Splatoon Is Incomplete, And That’s Okay

At midnight tonight, Splatoon will launch to the masses. Everyone’s excited – reviews, including Gamesided’s, have been overwhelmingly positive, the online functionality sounds great, and the gameplay looks to be one of the most creative twists on the shooter genre in years. However, some gamers have brought up a serious complaint: at launch, the game is decidedly incomplete.

Here’s what I mean. During the Splatoon Direct which happened three weeks ago, all sorts of things were announced. Weapon types, gear, and game modes were explained, and they all looked great. But what caught many people by surprise is how much content would be coming after the game released. At launch, there will only be five levels available for play. Ranked mode won’t be available for the public until certain global conditions are met, and in the coming months, more types of ranked battle will be added. Gear will work the same way: there is a good amount of gear available at launch, admittedly, but more will be added over time. From one perspective, this sounds like a great thing. More updates, for free? Who doesn’t love that? But the other perspective is that with if this content has already been planned, it should be in the game when at its releases, not coming months after.

At the end of the summer, Splatoon will be a complete title. But when it comes out tomorrow, it won’t be.

Now at the end of the summer, Splatoon will be a complete title. But it’s clear that when it comes out tomorrow, it won’t be. If, hypothetically, the game were to launch with its current amount of content and no updates incoming, players would without a doubt bemoan the lack of variety in short order. With no extra charges for the updates, this launch strategy isn’t the end of the world by any means. But why is Nintendo, a company that has historically been quick to delay games until they’re ready, launching a game in stages? Here are three possibilities.

Fun For Everyone

As a game, Splatoon has some unique characteristics that most gamers have never encountered before. Mechanics like switching from Kid to Squid, swimming through ink, and territory control are unique to the game. That said, casual and competitive-minded players alike will be entering these battlefields at the same time. If Splatoon were to release with all modes, gear, and levels, a casual player may not get the hang of it all at once, and would immediately be overtaken by hardcore players willing to put long hours into mastering the game.

Not all modes will be available at launch, and that’s totally fine.

In this sense, slowly releasing new content bit by bit fits in with Nintendo’s commitment to the casual player. But this time, instead of giving less experienced players an in-game boost such as a blue shell or a Final Smash, they’re giving players less to learn upfront. Less stages and modes streamlines the learning experience, giving players with less of a commitment to the game a chance to keep up with the hardcore player, knowledge-wise. From this perspective, the idea of disallowing team creation (for now) would also make sense: instead of hardcore players teaming up and mopping the floor with less experienced players, everyone will have time to come up with their own strategies and ideas before testing them out in a team setting.

School’s Out For The Summer

It isn’t just a clever headline either. Colleges are out for the summer, and primary schools aren’t far behind. What better time to release what Nintendo clearly feels will be a smash hit? Young gamers will have tons of time over the summer to pour into a new game, and missing this crucial period of time would keep the game from getting the exposure it would otherwise. 

Younger gamers with shorter attention spans may be more likely to enjoy this type of release as well: with new features constantly around the corner, kids who might otherwise get bored of the game will be wondering what comes next. The longer people play for, the more likely they are to get their friends involved, driving sales and opening up the world of Splatoon to an even larger audience.

Splatoon is ‘rolling’ out updates regularly this summer.

Nintendo Is Growing Up

The last possibility, and the one that’s most exciting in my eyes, is that Nintendo is taking a large, bold step into the modern era. As everyone already knows, Nintendo is slow to pick up on new technologies. Very slow. Adding friends to your Nintendo accounts is needlessly difficult, online play in Nintendo games has often been an afterthought, and voice chat, something that has been around since two generations ago, has still not made its way to the Wii U.

That said, Nintendo has started to innovate in new ways. Both Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS have offered incredibly high-quality DLC offerings. The eShop has become a bastion for digital games, housing an impressive number of successful indie games. Splatoon follows in this trend of innovation by testing a new distribution method, and it looks like Nintendo has learned how to do it the right way. This generation, more and more games have released incomplete or unpolished. Instead of going the lazy route, Splatoon is releasing as a standalone game that plays great out of the box, while constantly adding new features to keep things fresh. It might be a little bare bones to start, but this strategy is something that’s been meticulously planned out. If it’s well-received, Nintendo may continue to experiment with new models, which is good news all around.

What do you think? Is this a planned move on Nintendo’s part? Are they being lazy? Or am I massively overthinking things? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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