Why Nintendo wouldn’t let Samus be in Fortnite

Why Nintendo wouldn’t let Samus be in Fortnite

Back in 2021, court documents released as part of Epic Games’ legal battle with Apple revealed that Epic had, at some point, planned to put Samus Aran in Fortnite. But a skin based on the futuristic bounty hunter from Nintendo’s Metroid series never materialized.

Given the documents also mentioned some already-released characters, including Kratos from God of War and Halo’s Master Chief, some speculated that Samus might have been intended to represent Nintendo alongside these PlayStation and Xbox mascots in Fortnite’s Gaming Legends Series. Kratos and the Chief were both added in late 2020.

Now, thanks to an interview with former Epic creative lead Donald Mustard in the Game File newsletter, we know why Samus never joined them.

“I wanted three things,” Mustard said of the three iconic characters. But Nintendo couldn’t countenance its prized character appearing on rival systems. “They got really hung up on their characters showing up on platforms that weren’t their platforms. They would be thrilled to have Nintendo characters in Fortnite, but just only if it’s on their platform.”

Nintendo’s request for Switch exclusivity for Samus met a red line of Epic’s own, Mustard explained. “For me and for all of Epic, we’re like, ‘That is an absolute must. We want to make sure that Fortnite is the same experience, no matter what screen or device you’re playing on.’”

For anyone familiar with the tight control Nintendo exerts over its prized properties, it’s not a surprising anecdote. But it’s notable that the company remains one of the few holdouts against Fortnite’s gigantic crossover marketing power. Epic has been able to overcome the misgivings of most of the rest of the entertainment business; this, after all, is now a game in which Spider-Man, Batman, Darth Vader, and John Wick can appear side by side.

For Mustard, this was the achievement of a long-held dream. “I wanted to create a place that was basically like being out in the backyard when you were a kid in the ’80s, or playing with your toys on the playroom floor,” he told Game File. “There was no one there saying, ‘Well, Spider-Man’s allowed to this, and Batman’s only allowed to do this. And Barbie can’t hang out with Spider-Man.’ I’m like, I want to create something where you can hang out with your friends and express yourself however you want.”

It turned out that the appeal of putting their characters in front of Fortnite’s tens of millions of active players was too strong to resist for most intellectual property owners. But not for Nintendo, which seems to take a rather old-fashioned view of this kind of cross-platform, metaversal marketing. Perhaps that puts the Kyoto-based company behind the times. But the intensity of the connection between Nintendo’s characters, its games, and its hardware is unrivaled anywhere else in the game industry, and the sales figures speak for themselves. So maybe it’s onto something after all.