biggest and most recent title was Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3DS, which received critical acclaim and is what really brought the studio major popularity. They have not announced any new games; however, there has been no shortage of news and mentions about the company in the past year.
The first is that they are, in fact, hiring. Though it seems they have no intentions of expanding into multiple teams, they do seem to be needing more members for their next project, despite being determined to stay under seventy employees. There is also the fact that Miyamoto regards them in the same light as Retro Studios. Just this past month, they confirmed that they will exclusively develop games with Nintendo for the foreseeable future and stated that they are being given bigger and bigger IP to work with.
It seems to me that, at this point, they are gearing up for a major title, possibly for a franchise even bigger than Luigi’s Mansion and likely for the Wii U. What it might be is anyone’s guess, but they proved with Dark Moon that they have the talent to make games with best of them.
Though they have exclusively made games for Nintendo consoles, Noise only has Nintendo as a publisher for one series: Custom Robo. The most recent was Custom Robo Arena, released in 2006 in Japan for the DS. As mentioned, they do still make games for Nintendo consoles; the most recent example would be last year’s Gyrozetter: Wings of the Albatross for the 3DS, published by Square Enix.
I certainly would not be surprised to see another game by them show up sometime soon on a Nintendo console, but there is not anything to suggest that them and Nintendo will team up again immediately, let alone whether or not Custom Robo will make a return.
Paon hasn’t released or announced any games since 2008, outside of releasing old games on the Virtual Console. It brings up the question of whether they will anytime in the future, but we may as well assume they will. Aside from working on a few games, like the Klanoa: Door To Phantomile Wii port and Glory of Hercules for the DS, they are the primary developers of Donkey Kong spin-offs.
King of Swing for the Game Boy Advance, Jungle Climber for the DS, and Barrel Blast for the Wii were all developed by these guys. It doesn’t seem all that likely that we will get another new game from Paon, but if they do join forces with Nintendo again, I could see another DK spin-off happening.
Platinum is getting no shortage of coverage recently. Formed primarily out of ex-Clover employees (of Okami and Viewtiful Joe fame), they have created games with Sega, such as Madworld for the Wii and Infinite Space for the DS, as well as several high profile PlayStation and Xbox games.
Of course, we all know them from their recent partnership with Nintendo. They joined up to create The Wonderful 101, which released last September to mixed critical reception, and they currently are working on Bayonetta 2, a Wii U exclusive that set the Internet ablaze with controversy.
The current question is whether or not they will continue working on games with Nintendo. Wonderful 101 appears to have fallen significantly short of great sales, but it is possible that they made back enough money to do a sequel. Perhaps that is just hoping and wishing. It seems both parties benefited from the development, whether or not it did sell well. Nintendo apparently has treated Platinum well and Platinum is giving Nintendo high-quality games in a genre they are not well versed in.
If they do continue the relationship, there are plenty of possibilities. Again, I would love to see a sequel to The Wonderful 101, but it probably didn’t sell enough to be anything more. Another new IP would be fantastic and there is the ever prevalent idea of them doing a Star Fox title. Whatever happens, I think we can all agree that Platinum will give us a high-quality, insanely fun game — we can just hope that the relationship continues beyond Bayonetta 2.
Skip Ltd. has created multiple downloadable titles for Nintendo. They are the people in charge of the Art Style series for WiiWare and DSiWare, as well as Snowpack Park, and a few others. Notably, they create the games in the Chibi-Robo! series.
Their latest game, Chibi Robo! Photo Finder, came out for the 3DS E-Shop. It is all but guaranteed that we will continue to see more quirky downloadable games from them in the future and it will be fun to see what we get. More Chibi Robo!? More Art Style? New IPs? Time will tell, but considering the average size and development time of their games, I doubt we will have to wait long.
These guys have developed several wrestling games, as well as odd titles that never made it stateside. They have only developed one series with Nintendo, however: Style Savvy games, the second and most recent of which released in late 2012 for the 3DS. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another entry to the series, but for the most part, I can’t say I’m terribly excited to see what the studio does next.
Tose is a “ghost developer.” Since they were created in 1979, it is possible that they have participated in the development of over one thousand games, most without even putting a single staff member in the credits.
They have, however, developed a few games independently. The Legendary Starfy series is one of their creations, as is Super Princess Peach. Though we may not see another independent game from them anytime soon, they do seem to be pretty talented developers, so seeing something from them would certainly be nice.
Another Starfy seems likely at some point, but considering the insane amount of games they have been involved with, they could theoretically take on any number of genres. Hopefully, they try another game by themselves sometime soon.
Treasure has developed some renown for their shooting titles. They have created a few games with Nintendo, most prominently Wario World for the GameCube and Sin and Punishment: Star Successor for the Wii. Their last game was Gaist Crusher with Capcom for the 3DS in 2013. What their next project will be is anyone’s guess. They have a lot of experience with action games and shooters and personally, I would love to see what they and Nintendo could do if they were to join up again. They are rife with potential.
Vanpool has created Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, but they have not created very many games since then. They have helped out with some titles, though, such as Paper Mario: Sticker Star and a game in Wii Play: Motion. Their two franchises are the previously mentioned Tingle games and more recently, Dillon’s Rolling Western for the 3DS eShop.
The second Rolling Western, The Last Ranger, was released last year. I expect that we will see more downloadable titles in the future from the company and, though another Dillon game is possible, I don’t expect it. Either way, it’s hopeful that they come up with another cool idea for an eShop game.
In addition to Rock N’ Roll Climber for WiiWare, Vitei has crafted the Steel Diver series alongside Nintendo Entertainment and Analysis Division Group 5. They are currently working on a free-to-play Steel Diver game for Wii U. As they are a small studio, there is almost no chance they have anything else in the works.
Though they primarily develop mobile games now, they have joined forces with Nintendo in the past for games like Elite Beat Agents. It seems unlikely that they will work together again, but you never know.
Red has made many low-profile games on many platforms. Their recent Nintendo titles include helping with the Fossil Fighters series on DS, the last of which released in 2011, as well as a several other games that never received much recognition or never made it to the States. There’s not a whole lot to this group.
That’s all for the second-party teams. Hopefully, this has helped shed some more light on what kind of partnerships Nintendo has with these studios. We will be back soon with the final part of the series: third-party collaborations.