A few days ago, Nintendo held a Direct presentation on their upcoming new IP; Arms. The fast-paced, colorful brawler has been in the public view since its reveal in the Switch presentation in January, but this is the largest chunk of information about it that we have seen so far. Among other things, we found out that there would be a short multiplayer demo period, as well as new free content to be added after the game is released. Both things that Nintendo has done with another new IP in recent memory; Splatoon.
The similarities between Arms and Splatoon just keep building. Both have similarly colorful aesthetics that blend well with Nintendo’s pre-established worlds, and both are big new IPs for a company who hasn’t had any since Pikmin in 2001. Splatoon definitely looked promising before its release due to its original gameplay ideas, likable character designs, and stellar music and Arms has all that in spades. It’s not too shocking then, that Nintendo would choose to support both games in similar ways. However, this has some mixed implications for Arms and its future.
On the one hand, Splatoon was a huge success, selling over 4 million copies in the two years since its release. With a sequel arriving soon, it’s clear that Nintendo is adding Splatoon to their catalogue of iconic game series, and if Arms can garner even half of Splatoon’s success, it would be impressive. A similar content release system could be the way to get it this success, especially if Arms has anything to match Splatoon’s ‘splatfests’. The thing is though, that Splatoon’s system of releasing new content was mostly there to save the release version of the game from floundering. On release, Splatoon was priced lower than most WiiU titles, and to many, the game felt lacking in content. There were no ranked matches, limited maps, and a decent but small number of weapons to choose from. By all accounts, it seemed like the game had been released unfinished, and Nintendo was playing catch-up by releasing new content. Could this be the case for Arms?
From what we already know, Arms is launching with ranked matches as well as several other single-player and multiplayer game modes, as well as ten characters and at least that many maps. From first glance, it doesn’t seem like it shares Splatoon’s content problems, but we won’t know if that’s truly the case until people have the game in their homes. If Arms does end up sharing Splatoon’s launch issues, it could spell the start of an unfortunate trend for Nintendo. If every new IP the company releases from this point ships with lacking content only to be filled in over time for free, it could be damaging for their image and hurt the games as well. If the post-release content is all new, however, then this system could be a great way to keep games alive for longer.
While not a Nintendo property, Overwatch is a recent and popular title that has a similar content system. While it released in a far better state than Splatoon did, Overwatch has been regularly updated with new Heroes, maps, game modes and even seasonal events since its release, with more coming as soon as later this May. As the most recent event showed, Overwatch fans can even look forward to new story-related content as time goes on. If Arms reaches Splatoon, or somehow even Overwatch levels of success, we might be looking at a rise in free post-launch content for multiplayer focused games. This would be interesting to see, as unlike paid DLC, there is seemingly no financial value in this system. Instead, it focuses more on keeping the community around a game alive, as well as allowing the developers to introduce new ideas that the entire player-base has immediate access to.
Whether Nintendo’s plans for Arms will work out or not remains to be seen. The content release system they used for Splatoon may have come about due to development problems, but it could potentially help Arms and other Nintendo IPs reach heights of popularity and success that they couldn’t have achieved without it. We’ll just have to wait and see.