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It’s been a surprisingly long amount of time since we last had a mainline Pikmin game. Pikmin 3 released on the Wii U back in 2012; since then we’ve gotten varied reports from Miyamoto on the game’s development. In July 2015 he claimed that the game was “very close to completion”, yet in June 2017 he said that “”We can confirm that Pikmin 4 is in development but that is all we can confirm at present.” You can click here for a source on those statements.
At first one may think that the game was only being delayed so that it could release on the Switch, rather than fade into obscurity on the Wii U. However, a rumor arose some time back stating that what may have started as Pikmin 4 is now a Pikmin reboot, which you can read about here.
I’m convinced that this rumor is most likely true. This would explain the apparent pushback of the game’s release as well as the surprising lack of information we’ve gotten about the game. Pikmin has always been in an awkward spot of being just successful enough to warrant sequels while still flying under the radar and failing to become one of Nintendo’s popular IPs. I think it’s likely that Nintendo is dissatisfied with the series’ performance and is experimenting to see if they can give Pikmin broader appeal. Consider the release of Hey! Pikmin: nobody asked for a Pikmin platformer on the 3DS. Why would they release such a thing? Because they’re not confident in the direction the series has been going and are dipping their toes in the water to see if the franchise can see greater success in a different genre and on a different platform.
What’s my point in all of this? Well, Pikmin has always been one of my favorite Nintendo franchises, and I’m worried that if we get a reboot rather than a sequel, we might end up with a game that betrays the gameplay of the original Pikmin trilogy, resulting in a new direction for the franchise that leaves long-time Pikmin fans disappointed.
With the release of the Switch and its mainstream appeal, I think we’re going to see the release of a Pikmin game that incorporates some fundamental changes in order to boost the franchise’s mainstream appeal; what other reason would there be for a reboot, if indeed it turns out to be one? Put more plainly, I think they’re going to dumb down the gameplay into a shallow, simpler experience in order to corral more newcomers into the franchise. We may very well be reverted back to only working with red, blue, and yellow Pikmin.
I’m sure fans of the series as it stands would be put off by such a notion, preferring to see the games become more intricate rather than less so. Such fans better hope that with the January Direct comes the announcement of Pikmin 4 rather than a reboot, because if we get the latter, those of us who want the franchise to retain its gameplay will be disappointed.