Over the weekend our lovely folk in the video team posted a detailed chat, above, asking a simple but intriguing question — “Why hasn’t the Metroid series traditionally sold well?” It’s a good question, and it feels like one with a lot of varied answers. Let’s summarise a few, before shifting to a fully optimistic outlook on the upcoming Metroid Dread.
The number one best-selling game in the series, it seems, is Metroid Prime, which was a revelation for the franchise but also in gaming at the time. Retro Studios produced a showcase not only for the GameCube, but of 3D gaming technology, coupling it with incredibly atmospheric settings and shifting from the series’ explorative 2D gameplay to the third dimension and a first-person perspective, doing so in a way that made the leap obvious and elementary.
Even taking into account the potential incompleteness of these figures (which can’t account for Virtual Console downloads across multiple generations of Nintendo hardware, for example), the fact that sales figures for the series put the best-seller at below three million is a sure indication that the series has never truly taken off, at least not by Nintendo’s lofty standards. While many devoted Nintendo fans reel off the Metroid name alongside the likes of Mario and The Legend of Zelda, the reality is that the actual sales have never been in the same ballpark. Though some may disagree and argue over examples, Nintendo has also tried various approaches to push the brand — 2D games on console and handheld, the Prime series, attempts to focus on multiplayer. It’s never quite worked on a mainstream level, even when some of the games have been critically acclaimed.
While many devoted Nintendo fans reel off the Metroid name alongside the likes of Mario and The Legend of Zelda, the reality is that the actual sales have never been in the same ball park.
As discussed in the video, it does seem like Nintendo has been both unlucky and a little error-prone with the series. The Prime series is wonderful, but two of the games were on GameCube, a system that struggled to sell; only the Wii U has done worse for the company as a home console. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was perhaps a surprise in its struggles, though Nintendo then made Metroid Prime Trilogy more of a retail collector’s item so it never had the opportunity to take off; remember, in the Wii era you could not download retail titles, the infrastructure wasn’t in place.
Even more recently, Metroid: Samus Returns is an excellent game that arrived on 3DS after the Switch had been on the market for around six months. Players with a limited budget to buy games would have hesitated about buying a new 3DS title when they wanted to sink their money into either picking up a Switch or growing their library on the new hardware.
You can go through many releases and find various factors that may have held Metroid back, but a key issue is that the IP has never quite found a foothold in Japan. Not only will that be disappointing to the creative teams throughout the series’ history, but it will have influenced Nintendo’s focus on the IP; in fact as a franchise with relatively modest sales it’s had more than its share of games. When you combine awkward release times, development cycle challenges and the fact it’s not a banker in Nintendo’s domestic market, it’s no surprise that support has been uneven.
The hope will be that it can be a breakthrough moment in a similar manner to Fire Emblem: Awakening on 3DS, when a near-abandoned franchise took off and became a staple of Nintendo’s first party output.
Despite all this, though, perhaps Metroid Dread is actually arriving at a good time for a change, and on popular and still lucrative hardware. In fact, as we’ve riffed on in the headline, the hope will be that it can be a breakthrough moment in a similar manner to Fire Emblem: Awakening on 3DS, when a near-abandoned franchise took off and became a staple of Nintendo’s first party output. Perhaps Dread, unlike many of its predecessors, could be lifted to heights that recalibrate Nintendo’s focus, and prioritisation, of the series and its upcoming games, from Metroid Prime 4 and beyond.
Though the E3 Nintendo Direct emphasized it as ‘Metroid 5’, it wouldn’t surprise us if a lot of marketing — particularly that on social media and TV advertising — shies away from that sequel focus. As a gateway to the series, instead, Dread has an opportunity. It’ll arrive on the same day as the Nintendo Switch OLED model (8th October), so will benefit from the increased attention and publicity of that updated hardware. That will be in the beginnings of the frenzied Holiday shopping season, also, and will sit alongside Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl on shelves through November and December as a very different option as more and more consumers browse Switch titles.
The Switch continues to thrive and sell in significant numbers, and we’ve already seen how that interprets into giving franchises renewed sales growth; perhaps unlike the days of the Wii, as an example, there’s clearly a significant attach rate of Switch owners buying a variety of games, especially anything first-party. Dread will have a new system iteration, early festive sales, even Halloween vibes with that name all in its favour. If Nintendo pushes the boat out and invests in heavy marketing, which would seem likely at this stage, it could become the best-selling Metroid game of all time; that’s not exactly a lofty target, but it could go far beyond what its predecessors achieved in pure sales.
Perhaps, after misfires, bad luck and unfortunate chains of events, the Metroid series will have a true blockbuster hit. If so, a fan-favourite series could finally break through to mainstream sales success. If Fire Emblem can do it, Metroid definitely stands a chance.
It was April 2019 and Melinda French Gates was touring to promote her book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, when she opened a window into her marriage to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
The hardest things to write about, she confided to an interviewer from CNBC, were “moments in our marriage where I was asking Bill for more equality”. Her story, she said, was “also the story of millions of women”.
A few months later, Melinda would do something unhappily familiar to many millions of women: she consulted a divorce lawyer. Then this May the Gateses announced, via Twitter, that they were ending their 27-year union. They were doing so, they explained, “because we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives”.
The story appears to be more complicated than that. Melinda’s decision to seek counsel came just after a report in The New York Times detailing Bill’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who killed himself in a Manhattan prison cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges that he trafficked under-age girls for sex. Bill has said he regretted the relationship, and that he only met Epstein to discuss philanthropy. Still, it was, to say the least, an association jarringly at odds with The Moment of Lift’s message.
Like so many marriages — and divorces — the intricacies of the Gateses’ union are a mystery to those outside it. But unlike others, the Gateses’ rupture is a matter of global interest and has far-reaching consequences, given their immense wealth and public profile.
It has championed vaccines with the modest goal of ending childhood mortality and eradicating diseases like polio. Over the past year, in particular, the Gateses have become a familiar and soothing presence in living rooms around the world, helping television viewers understand a terrifying new pandemic and how it may eventually be brought under control.
When announcing their break-up, Bill and Melinda insisted they still believed in the Gates Foundation’s mission — to help all people lead healthy, productive lives — “and will continue this work together”.
Despite the promises of an amicable split, each has assembled an armada of divorce lawyers. In the tightly-controlled world of the Gates Foundation there are now murmurs of dissent and doubts about whether the organisation can hold together as currently constituted.
“I think people are freaking out a little bit,” one former senior executive said soon after the announcement. “People are really worried that the credibility and standing of the foundation is in jeopardy now, especially in areas like gender empowerment.”
That announcement has only added to the speculation around Melinda, and what her next chapter holds. Over the years she has progressed from an intensely private, behind-the-scenes figure to a leader comfortable in the spotlight and increasingly possessed by a singular cause.
“I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives,” she declared in Time magazine in October 2019 — around the time she was consulting divorce lawyers — as she pledged to invest $ 1bn to support gender equality. Speaking at Harvard University last month, after she was awarded its Radcliffe Medal, Melinda professed her admiration for other emblems of female empowerment, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
“Clearly she had a very different perspective [from Bill],” says Martin Levine, a consultant who has long followed the Gates Foundation, pointing to a conflict between the prototypical smartest man in the room — whose Microsoft fortune gave rise to the foundation — and his wife’s “emerging sense of empowerment”.
A former executive also sensed a potential for rivalry. “She must have felt some of that pressure to show she was an equal,” this person says. “There were times he was so dismissive of everyone in the room, including her.”
Melinda now joins Laurene Powell Jobs and MacKenzie Scott, formerly Bezos, in a unique club: they are tech billionaires’ former spouses who are suddenly unbound and free to chart their own philanthropic course.
“She has the ear of leaders and she can get to talk to G7 finance ministers, but also she’s the person who can interact deeply on the ground. I mean, watching her in the field — she’s an amazing, very empathetic listener,” Mark Suzman, the foundation’s chief executive, said of his boss’ talents.
“She’s going to be a force,” a former adviser predicted, “and the world will benefit.” In her argot, Melinda is preparing for lift-off.
Long before she met her husband, Melinda French had experience of brainy men who toil long hours outside the home, leaving the burden of child rearing to their wives. Her father, Raymond, was an aerospace engineer in Dallas who worked on the Apollo missions that eventually put the first man on the moon. (Hence, the “moment of lift”).
Friends insist that, in private, the hyper-prepared Melinda is fun — as if this were inconceivable. (Melinda, meanwhile, long insisted in interviews that Bill had a tender heart, as if that were inconceivable).
She gives the impression that she is less enthralled by her vast wealth than she is coexisting with it. Often she tamps down its trappings to make social encounters less awkward. Among her greatest pleasures, she has said, are Monday morning walks with a close circle of girlfriends.
She remains an avid reader of spiritual writers like Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening. An early touchstone in her life was Ursuline Academy, the all-girls Catholic school in Dallas where Melinda attended mass five days a week.
It was at Ursuline that Melinda used an early Apple computer to learn programming. She went on to Duke University, where she crammed a degree in computer science and a masters in business administration into just five years.
Upon graduation in 1986 she appeared destined for an established multinational such as IBM. But a female executive there warned her that a woman could only go so far at such an established company. She would do better at Microsoft, then still a young and fast-growing software company in Seattle.
So Melinda headed north-west and encountered a world-changing company that was exciting but also unsettling. Colleagues did not just challenge one another in internal meetings — they tore each other to shreds, often seeking to imitate Bill. Like other women of that corporate era, Melinda sought allies and fretted about whether such an office culture could ever stretch to accommodate her.
About six months after arriving, she started dating Bill Gates.
Though Bill drew up a list of pros and cons on a whiteboard before proposing to Melinda, he later described their courtship in romantic terms that evoked F Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz-age classic, The Great Gatsby. “When we were first dating she had a green light that she would turn on when her office was empty and it made sense for me to come over,” Bill recounted in Davis Guggenheim’s 2019 Netflix documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain. It was a homage to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock that draws Gatsby in.
Others who saw them interact had a less rosy view of the atmosphere at the company and the relationship. One former Microsoft adviser, who found that its culture of arrogance and entitlement outstripped anything else in the emerging tech world, adds: “I remember everyone being shocked when they got engaged. People thought she was smarter than that. But she knew exactly who she was marrying.”
Melinda started out as a product manager for Microsoft Word. She went on to oversee the launch of its Encarta online encyclopedia, among other projects, eventually managing 1,700 people. She left the company in 1996 after the first of their three children was born, and — in spite of the Gateses’ resources — succumbed to the same loneliness and despair familiar to other new mothers. Her sense of isolation was compounded by the fact that the Gateses were moving into a vast new house Bill had commissioned before they married in 1994.
The Gates Foundation, which they launched in 2000, the year that Bill stepped down as Microsoft chief executive, was a means to channel the family’s vast wealth to address the great public health challenges of the age, using Microsoft’s smarts and ambition.
While it has largely been lauded for its good works, the foundation has also attracted criticism for some of the same unappealing traits commonly associated with Big Tech: the sense that its executives think they are smarter than others, and a sometimes domineering approach. With its size and lobbying muscle, for example, the foundation pushed controversial changes to US education policy, including smaller schools and more testing — only to admit years later that there was scant evidence these had improved matters.
“They’re like a tech company,” Levine says. “They’re quick to get in, and quick to get out.”
The Foundation softened Bill’s public image after his petulant performance at 1998 Congressional hearings investigating Microsoft’s anti-competitive practices. It also became the arena in which the Gateses wrestled to find a more equal footing in their marriage.
Melinda writes extensively about this challenge in The Moment of Lift. The book is both personal biography and a travelogue of her visits to impoverished corners of the earth where her encounters with women give rise to insights on public health and spiritual growth. It would sit comfortably on a bookshelf beside Clinton’s It Takes a Village and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.
“To me, no question is more important than this one: does your primary relationship have love and respect and reciprocity and a sense of teamwork and belonging and mutual growth? I believe all of us ask ourselves this question in one way or another — because I think it is one of the greatest longings of life,” she writes.
At one point Melinda says she complained to a friend of feeling “invisible” even while working alongside Bill.
The pair and their advisers studiously insist they have been equals at the foundation, where they work out of connecting offices. Suzman says of their working relationship: “Bill and Melinda sit at the end of a very long table in our conference room together and agree and make the decisions based on the inputs of often very vigorous discussions.”
But in the early days some staff did not always view the co-chairs as such. “There was a culture of wanting to please the parents, if you will, that created an environment where everybody was managing up to try to impress the co-chairs. And I think Bill probably got more of that attention just because of who he is than Melinda did,” one recalls.
Their approaches also differed. “You hear a lot about her being the human influence and that was certainly my perspective,” says Greg Ratliff, who spent a decade at the Gates Foundation working on education and is now a senior vice-president at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. “Bill loved the education technology tools and how they worked and how they accelerated learning — or didn’t. And Melinda cared more about what was the student experience? And how usable was it for teachers?”
If there was a defining moment in her gradual emergence as a public figure, it was the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning. She chaired the event, commanding the stage alongside then Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders. During a confident keynote address Melinda professed her conviction that contraceptives must be made widely available to women and pledged more than $ 1bn to the cause — provoking criticism from the Catholic Church.
“I think you know Bill and I are both big believers in innovation. That’s what drew us both to computer technology in the first place,” she said. “But today what I’m excited about is joining with you all to innovate on behalf of women. This, for me, is new, and this is exciting.”
Behind the scenes, there was a more subtle change that year. Melinda asked to co-author the annual letter Bill drafted for the foundation’s stakeholders. While it might seem a trivial matter, the letter is regarded within the foundation as a sort of State of the Union address. Bill resisted, arguing that the status quo appeared to be working just fine, according to Melinda’s recounting. Eventually, he consented to her writing an essay about her recent trip to Niger and Senegal that would be included in his larger note. The next year she had a bigger role. Then the following year she gained full equality as co-author.
In 2015 came another development, which some observers now regard as a step towards the Gateses’ eventual separation: Melinda launched her own investment vehicle, Pivotal Ventures, dedicated to women’s causes. In keeping with her cautious style, it launched without a press release or fanfare, and only came to light because some tech reporters stumbled on its website. Tellingly, it described Pivotal as “a Melinda French Gates Company” — a rare inclusion at the time of her maiden name.
Among the staff of 12 was one of Melinda’s closest advisers: Catherine St-Laurent, a communications specialist who later worked with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on their new foundation.
Pivotal now has a staff of about 90 and its own headquarters just across Lake Washington from the Gates Foundation. It has made more than 150 investments — both venture capital and philanthropic — all with the intention of closing the gender gap in the public and private sector. One is Ellevest, a financial management platform geared towards women whose chief executive is Sallie Krawcheck, the former Wall Street executive. A person close to Melinda describes Pivotal as “a place where she could think differently”. That is, it was hers.
“She really believes women are the fulcrum,” explains a former foundation executive who was close to Melinda.
Among Pivotal’s bets is a $ 40m “Equality Can’t Wait” initiative, which was funded last year with the recently-divorced Scott to provide grants to groups with transformational ideas to improve gender equality. Since divorcing Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, two years ago, the novelist has given away nearly $ 9bn, while shunning the limelight and seeming almost embarrassed she cannot rid herself of the money more quickly.
However Melinda proceeds, the question is whether she will be able to make the same impact without Bill, whose fortune enabled their initial lift. Then again, there may be benefits to standing on her own.
As Melinda once wrote: “I’ve been trying to find my voice as I’ve been speaking next to Bill — and that can make it hard to be heard.”
When Mike Park first heard about the recent shootings in Atlanta, he felt angry and afraid. But almost immediately, he had another thought.
“We can’t just sit back,” he said. “We can’t sit in our little enclave anymore.”
Born in South Carolina to Korean immigrants, Mr. Park grew up wanting to escape his Asian identity. He resented having to be the one student to speak at Asian-Pacific day and felt embarrassed when his friends did not want to eat dinner at his house because of the unfamiliar pickled radishes and cabbage in his refrigerator.
Now 42, Mr. Park embraces both his Korean heritage and an Asian-American identity he shares with others of his generation. The Atlanta shootings that left eight dead, six of them women of Asian descent, made him feel an even stronger sense of solidarity, especially after a surge in bias incidents against Asians nationwide.
“I do think this horrible crime has brought people together,” said Mr. Park, who works as an insurance agent in Duluth, Ga., an Atlanta suburb that is a quarter Asian. “It really is an awakening.”
For years, Asian-Americans were among the least likely of any racial or ethnic group to vote or to join community or advocacy groups. Today they are surging into public life, running for office in record numbers, and turning out to vote unlike ever before. They are now the fastest-growing group in the American electorate.
But as a political force, Asian-Americans are still taking shape. With a relatively short history of voting, they differ from demographic groups whose families have built party loyalties and voting tendencies over generations. Most of their families arrived after 1965, when the United States opened its doors more widely to people in Asia. There are vast class divisions, too; the income gap between the rich and the poor is greatest among Asian-Americans.
“These are your classic swing voters,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, president of AAPI Data. “These immigrants did not grow up in a Democratic household or Republican household. You have a lot more persuadability.”
Historical data on Asian-American voting patterns is spotty. Analyses of exit polls show that a majority voted for George Bush in 1992, Mr. Ramakrishnan said. Today, a majority of Asians vote for Democrats, but that masks deep differences by subgroup. Vietnamese-Americans, for example, lean more toward Republicans, and Indian-Americans lean strongly toward Democrats.
It is too early for final breakdowns of the Asian-American vote in 2020, along either party or ethnic lines. But one thing seems clear — turnout for Asian-Americans appears to have been higher than it has ever been. Mr. Ramakrishnan analyzed preliminary estimates from the voter data firm Catalist that were based on available returns from 33 states representing two-third of eligible Asian-American voters. The estimates found that adult Asian-American citizens had the highest recorded increase in voter turnout among any racial or ethnic group.
As relatively new voters, many Asian-Americans find themselves uniquely interested in both major parties, drawn to Democrats for their stances on guns and health care, and to Republicans for their support for small business and emphasis on self-reliance. But they do not fit into neat categories. The Democratic position on immigration attracts some and repels others. The Republican anti-Communist language is compelling to some. Others are indifferent.
Former President Donald J. Trump’s repeated reference to the “China virus” repelled many Chinese-American voters, and the Democrats’ support for affirmative action policies in schools has drawn strong opposition from some Asian groups. Even the violence and slurs against Asians, which began spiking after the coronavirus began to spread last spring, have pushed people in different directions politically. Some blame Mr. Trump and his followers. Others see Republicans as supporters of the police and law and order.
Yeun Jae Kim, 32, voted for the first time last year. His parents had moved from Seoul to a Florida suburb when he was a child and started a truck parts salvage business. Mr. Kim went on to graduate from Georgia Tech and then to a job at Coca-Cola in Atlanta, but, like his parents, he was so focused on making it that he did not vote, or think about politics much at all.
Last year changed his mind. But how to vote and whom to choose? He and his wife spent hours watching videos on YouTube and talking at church to a politically experienced friend, also a Korean-American.
“For me it was pretty hard,” said Mr. Kim, who described himself as “in the middle” politically. “There are certain things I really like about what the Democratic Party is doing. And there are certain things I really like about what the Republicans are doing.”
He wanted to keep his vote private. But he said that casting a ballot made him feel good.
“It made me feel really proud of the country,” he said. “Like everybody is in this together. It helped me feel connected with other people who were voting too.”
Part of the new energy in Asian-American politics comes from second-generation immigrants, who are now in their 30s and 40s and are forming families that are far more racially mixed and civically engaged than those of their parents. A new Asian-American identity is being forged from dozens of languages, cultures and histories.
“Right now, it is this coming of age,” said Marc Ang, 39, a conservative political activist and business owner in Orange County, Calif. His father, an immigrant from the Philippines of Chinese descent, came to California in the 1980s as a white-collar worker in the steel industry. The state is now home to about a third of the country’s Asian-American population.
“Suddenly we are top doctors, top lawyers, top business people,” said Mr. Ang, who pointed out that the approximately 6 million Asians in California are equivalent to the size of Singapore. “It is just inevitable that we become a voting bloc.”
Mr. Ang, a Republican, worked to defeat an affirmative action proposition in California last year. But he praised Democrats and their efforts to draw attention to the storm of slurs and physical attacks over the past year, which he said have been a galvanizing force, unifying even the least politically involved people from countries as different as China, Vietnam, the Philippines and South Korea.
More Asian-Americans are running for office than ever before. They include Andrew Yang, among the early leaders in the race for New York mayor, and Michelle Wu, the city councilor who is running for mayor of Boston. A Filipino-American, Robert Bonta, just became attorney general of California.
At least 158 Asian-Americans ran for state legislatures in 2020, according to AAPI Data, up by 15 percent from 2018.
Marvin Lim, a Georgia state representative, calls himself a 1.5-generation immigrant: He came to the United States from the Philippines when he was 7.
Mr. Lim spent a number of years on public assistance, and said his family “did not see the bootstraps working for us.” He became a civil rights lawyer and began to vote for Democrats because their values, he said, aligned more with his. Now 36, he won a House seat in Georgia in November, and last month met with President Biden during his visit to Atlanta after the shootings.
“I have never felt more like I mattered,” he said.
Anthony Lam, a Vietnamese immigrant who fled as a refugee in the 1970s and grew up working class in Los Angeles, had usually voted for Democrats. But as the owner of a hair salon in San Diego, he became increasingly frustrated with directives for coronavirus lockdowns and turned off by the unrest during Black Lives Matter protests. When he criticized the looting, he said some white Democrats chastised him.
“They said, ‘You don’t understand racism,’” he said. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. You get racism just now? I’ve been living with this for 40 years.’”
Mr. Lam voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. He supported Mr. Yang in the Democratic primary last year. But he said he eventually voted for Mr. Trump, mostly out of frustration with Democrats.
Despite recent increases in political representation, some Asian-American communities still feel invisible, and some members argue that could lead to a rightward turn.
Rob Yang, a Hmong-American who owns shoe and apparel stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, grew up poor as a refugee. He has watched the turmoil in the wake of the George Floyd killing in his traditional, largely working-class Hmong community. His own stores were stripped of their merchandise during the Black Lives Matter protests.
Mr. Yang voted for Mr. Biden. He said that he supported the Black Lives Matter movement but that some in his community did not. Years of feeling invisible had frustrated and demoralized them.
The way he sees it, Asians still do not have enough of a voice, and he worries that the pressure of holding everything in for years is reaching dangerous levels. He said he worried that a populist Asian leader, “an Asian Trump,” could have a huge following by tapping into this frustration. “We’ve been holding it all in for so long, it will just take the right circumstances for us to blow,” he said.
For Mr. Park, the insurance agent in suburban Atlanta, the attacks in his city and others across America were a searing reminder that economic success does not ensure protection from the racial animus that is part of American life. It is now up to Asian-Americans, he said, to stand up and claim their space in American politics.
“It’s moving away from the idea that ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered in,’” he said. “We are realizing it’s OK to stick out.”