Sakurai Explains Release Date Gaps on Latest Smash Bros. Games

Masahiro Sakurai

North Americans just got treated to the first release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, netting the game and amiibo on November 21st before any other region. However, Japan has the last laugh, because that region got the 3DS edition in mid-September, well before other regions did in early October. You might be wondering why this injustice is being done to your favorite Nintendo crossover brawler? Well, series director Masahiro Sakurai may have your answer.

In his latest Famitsu column, Sakurai explained the gaps between the release dates of both Smash Bros. games for 3DS and Wii U. His answer boils down to production schedules, marketplace scenarios, and the sale opportunity presented by the holiday season. What’s interesting is that he revealed that the Western and Japanese versions were completed at the same time, and yet manufacturing in different regions prevented a worldwide release.

Actually, the master up which means the completed software, was done roughly at the same time for all regions. So why did the release times differ? There are many reasons.

ROMs are made in factories. It isn’t like you could have an order completed only a few days after from ordering because it isn’t just about the software, as things like the packages and printed materials have to be arranged.

Much less in this case as several millions of mass produced copies are needed worldwide. As areas like North America are wide, it also takes time to deliver the goods to every shop. At any rate, please consider that a number of days are required for the sizable amount of arrangements.

In order to have a simultaneous release worldwide, it would be arranged in accordance to the latest release timing. So for the 3DS version that is October 3 and for the Wii U version it is December 6.

In the case of being particular about having a simultaneous release, if the scheduling was good perhaps there could be enough produced ROMs, too. However, from business and PR perspectives there are things like sales plans and the order of other software releases, so there are many matters to count.

In Japan, Monster Hunter 4G and Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire made restrictions. Also Youkai Watch 2 Ganso/Honke came out in the summer.

Domestically the business opportunity for Smash Bros. was in September. It couldn’t come out any sooner and if it were to slip off, it would have conflicted with other software. As this wasn’t the case in other territories, the decision to prioritize the Japanese release was made. There is a limited amount that can be manufactured, after all.

In Japan the word “Christmas sales war” is true as the year end is a busy business period. However, in areas like North America there is an earlier business opportunity. Thanksgiving. It is said that one third of the year’s home game software is shifted during this time, so it is very important to offer correct goods.

The reason that North America got the Wii U version of Smash Bros. first wasn’t just because of the 14 million copies of the series sold here. Black Friday affected its November 21st release, a date historically associated with Nintendo releases.

This day takes place on the fourth Thursday of November. In other words, November 21, which is commonly referred to as “the Nintendo day”, is very close to that, right? And the North American version of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U launched on that day.

Turns out, amiibo was also a strain in the final production throes of Smash Bros. for Wii U. As you’d expect, the figures aren’t so cheap to produce, and Sakurai’s comments about “stock shortages” may account for why a few figures are hard to find.

It is an especially hard thing to launch three dimensional objects, “amiibo”, at the same time. As they are three dimensional objects, the production cost is high and even in the case of stock shortages, the production increase can’t be done quickly. The timing of these two things had to be arranged.

And finally, despite that Pokémon X and Y proved that a worldwide launch was possible, it sounds like such wishful thinking was impossible for Sakurai and his development team.

If there is a possibility for a simultaneous worldwide release, that is absolutely preferred but every time this isn’t possible. It isn’t just a matter of simple delivery time or a matter of one software. Other things are widely considered before coming to a conclusion. Especially within the limitations of selling software anywhere in the world.

It may not be the answer you wanted to hear, but it is pragmatic and does account for market realities. We should be thankful for Sakurai’s frank honesty, which is missing in his daily Miiverse posts for the games. What are your thoughts on Smash Bros.’ staggered release dates?

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About The Author

Editor-in-Chief (Former)

A man with a plan. My favorite video game franchise is Pokemon, but his favorite video game is Resident Evil 4. I can also tell you trivial cartoon factoids.