Pikmin 4 is out tomorrow, July 21, and from the sound of it, the Switch game is pretty dope. Despite this, the series has only had four mainline games since the first entry launched on the GameCube in 2001. The games don’t perform as well as other first-party Nintendo games, with the best-selling entry, Pikmin 3 Deluxe, selling a little over two million copies, compared to say, Super Mario Odyssey’s 25.76 million units. Why is this? Well, series creator and Nintendo big wig Shigeru Miyamoto has a few theories.
In an interview from Nintendo’s “Ask A Developer” series, Miyamoto t noted to other company developers that he’s always wondered why the series hasn’t “exploded more in sales” despite so many people enjoying them. Then, he considered whether it’s because the real-time strategy series might be too difficult for some players. However, the interviewer also proposed that Pikmin might be emotionally fraught for some players as the titular little plant guys you throw at your problems in these games die frequently and in droves. Though Miyamoto concedes this is part of the stakes that make Pikmin appealing in the first place.
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“I get that people find it more difficult when death is a factor,” Miyamoto said. “But I think the franchise’s strength lies in its relationship with mortality. If something is irreversible, you need to figure out a way to prevent undesired things from happening. To try to prevent Pikmin from dying, you need to practice ‘Dandori’ (a Japanese term that means ‘to think about planning and efficiency in advance to get things done smoothly’). To me, that’s what makes this game unique. I think people find Pikmin difficult for two reasons: the controls and the depth of gameplay. I spent a long time mulling over how we could convey these points as ‘interesting’ rather than ‘difficult.’”
Despite this concern, Nintendo isn’t considering watering down the experience for Pikmin 4. Miyamoto said that the series while the series isiterative, Nintendo always tries to maintain what made the first game compelling.
“We were talking about how we want as many people as possible to play Pikmin 4, but if it’s not Pikmin-like enough, we won’t meet the expectations of those who’ve enjoyed the series until now,” he said “The first game provided a deeper challenge, while the second game was broader in terms of content, and we went back to something closer to the first one in Pikmin 3. But after thinking about it, I realized that we could do both. We could retain the depth of gameplay that makes Pikmin so interesting, while providing the functional support to address the challenges around controls.”
Outside of the main games, Niantic also released a mobile AR game called Pikmin Bloom, which the company is still supporting even after its recent layoffs.