Nintendo’s History of Spoiling Its Own Games Should Be a Cautionary Tale

The upcoming Metroid Dread is the first 2D game in the franchise in nearly twenty years. Some fans of the series are likely chomping at the bit for new information before it releases next month. Other fans are attempting to distance themselves from the hype and promotional material given Nintendo's history with its big releases. The most recent trailer for Metroid Dread spoils two very interesting and unexpected enemies that Samus will encounter. The first is that Samus will fight a typically benevolent Chozo. The other is that the space-pirate boss Kraid will also make an appearance, opening the door for Ridley to do the same.

It seems Nintendo can be just like its fans and amidst all the excitement spoil some things that would be best left for the players to see first-hand. The company has done similar things with 2017's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Game Freak's Pokemon Sun and Moon. If Nintendo isn't careful then one day a trailer may ruin the hype for a game because it spoilers something major. For now, though, if a player wants to go in completely blind to the newest entry in their favorite series, they should stay away from these trailers.

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Nintendo's History with Spoilers

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Given that Nintendo made its name not with gripping narrative-based experiences but with fun gameplay, it's a little more understandable that it has spoiled its own games within promotional material several times. Gameplay simply seems to be a priority for many of the company's titles. Is it a spoiler to say Mario defeats Bowser in Super Mario Odyssey? Only to people who have not played or heard of a Mario game before. The problem is when Nintendo attempts to use this one-size-fits-all method for its game trailers, seemingly forgetting that some games actually have spoilable plots.

Though the Wii U had a less-than-stellar run of games, Xenoblade Chronicles X is a highlight. Leading up to its release, Nintendo released a story trailer and launch trailer. Both of which, especially the launch trailer, showcase endgame footage and major story plot points. The game of the year winner, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, spoiled Dinraal the fire dragon's appearance only a few days before release through a Twitter post. Those who did not see the post surely remember the three dragons as some of the most breath-taking moments of the entire game. Though technically not developed by Nintendo, Pokemon Sun and Moon had a similar pre-release treatment with nearly every little detail about the Alola region being revealed before players could even get their hands on it.

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Metroid Dread's Spoilers

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Despite knowing what it did as comments are disabled on the aforementioned Xenoblade Chronicles X trailers, Nintendo seems to have not learned from those previous mistakes when creating the marketing material for the upcoming Metroid Dread. Within a day of announcing the title, fans already had access to lots of gameplay footage including the first boss who gives Samus the phantom cloak upon defeat. As the months went on, Nintendo has slowly been spoiling different aspects of the highly anticipated title. While it's great to see Nintendo marketing a Metroid game, it's concerning to see Nintendo sticking to this same formula. This is especially true since Metroid is one of the most lore-intensive franchises to the company's name with a lot of its storytelling coming from the atmosphere.

With the recent trailer, these spoilers have slipped from generally innocuous to borderline-major. In nearly every other Metroid game, the advanced bird-like race of aliens known as the Chozo was benevolent and kind to her. Many of the upgrades that Samus finds in her adventures were from these ancient Chozo statues. Yet, in Metroid Dread, it seems like at least one of them wants to kill her, like most things on planet ZDR. While the trailer thankfully did not spoil the exact reasoning behind this sudden change of the Chozo, this feels like something that would be best to not show in promotional materials. Relatedly, that very same trailer revealed that an old boss from previous games, the space-pirate Kraid, will also be returning. Again, the exact nature of Kraid's return isn't clear but it does confirm at least some space-pirate presence and seems to indicate that Ridley may also return.

What Nintendo and Others Should Learn From This

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In the age of the internet, some degree of spoilers for video games feels inevitable, be it Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit each scroll has the chance to spoil something. However, there is one place that players should not fear spoilers: official sources. Trailers and promotional videos need to find a balance between enticing prospective buyers and showing off the coolest stuff in the game without spoiling anything major. What counts as something 'major' is not always up to the developers, especially when it comes to long and storied franchises like Xenoblade Chronicles, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and Metroid. The return of Kraid might not be considered major by Nintendo, but for someone whose favorite boss in the series is Kraid, it definitely is. That same principle applies to lore-enthusiasts when seeing an antagonistic Chozo.

It's nigh-impossible to please everyone when marketing a new game, but Nintendo is the only major publisher and developer to continuously spoil somewhat large aspects of its game. While this style of marketing does let customers know precisely what they will be purchasing, it also takes away a lot of the community's ability to find things out on their own. There will likely be plenty more secrets and surprises in Metroid Dread and other Nintendo titles but these trailers could set a precedent. If Nintendo and others continue down this path then it's possible people will stop watching game trailers. It's possible a trailer could have enough spoilers that it kills all hype and the sales of that title are significantly less than anticipated.

Metroid Dread releases on October 12, 2021 for the Nintendo Switch.

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