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Road to NX: An Analysis of Nintendo’s Developers part 1

EDIT: shifted some of the F-Zero information between EAD 1 and EAD 5.
EDIT2: I removed N-Stars as I believe it is actually Yokai Watch 2 now.

So originally I had planned this article to be a lead in to E3, to give people some awareness of what rumours may be true and what to expect from Nintendo next month. Then Nintendo themselves crushed all this by revealing that not only will we not see the NX at E3 2016 but that only Zelda Wii U would be shown. Despite this, I am still going through with this article as I still believe it is important for all Nintendo fans to know. What are Nintendo actually working on right now? I see people all the time throwing out hopes for a new game in their favourite series without really thinking it through. Nintendo are a company with a ton of divisions that all specify in specific series so, for example, it is unlikely that we would get a new Splatoon game and a new main line Animal Crossing game really close to each other as they share a team, or at least they were.

One important thing to understand before going into this article is that in September 2015 Nintendo completely reshuffled their internal development teams in Japan. Rather than having Nintendo EAD and SPD making games they got pulled into one group now known as Nintendo EPD. Alongside this, any division that originally was focused on hardware, UI and Amiibo got formed into two other divisions now known as Nintendo PTD and Nintendo BDD. These divisions are so new and generalized that it is now harder to figure out what they are making; however, I still believe that my work is relevant and here is why. Many of these studios have been working on games for a while, probably Wii U games, but many of them have now been ported over to the NX and delayed until 2017 much like with Zelda. These projects would not have been scrapped when the reshuffling happened which means they are probably all still being developed within Nintendo EPD.

One thing that I need to make clear is that it is near impossible to tell if we will get another Splatoon type deal and have a brand new-IP. I do think it might be happening from some studios due to the success of  Splatoon but this is stuff you cannot predict. So unless I feel really confident that a new IP is being developed I am going to stick to already existing franchises. But remember, Nintendo has released a new IP every year since 1983 so there probably are some in development currently.

Before I jump right into this I want to say one final thing. I am not claiming that these results are 100% accurate but rather they are my logical conclusions based on how long these developers have gone without making a game, their past trends and what makes sense from a business perspective. I am going to split these results into three articles as they are quite text heavy. This article will be dedicated specifically to the studios that now form Nintendo EPD, while the second article will be Nintendo’s other 1st party studios and article 3 will be about 2nd party studios that often work with Nintendo but the company does not own. So, without further ado let’s look at one of Nintendo’s most successful divisions: EAD 1.

Nintendo EAD 1

Nintendo EAD: Software Development Group No. 1

Series known for
-Mario Kart (since DS)
-F-Zero (partially)
Recent Games
-Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, 2014)
-Mario Kart 7 (3DS, 2011)
Average Development Cycle
-3 years
For this team it is pretty self-explanatory. They are primary developers of the Mario Kart series and are most likely making a Mario Kart for the Nintendo NX. There is always one on every system and it usually comes out just after a year of the systems life-cycle. The real question here is, are they working on anything else? This same team also made the two Nintendogs titles alongside Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 7. If we followed that tradition then it seems likely that the team is also working on another, smaller, title along with Mario Kart NX. However, in all likelihood, Mario Kart NX is probably a high development intensity game and so maybe the team cannot focus on another game at this point. That is unless they are also making a portable Mario Kart for mobile phones. This smaller project could be worked on alongside the main console NX game and if that is the case it will definitely come out in 2017

As a side note, F-Zero and F-Zero X were worked on by some members from EAD 1 & EAD 5. In recent years, Nintendo seems to be looking for external studios to work on the franchise, like how Sega developed F-Zero GX, so it is unlikely they are working on a new F-Zero game at this moment in time. This makes it hard to figure out which team would work on the F-Zero series as EAD 1 had the most experience with racing games however EAD 5 got more members from the original team.

Nintendo EAD 2

Nintendo EAD: Software Development Group No. 2

Series known for
-Animal Crossing (Since Wild World)
-Wii Sports/Play/Music
-Mii Channel/WaruWaru Plaza
-Star Fox Command (co-developed w/Q-Games)
Recent Games
-Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer (3DS, 2015)
-Splatoon (Wii U, 2015)
Average Development Cycle
-3-4 years for Animal Crossing
-2 years for everything else
This team is the main Animal Crossing team and is currently in a very interesting position. With the development of Splatoon, Nintendo brought in all of its youngest developers and placed them in EAD 2 under the Animal Crossing director and assigned them to make a brand new IP; the rest of EAD 2 were assigned to stick with Animal Crossing and released the spin-off, Happy Home Designer. With Splatoon still getting updates and the rumour of an NX port, it seems that a very small portion of this team is still working on the game; however, the majority of staff in this division have likely come together to make a new game for the NX launch. This team was responsible for both Wii Sports and Nintendo Land so it seems likely that they would be making another game designed to show off the new features of Nintendo’s next system. It may not necessarily be a mini-game collection like Nintendo Land as the game failed to push hardware like Nintendo had hoped. That is unless, like Wii Sports, this new game comes bundled with the NX and is free to everyone.

As a side note, I do think the team is also working on a new main line Animal Crossing game and I think they have been working on this since New Leaf launched. However with all of their other projects, it keeps being put on the back-burner, but expect them to focus on it after they have gotten this launch game out.

They may also be working on the Animal Crossing mobile game with DeNA as it is said to connect with main console Animal Crossing titles. However the scope of this game is not known currently so the size of the team is hard to judge.

Nintendo EAD 3

Nintendo EAD: Software Development Group No. 3

Series known for

-The Legend of Zelda (Since the Collector’s Edition/Four Swords Adventures)

Recent Games
-A Link Between Worlds (3DS, 2013)
-The Wind Waker HD (Wii U, 2013)
Average Development Cycle
-5 years for a console game
-3 years for a handheld game
Just like EAD 1, it is pretty obvious what this team is making. All their attention will be on The Legend of Zelda for Wii U, which is already confirmed as an NX launch game as well.

Nintendo EAD 4

Nintendo EAD: Software Development Group No. 4

Series known for
-Yoshi Touch & Go
-2D Mario games
-Big Brain Academy
Recent Games
-Super Mario Maker (Wii U, 2015)
-Pikmin 3 (Wii U, 2013)
Average Development Cycle
-3 years for Mario
Thanks to an interview that came out last September, we know that this team is currently working on Pikmin 4. At this point it seems unlikely that the game will be coming out for the Wii U which means it will likely be a launch game for the NX.

This team also works on the 2D mario games and because Super Mario Maker just came out we are unlikely to see a New Super Mario Bros game at launch. Maybe a few years into the NX’s life cycle instead. One rumour we do have is saying that Super Mario Maker may see an NX port for launch and this means that this team would be working on that as well. They are still supporting Super Mario Maker with more content, similar to Splatoon, so there is at least a small part of this division still working on the game.

Nintendo EAD 5

Nintendo EAD: Software Development Group No. 5

Series known for
-Wii Fit
-Steel Diver
-Star Fox
F-Zero (partially)
Recent Games
-Star Fox Zero (Wii U, 2016)
-Star Fox Guard (Wii U, 2016)
-Steel Diver: Sub Wars (3DS, 2014)
Average Development Cycle
-2 years
Thanks to the credits for Star Fox Zero we now know that Nintendo’s internal studio that was making Star Fox Zero alongside Platinum Games was EAD 5. It is also likely that they were the developers of Star Fox Guard as well, alongside Miyamoto. This also means that they are probably working on Project Giant Robot, assuming the game has not been cancelled. Because Star Fox Zero just came out it seems unlikely that this team will get anything else ready for the NX launch.

F-Zero and F-Zero X were worked on by some key members of EAD 5 prior to joining this division. Most of the members joined EAD 5 and with how relatively busy EAD 1 tends to be doing the bigger game, Mario Kart, it seems probable that EAD 5 would work on an F-Zero game if Nintendo ever tried to make one in-house again. However we really don’t know which is why I mentioned it in both.

Nintendo Tokyo 1

Nintendo EAD: Tokyo Software Development Group No. 1

Series known for
-Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
-Super Mario Galaxy
-Zelda portable Remakes (co-developed W/Grezzo)
-Apps (Wii U Panorama, Louvre Guide)
Recent Games
-The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (3DS, 2015)
-Nintendo 3DS Guide Louvre (3DS, 2013)
Average Development Cycle
-3 years
This is a very small division that has recently been focusing on lighter Nintendo 3DS projects. Most of the main team got moved over to Tokyo 2 after Super Mario Galaxy and it would not surprise me that after the reshuffling they have gotten even smaller. As both Nintendo 64 Zelda games have seen remakes it seems unlikely that this team is working on another Zelda remake. I believe this team also made Super Mario 64 DS so it may be that they are working on a remake of another Nintendo 64 game or instead a GameCube game. If any team is making Super Mario Sunshine HD it will be this team but there is no proof for that. If this team does not release a game within the NX launch window then it will likely be soon after.

Nintendo Tokyo 2.2

Nintendo EAD: Tokyo Software Development Group No. 2

Series known for
-New Play Control DK Jungle Beat
-3D Marios (Since Galaxy 2)
-Flipnote Studio
-NES Remix (co-developed W/ indieszero)
-Captain Toad
Recent Games
-Captain Toad (Wii U, 2014)
-NES Remix 2 (Wii U, 2014)
-Super Mario 3D World (Wii U, 2013)
Average Development Cycle
-2 years for 3D Mario*
-1 year for others
*Too few games to get an accurate average for development time. Likely 3 years.
The last big EAD group has its main focus on the 3D mario games and we are certainly due one. The big question on everyone’s mind though is what sort of 3D will this game use? The Galaxy style, the 64 style or the 3D Land style? If I was to guess I would assume the latter and if  that is the case then it will certainly be ready for the NX launch. If it is in the style of the other two then it will probably be within the launch window, maybe even the holiday title for 2017. Either way, we are getting a 3D mario game in 2017 for sure so look forward to that.

Nintendo DEG

Nintendo EAD: Development Environment Group

Series known for
-Mario Artist
-3D Mario
-Jungle Beat
-AR Games
Recent Games

-AR games (3DS, 2011)

Average Development Cycle

-2 years

In all likelihood this team has now been absorbed into Nintendo PTD. I think they rarely made games, only focusing on special gimmicks like the Wii Motion Plus and the 3DS’ AR. Maybe they are making an app for the NX.

Nintendo SPD 1

Nintendo SPD: Production Group No. 1

Series known for
-Rhythm Heaven
-Tomodachi Life
-Smaller original titles (Nikki, Kiki)
Recent Games
-Miitomo (Mobile, 2016)
-Rhythm Heaven Megamix (3DS, 2015)
-Game & Wario (Wii U, 2013)
-Tomodachi Life (3DS 2013)
Average Development Cycle
-2 years jumping between Wario and Rhythm Heaven (except 2006)
-4 years for Tomodachi Life
This team could also be thought of as the Sakamoto division as their main focus is basically any game he directed. Recently they worked on Miitomo with DeNA and it is entirely possible that a new Tomodochi Life was being developed at the same time. 2017 is the right time for a new one and so we could see the first console Tomodochi Life game with the Nintendo NX, along with connections to Miitomo. Nintendo SPD 2 also has a second team who specializes in the WarioWare and Rhythm Heaven series and judging by their usual development cycle we could see a new WarioWare game in 2017. This would also line-up with the fact that a new WarioWare game launched with the DS, Wii and Wii U with a focus of showing off weird ways the systems gimmick could work. If the NX has such a gimmick, then a WarioWare game using this is likely.

Nintendo SPD 2+

Nintendo SPD: Production Group No. 2 (3 & 4)

Series known for
-Yakuman/Mahjong DS
-Brain Age (co-developed W/ Nintendo SDD)
-Co-Produced a lot of games
Recent Games
-Yosuke Ide’s Health Mahjong DSi (DSi, 2009)
-Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U, 2015) (Co-Developed W/ Monolith soft)
Average Development Cycle
I included this team because they have made their own games with the Mahjong series as well as had a big investment with Brain Age. However it seem this team’s main focus was co-developing games with other studios. To what extent they worked on other games I do not know but they worked on a lot of games simultaneously. It is unlikely they are working on their own game currently. Along with this team is SPD 3 & 4 who were in charge with overseeing games made by other Nintendo associated studios, with one being focused on outside of Japan and one within. Neither of these two work on games either so I am including it here.

Nintendo SDD

Nintendo SPD: Software Development & Design Department

Series known for
-Jam with the Band
-Brain Age
-Photo Dojo
-Touch Generations
-AR Games
-Console UI (as UI development Group)
Recent Games
-Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball (3DS, 2014)
-Band Brothers P (3DS, 2013)


Average Development Cycle
-3 years for band brothers
-1 year for everything else
It is very possible that this team has been working on the NX’s UI for the last few years. However with this reshuffling that task has been assigned to Nintendo PTD instead. We don’t know yet if that means this team has been split up between EPD and SPD or fully absorbed by one of the divisions. We do know that they made games though so they could definitely be working on something new and if they are we will likely see one in the NX launch window. It could be a new Band Brothers game or it could be an update to Streetpass if the NX also uses it.

The focus of this team seems to be smaller and more unique experiences. This makes me think that if Nintendo are making an amiibo focused game (something like skylanders and disney infinity) then it will be these guys who are making it. It fits their repertoire. 

This covers it for all of the teams that have now been fused into Nintendo EPD. All of their projects are likely still being developed even after the restructuring even if the teams have been somewhat changed. So, how many games can we expect then from this team. Well here are my conclusions (all of these dates are just rough guesses):

  • Animal Crossing (mobile): October 2016: already confirmed for a fall release
  • Project Giant Robot: January 2017: One final game for the Wii U in anticipation for the NX. A light game that fills this gap
  • Bundle game (i.e. Wii Sports): March 2017: Done for the NX launch
  • Zelda Wii U/NX: March 2017: Done for the NX launch
  • Splatoon port for NX: March 2017: Done for the NX launch
  • Super Mario Maker port for NX: March 2017: Done for the NX launch
  • Tomodachi Life for NX: March 2017: A game aimed at more casuals and to fill the gap of an Animal Crossing game
  • Mario Kart (mobile): Q2 2017: Probably the last mobile game of Nintendo’s initial 5
  • 3D Mario game: May 2017: It won’t be for launch because another big Mario game will be at launch (look forward to article 2!)
  • Wario Ware NX: July 2017: Keep the pace of NX games coming, this would fill the gap between the major spring and summer games
  • Pikmin 4: August 2017: Nintendo’s major summer game for the NX
  • HD port of a GameCube game: Q1: 2018: Fits with the release of their previous remakes. Also just after christmas is a good time for a light game like this
  • Mario Kart NX: Q1/2 2018: This will be Nintendo’s big hype game for after the launch window games, to keep people invested in the NX
  • Animal Crossing NX: Q2/3 2018: I am sure once the NX launch games are out of the way then all focus is going to move onto this game for 2018

These are not all the games we can expect from Nintendo, I still have two more articles after all and many more developers to get through. After this merger it is also possible that I have not got all of Nintendo’s games as their new team structure is still a mystery. For example, I don’t know what Nintendo’s 4th mobile game that will probably come out between Fire Emblem and Mario Kart mobile is. However, the purpose of this article was to make you all aware of what you might be able to expect. Don’t believe any rumour at face value as many can be crushed by just looking to Nintendo and seeing whether it really is possible for this game to be released. And also don’t take my research as 100% fact. This is all my view based on my research but I can’t say that this is the definite truth but let me know if you think I have gotten pretty close to what you imagine. Would this line-up be enjoyable for you all? Or is there a game that these studios make that you wish they were making instead? Let me know in the comments below and look forward to the end of this week when part 2 of this article will come out.

Link to Part 2


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  1. A few errors. First of all, the SPD teams. There’s former SPD1 (Sakamoto’s team) that did WarioWare, Rhythm Heaven, and Tomodachi Life plus Metroid, Kiki Trick and Wario Land 4. They got moved around in 2014 I think.
    The current 3 SPD teams follow as SPD 1(Hitoshi Yamagami’s team); Pokemon, main Kirby, Fire Emblem
    SPD2 (Kensuke Tanabe’s team) – almost everything else
    SPD3 (Hiroshi Sato’s team) – Mario Party, Mario & Luigi, Mario Sports, Mario & Sonic, Fatal Frame

    As for EAD, it gets a bit confusing as staff get shifted around a lot. i.e. Splatoon was produced by Animal Crossing’s former director but aside from Monolith Kyoto, almost no one on that team worked on an Animal Crossing game. I generally think about it in terms of the project leader

    Also, F-Zero X had a couple key staff move to EAD1 but some key staff went to EAD5 (who also worked on Star Fox) and the rest are all over the place.

    Astrogamer on May 10 |
    • If you want to get super technical then there are no current SPD teams. They were all removed with the 2015 merger. I don’t know what your sources are for everything else but the three SPD teams you listed are the overseeing teams that i listed. I mean, the only thing that sounds different is that you are saying SPD 1 got a name change basically, as they were still making Rhythm Heaven Megamix in 2014-15.

      I know EAD, staff get shifted around but EAD 2 is still the animal crossing team. What happened is they gathered all of their young staff from across Nintendo and placed them in EAD 2 under the ex-animal crossing directors care. The rest of EAD 2 still made animal crossing games (i.e. happy home designer).

      I wasn’t sure about the F-zero one in its entirety as the current team layout as i described above happened in approx. 2005 which was long after F-zero X, the last in-house made f-zero game. I knew some of the key staff got moved to EAD 1 and due to that team being primarily behind racing games I imagine they are the team that would make an f-zero game, if Nintendo ever wanted to make an in-house one. EAD 5 would be the other team though as it is an off-shoot of EAD 1 basically.

      Nantendo on May 10 |
      • For my source on the SPD teams, the fact that Sakamoto’s team got moved around is speculation since SPD2 is now SPD1 according to Nintendo with their E3 profiles in 2014 where they listed Hitoshi Yamagami as the manager of SPD1 when for the longest time, his group was referred to SPD2 and none of his apparent roles had changed. Additionally, I saw some interviews for Fatal Frame V recently that list Toshiharu Izuno and Akira Otani as SPD3 (when they were formerly SPD4) here confirming my suspicions fully.

        As for why I know all this stuff, I’ve been researching this stuff a while by compiling credits on Nintendo wiki and Kyoto Report.

        Astrogamer on May 11 |
  2. After the big news, I did a similar rundown in a Facebook note just to gather my thoughts. Fortunately, this rundown is much clearer!

    Based on financial projection and comment from Kawashima, it seems that Wii U software is through and that 3DS still has some games on the way (unless “N-Stars” is cross-platform). Pikmin 4 was never confirmed for a specific platform, so it’s vaguely possible that it could be a 3DS games. As for Project Giant Robot, Miyamoto confirmed that it’s “on hold”, so a Wii U release probably isn’t in the cards.

    Igiulaw on May 10 |
  3. While there hasn’t been a new F-Zero game for more than a decade, I actually think that franchise is manged by EAD 5. Some of the key staff of F-Zero X (like Tadashi Sugiyama and Takaya Imamura) have been behind games like Steel Diver and Wii Fit, as well as supervision on recent Star Fox titles. Hideki Konno (head of Mario Kart) has never been involved in the F-Zero franchise.
    In fact, I remember Miyamoto mentioning in an interview that Takaya Imamura was too busy with Star Fox Zero to develop any new F-Zero game.

    RBMNintendoGamer on May 10 |
    • Oh ok. I knew that the staff for F-zero X was split between EAD 1 and 5 but i thought most of the key members were placed in EAD 1. I will make a note.

      Nantendo on May 10 |
    • Do you have a link to that interview? It would be really helpful.

      Nantendo on May 10 |
      • Found it, he mentioned Imamura in the Smosh interview:
        Another thing that could solidify the EAD5 Star Fox & F-Zero management are cameos in each franchise (James McCloud as an F-Zero racer, the “G-Zero Grand Prix” on Star Fox Command), although maybe that’s not enough proof, but it’s rather significant.

        RBMNintendoGamer on May 11 |
  4. So some thoughts on EAD 1, since I’ve dug into them in particular in looking at this same issue…

    First off, while they did have Nintendogs + Cats and Mario Kart 7 in development at the same time, the studio wasn’t exactly big enough for both – they brought in Retro to work on Mario Kart 7, along with a core team of 8 at EAD 1. (Source is the Iwata Asks about Mario Kart 7.)

    They were planning to bring in staff that had been working on Skyward Sword, but it was delayed, so they needed to find someone else, and went with Retro. So the whole idea that each team is a fixed size, and has a fixed capacity, is not really accurate – staff moves between the teams. Zelda U’s delay may be causing issues for other games from other teams, again.

    Additionally, while the average development time looks like three years if you just look at the years in which software was released, I don’t think really accurate – Mario Kart 8’s 2 1/2 years seems to be the longest they’ve ever taken. Mario Kart 7 came out 3 1/2 years after the prior one, but from it’s Iwata Asks we know development didn’t start until January 2010, less than 2 years before its release.

    Hideko Konno was one of the producers of the 3DS, and worked on StreetPass in particular, mentioned in the Nintendogs + Cats Iwata Asks. That seems to be part of what they were working on in the gap between working on Mario Kart games.

    So, if they started on Mario Kart NX after 8 launched, even if it is a launch title it’ll still be the longest any Mario Kart game has been in development. It’s possible they didn’t start until the DLC was finished, but I’d be surprised – the Mario Kart 7 process was one year of the core team of 8 working on it before bringing in more people, and I suspect the one year of DLC was done while the core team was working on the next game, so the rest of the staff could just switch over to that after finishing DLC. (Though that’s speculation, there’s a lot less design and programming needed for DLC.)

    Another possibility is that they were working on NX software, as they did with the 3DS.

    (And of course a mobile game is a possibility, though I’d lean towards Nintendogs rather than Mario Kart.)

    Ondo on May 11 |
    • Thanks for the information. I am aware that teams are not fixed sizes but more often than not they usually have the same amount of teams running at the same time, size based on what is available and scope of the project.

      Also I know Nintendogs could be a mobile game, heck we could get both Mario kart and Nintendogs IMO. Both are EAD 1 though so even if we get one that could be their other project still before Mario kart NX (or along side it)

      Mr. Nantendo on May 11 |
  5. So would your next article be on second party developers like Game Freak, Intelligent Systems and Camelot Software Planning

    Isaac: Venus Adept on May 11 |
    • That is the third article. The next one is on studios like NST, HAL, monolith, retro, etc.

      Also Intelligent systems is actually owned by Nintendo

      Mr. Nantendo on May 11 |
      • Thanks for letting me know. Looking forward to the next article

        Isaac: Venus Adept on May 11 |
      • I’m pretty Intelligent Systems is like HAL. Very close partner and Nintendo owns their IPs but there is no formal ownership of those two companies. In relation to HAL, that is why Warpstar Co. had to be created when the Kirby anime was being made similar to the Pokemon Company except much smaller scope.

        Astrogamer on May 11 |
  6. I don’t think that zelda wii u will be also for NX

    Lucas Petrin on May 11 |
  7. Not worried here about the software cause Zelda is promised for a double launch and like the rest of the series it’s guaranteed it will be quality gaming and good for months of play and replay 🙂

    There will be some extra software surprises for sure and besides Nintendo i hope for Monolith and Rare and Platinum masterpieces!

    As for the hardware.. i realy do hope it will be a console with current gen specifications and architecture and no not just for the graphics the WiiU has great graphics and framerate but the majority third party support is based on the specifications and architecture.

    Thanks for this site and article i will keep both in mind for news and discussion.

    Happy gaming to all ^.^ aye sir!

    jehannes on May 13 |