Back when I discussed my idea for a Game Boy Classic, I made the following observation about a game that was released late in the Game Boy’s lifecycle:
Wait, Shantae had a Game Boy game? According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the game received positive reviews but was lost in the transition from the Game Boy Color to the Game Boy Advance (consider this a cautionary tale, Yooka-Laylee). (emphasis added)
Well, it appears that Playtonic has finally noticed the Wii-U-shaped cliff it was about drive off of, and has officially announced that it is “switching” focus to Nintendo’s latest console:
The Playtonic team is sad to confirm that despite our best efforts and exploring every possible avenue, we’ve encountered unforeseen technical issues that unfortunately mean it will be impossible for us to release the game on Wii U as initially planned.
We can however confirm the exciting news that we are now working very closely with Nintendo to look to bring Yooka-Laylee to the upcoming Nintendo Switch. We’re looking forward to exploring the opportunity and will have more details to share early next year.
First of all, if anyone really believes that this decision was based on technical issues, I have a bridge to sell them. This is just PR-speak for “We know we promised to bring Yooka-Laylee to the Wii U, but we’ve decided that expending effort to bring the game to an all-but-dead console is a stupid idea, so we’re shifting our focus to the Switch instead.”
That said, this is absolutely the right move for Playtonic to make. Yooka-Laylee is shaping up to be a fantastic game, and to release it on a Nintendo console that even Nintendo has mostly abandoned makes no sense, especially considering the game will (at best) be released a month after the Switch debuts. Playtonic might annoy some fans and Kickstarter backers in the short term with this decision, but they’ll make more money and the game will have a much stronger legacy and be more-fondly remembered in the long run.
Playtonic’s already taken one step in the right direction by offering backers the chance to switch from their promised Wii U copy to a copy for a different console (including the Switch), as well as the option of a full refund. That last option is key, as there are undoubtedly some backers out there who only have a Wii U and aren’t planning on getting a Switch, and those backers are completely hosed without a refund option.
Of course, Nintendo is a clear winner from this decision. Adding Yooka-Laylee to its first-year lineup makes the Switch even stronger, and if it takes a little more time to finish the game (Playtonic’s statement implies that Yooka-Laylee won’t make it to the Switch in April like it will to other consoles), there’ll be plenty of other titles (Mario, Splatoon, etc.) to fill the gap.
The line about Playtonic working “very closely with Nintendo” makes me wonder how big of a role Nintendo played in this decision. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the Big N has been whispering in Playtonic’s ear for months now lobbying for this decision: Hey guys, you don’t really want to put this game out to pasture with the Wii U, do you? Come be a part of our awesome first-year Switch lineup instead. It wouldn’t surprise me if Nintendo even offered to lend some of its development muscle to the Y-L team to speed up the console transition process.
Overall, as someone who a) didn’t back Yooka-Laylee on Kickstarter and thus has no skin in the game, and b) is extremely hyped for the Nintendo Switch, I’m okay with what’s gone down here. Playtonic’s decision to “Switch” means Yooka-Laylee will avoid a Shantae-esque fate and get the exposure it deserves, and Nintendo’s outlook for 2017 will get even brighter.