The Big Game: Splatoon

There’s a myth that Nintendo doesn’t make many new IPs.

It’s not true. This year alone the platform holder has put out Boxboy, Ironfall Invasion and Codename: STEAM, and its biggest games of the last decade have all been entirely original concepts – titles like Wii Fit, Wii Sports and Brain Training.

But perhaps the real reason that myth exists is that it’s been a while since Nintendo has developed a new set of characters – a ‘core’ game IP with mass-market appeal, like Mario, Zelda, Pokémon or Mario Kart. You have to go as far back as 2002, with the GameCube’s Pikmin, to find the last time Nintendo made such a game.

And it’s this that makes the impending release of Splatoon – Nintendo’s very unique take on the co-op shooter genre – so enticing.

“Nintendo is ultimately focused on providing great gameplay experiences that are fun, immersive and make people smile,” says Nintendo UK marketing manager Chandra Nair.  

“If that idea is best realised with an existing set of characters and an existing universe then perhaps that’s the direction the project will go in. It’s all about the idea and how it’s best turned into a great game. With Splatoon it just so happens that the mechanic of travelling through ink before bursting out and shooting begged for Inklings and Octopians, and for a very different premise to what other Nintendo IP could provide. And so, we have a brand new IP.”

Splatoon is a new genre for Nintendo – it’s a shooter – but ultimately it’s what Nintendo does best: multiplayer fun.

Chandra Nair, Nintendo UK

As you can probably tell from Nair’s brief description, Splatoon isn’t your typical co-op shooter. The game challenges teams of players to cover a map with paint by utilising an array of weaponry. These players – or Inklings – can also transform into squids and swim through the paint and even up walls to hide and rapidly move through the landscape. Rainbow Six, this is not. 

“It is a new genre for Nintendo – it’s a shooter – but ultimately Splatoon is what Nintendo does best: multiplayer fun,” explains Nair. “It feels like a Nintendo game and has all the values that you’ve come to expect. So fans are going to love it.”

The media that have played the game are certainly optimistic. MCV got hands-on with Splatoon at E3 last year, and although we only managed to play a small slice of it, we had a lot of fun. Since then, Nintendo has been showing more of the game to the press, and the response has been positive.

“The first time we played Splatoon, we knew that it was good and that we had something special on our hands,” says Nair. “It’s always nice to have your suspicions confirmed and it’s been amazing to read all the great things about it since last E3. In last week’s Nintendo Direct we revealed a lot more about the game and showed once more that it does listen to its fans by committing to an update that will add a whole host of online multiplayer match options.”

Indeed, it’s all well and good the media’s enjoying the game, but Nintendo needs to generate that level of optimism among its core fans. And it’s doing so by allowing Wii U owners to try it for free with its Global Firetest online game beta.

Says Nair: “If you love Mario Kart, the chances are high that you’ll love Splatoon. Games of this quality and distinction don’t come around very often and we’ll be shouting from the highest rafters for all to hear. If you own a Wii U, you need this game.”

Nair says that Nintendo is targeting a similar audience to Mario Kart 8 with Splatoon. 

“And by that I mean everyone,” he says. “We have TV campaigns for kids, 12 to 25 year-old boys, Nintendo gamers and the wider gaming fraternity.” 

There will also be out-of-home digital displays, all of which will utilise the game’s rather unique art style.

There are a load of non-Wii U owning, lapsed Nintendo fans out there who will be tipped over the edge by Splatoon.

Chandra Nair, Nintendo UK

This may be an untested new IP, but to Nintendo it’s a possible Wii U system seller.

“If you don’t own a Wii U, you need one for this game,” begins Nair. “And Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3, Super Smash Bros, The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors and so on”

He continues: “We’re targeting Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros owners but we’re using this opportunity to talk to lapsed Nintendo fans, too. Wii U has a fantastic software line-up and there really is something for everyone. There are a whole load of non-Wii U owning, lapsed Nintendo fans out there who will be tipped over the edge by Splatoon.”

Without a Pikachu or a Mario attached to it, Splatoon may seem like a risky project. What’s more, the co-op shooter is everywhere these days – there are recent hits like Destiny and Evolve, and there’s more to come, such as Rainbow Six: Siege. But Splatoon to these games is a bit like comparing Gran Turismo to Mario Kart. This is a very Nintendo take on what has traditionally been a core gamer genre, and that alone makes Splatoon worth paying attention to.

TO DYE FOR

Alongside the arrival of Splatoon is a trio of Amiibo (left).

There’s Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy and the Squid Amiibo toys. These unlock in-game challenges and allow gamers to access different clothing for their characters.

And some of these Amiibo are already in short supply. Not bad for a set of characters without any previous history.

“I genuinely don’t know what the magic element is,” says marketing manager Chandra Nair. “It’s classic Nintendo though, that spark of magic that you can’t quite explain but just is. As soon as I saw the Inkling Amiibo I wanted them in the same way that I wanted the Yoshi’s Wooly World Amiibo; the same way I needed Charizard and Toon Link... and all the others. Aaarrgghh, damn you Amiibo.”

SPLAT ALONE

Splatoon may have traded on its online co-op shooting credentials, but there’s a lot more to the game than that.

It has a series of modes and options, including local multiplayer, as well as an entire single player campaign that mixes puzzle elements with shooting. 

“Up until very recently we’ve only talked about the multiplayer because that was the basis for the versions of the game we’ve showed off so far,” says Splatoon’s UK marketing chief Chandra Nair. 

“But there will be a satisfying single-player aspect that sees characters taking part in more traditional challenges. Three Amiibo also unlock a further 60 challenges. Splatoon is a game that you can enjoy on your own or with a friend in the same room. But it comes into its own online.”