We saw the Paper Mario rumor come true last week, so why not focus on another rumor that's been making the rounds lately? Is Pikmin going to make its way to Switch in the near future? We certainly hope so, and would love to see it find some success. As always, thanks for reading.
Nintendo is known as having some of the strongest franchises in gaming. Mario is a household name that rivals the popularity of Mickey Mouse. The Legend of Zelda is a franchise that gamers far and wide know, and recent installments have set new sales records. Pokemon is an unbelievable phenomenon that has been crushing it for over 20 years now. These are mega franchises that continue to drive Nintendo's sales into the stratosphere, and bring in new fans at every turn.
Now not every franchise can be a mega-hit. For every big-name brand, there's other characters and series' that still bring in the money, but on a smaller scale. Pilotwings is a perfect example, as hardcore Nintendo fans know and love the franchise, but it's not something the wider base of Nintendo followers are all that into. The same goes for something like Chibi-Robo, which definitely has a group of players that truly appreciate it, but it's not bringing in fans by the millions. While these franchises are still important to round out a portfolio, they seem quite unlikely to top the sales charts in the future.
Then there's a franchise like Pikmin, another of Nintendo's titles that hardcore fans know of, but gamers in general might not be aware, or have any interest in it. Pikmin is indeed a strange one when it comes to attention, as it's definitely bigger than Chibi-Robo, but it's not anywhere near the success of Kirby, Metroid, and so on. It floats somewhere in the Nintendo ether, bouncing back and forth between popular and ignored. While not a completely unknown by any stretch, Pikmin has never gotten a major moment in the gaming spotlight. The question is, will that ever happen?
When you take a look back at Pikmin's history, you can see why the franchise has struggled to find footing among Nintendo's biggest and brightest brands. The series debuted on the GameCube, which was a platform beloved by millions, but it certainly didn't amass a major install base. As we've seen with other Nintendo platforms, the size of the install base for a console/portable can really limit the reach of a game, and unfortunately for Pikmin, it didn't have the best vault into the gaming market. A sequel to Pikmin followed up on the GameCube later in the system's life, making for a bigger install base of potential customers, but a smaller number of gamers who were looking to buy new content for the system.
After that, Nintendo followed up the GameCube with the Wii, their most successful home console to date. The system was a bona fide hit with gamers and expanded audience alike. It was the perfect platform for Nintendo to reach audiences like they never had before. Unfortunately, Nintendo decided not to release new installments for the Pikmin franchise on the system. Instead, they created two "New Play Control" re-releases for Pikmin 1 and 2, which were pretty much the same games as on GameCube, but with a new style of control. These titles, while certainly not a flop, didn't do much to woo in new customers. Even worse, New Play Control: Pikmin 2 didn't come to North America until 2012, 3 years after it hit other regions.
Then, in the worst bit of luck yet, Nintendo decided to create a new Pikmin game for the Wii U. Pikmin 3 is an absolutely fantastic game, and it really put the Wii U's GamePad to excellent use. The game was praised by review outlets across the board, with a few calling it the series' best entry yet. Sadly, the Wii U never found any notable success when it came to hardware sales. That meant games like Pikmin 3 had a smaller pool of potential customers to pull from than ever before, which is an absolute shame.
Then there's the footnote of Hey! Pikmin, which came to the 3DS in 2017. Rather than the next true installment in the franchise, Nintendo cooked up a spin-off with Arzest. This release, while completely new, seemed to rub a large majority of people the wrong way. Those who weren't familiar with Pikmin found the game to be overly simple and repetitive. Pikmin fans who grabbed the game found it to be a restrictive and watered-down experience as compared to the main series. Not exactly the finest moment for the series according to many.
That short history brings us up to today, where fans are wondering what's next for Pikmin. There have been rumblings for a long time now about Nintendo's next release in the franchise, with Nintendo even confirming that Pikmin 4 was a thing. All the way back in 2015, Shigeru Miyamoto himself said that Pikmin 4 was "actually very close to completion." That was followed-up by a Nintendo statement in 2017 saying that the game was "in development." Whether that was a shelved project or Hey! Pikmin was never clarified, leaving fans to wonder just what on earth happened.
In recent months, the rumblings of a Pikmin game on Switch have been growing. Various corners of the internet shared stories of Pikmin being in the works for Switch, and a release not being far off. Just recently, reports have said that the Pikmin title coming to Switch will actually be Pikmin 3 Deluxe, a revamp of the Wii U entry that never got a real shot at finding an audience. Nintendo has done a number of Wii U to Switch re-releases, with almost all of them being a sizable success over the original versions. While previous rumors have been a bit iffy, the sources behind this one certainly make it seem like Pikmin 3 Deluxe is a real thing.
While Pikmin has struggled since it first launched on the GameCube, we could be nearing the perfect storm to take the franchise to the next level. The Switch is quite a success so far, and it continues to grow. Switch owners have proven that they're more than willing to grab Wii U re-releases, so there's no reason to think they wouldn't do so for Pikmin 3 Deluxe. The Switch also plays host to a larger base of traditional gamers who are definitely more likely to pick up a game like Pikmin 3 Deluxe than the expanded audience players that also own the platform. Throw in the Switch's multiple methods of input, and you could see how Pikmin 3 Deluxe on Switch could be the perfect place for the franchise to flourish.
The only thing that really stands in the way of Pikmin's success is Pikmin itself. The game is a real-time strategy/puzzle title, which isn't exactly a genre Nintendo dabbles in too often. It's also a genre that is going to be more limited in its appeal as compared to platformers or action/adventures, which is certainly where Nintendo's bread-and-butter is. The genre demands a laser focus on what you're doing, as there are real costs to your second-to-second decisions. One minute you could be wandering around in a peaceful environment collecting resources, the next you're losing 50 Pikmin in battle with a giant beast. This risk/reward approach might be appealing to some, but the gameplay mechanics could prove too stressful for others.
That's not to say Nintendo can't find a way to bring Pikmin to the forefront. Again, all it takes is a perfect storm, and we've seen that happen somewhat recently. Fire Emblem games outside of Japan were pretty much an afterthought, and any release that made it to NA/EU just didn't seem to attract much attention. Things got so dire for the Fire Emblem franchise that Nintendo was ready to call it quits, but they decided to give things one last shot. That desperation brought out Fire Emblem: Awakening, the installment that single-handedly turned Fire Emblem into a major franchise worldwide. The 3DS was the perfect platform, the changes to previously harsh gameplay mechanics enticed newcomers, and the marketing campaign was top-notch. Nintendo found that special combination of all elements to make a breakthrough installment that is still paying off to this day.
There's no reason to believe this couldn't happen with Pikmin on the Switch. If Pikmin 3 Deluxe is the real deal, it has a good shot at becoming the best-selling installment in the franchise. As stated earlier, some of the puzzle pieces are in place. The Switch is a success, customers are snatching up games, and Wii U ports are doing very well. With the right marketing push and a few quality of life changes to assuage fears, Nintendo could finally give Pikmin a bump up in their roster of franchises. If Pikmin does come to the platform, it's going to be really interesting to see how Nintendo spreads the word.
The only thing that's 100% certain about the Pikmin franchise is that it definitely deserves more attention. The games have been critically praised from day one, and they without a doubt show Nintendo's amazing attention to detail, unique approach to gameplay, and whimsy that only they can cook up. The universe is a joy to explore, the characters are equal parts adorable and intriguing, and the series provides an atmospheric experience unlike any other Nintendo titles. There is indeed a place in the market for Pikmin, and hopefully the Switch helps the series find its way.