Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Fire Emblem. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Starfox Assault. What do all of these games have in common? If you said Nintendo made them…well, that’s not exactly accurate.
Over the past few years, many classic Nintendo franchises have been handed off to other developers. Sure, Nintendo retains of all the rights and still publishes the final product, but the fact remains that lately, Nintendo themselves haven’t actually developed many of their top titles. For example: the last four portable Zelda games were all developed by Capcom (yes, I’m aware that Link to the Past was a port, but Capcom handled all of the porting, as well as programming the Four Swords add-on).
This is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the good side, we’ve got respected developers breathing new life into Nintendo’s mascots (look what Intelligent Systems did for Mario with the Paper Mario series, or Retro’s work on Metroid Prime). On the bad side, Nintendo’s crippling themselves by farming out their best material. If any of these developers for some reason decided to tell Nintendo to bugger off, the Big N could be up shit’s creek without a paddle.
I have no illusions that Nintendo can’t make great games on their own. But considering that the cream of the crop over the past few years has all come from independent developers, and considering how many problems Nintendo’s had lately, it could be yet another nail in the coffin.