When Nintendo launched ARMS back in June, players were promised frequent post-launch updates that would add additional content to the game. The strategy worked exceptionally for Splatoon just two years prior, and similarly ARMS seemed poised to enjoy a long post-release life. Although the game has sold over a million copies worldwide, Nintendo hasn’t made the most of its post-release updates thus far.
Several updates have been issued, adding a new fighter in Max Brass, an Arena mode for competitive matches with friends, and several balance tweaks. Still, only the addition of Brass has meaningfully addressed ARMS’s biggest problem: lack of content. While balance patches are great for those dedicated to the game currently, they won’t pull people who have migrated over to Splatoon 2 or who have held off buying the game into the fray. While ARMS has tried to follow in Splatoon’s footsteps, it needs to follow the blueprint more closely to enjoy similar long term success.
One of the most egregious errors in ARMS’ current marketing strategy is its failure to interact directly with North American and European audiences. While the Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe Twitter accounts have done an adequate job of posting content related to the game, there is no official ARMS account for those regions.
All official tweets from the game’s page are in Japanese, and although they can be translated easily it does inconvenience players around the world.
— ARMS（アームズ） (@ARMS_Cobutter) August 9, 2017
This goes beyond marketing, however. In Japan, official ARMS tournaments are streamed online with commentary from Kosuke Yabuki, the game’s director. Skilled players compete a few weeks before the event to qualify to partake in the main showcase. Players outside of Japan don’t have the ability to partake in these tournaments, which have occurred in both July and August.
Splatoon, meanwhile, frequently held worldwide events. The ever popular Splatfest stands out as one of the most creative ways to keep people coming back to a game. Splatfests pitted two popular things, like cats and dogs, against one another and had players compete to score points for their team. In cases where differences in culture made matchups irrelevant for certain regions, different items were chosen. In Japan, Pokemon Red fans faced off against Pokemon Green players, while North America and Europe split into fans of Red and Blue.
Although ARMS has received three updates in under two months, two of those have been based around balance tweaks. Those patches were certainly necessary as some Arms definitely felt imbalanced (looking at you Hydras), but those changes don’t do much to explain why fans should revisit the game. Monthly releases of new characters would change the game in a far more meaningful way.
While Nintendo still could release a new fighter in August, they haven’t articulated those plans clearly. Gameplay clips of a new fighter, a little back story, and a definitive timetable for release would keep players focused on the game.
Plus, characters have proven to be the game’s biggest strength. Critics and fans alike have praised the cast, as it bursts with personality. By adding colorful characters like the universally adored movie star Twintelle or the Flubber-like Helix, ARMS can play to its strengths.
Shoring up its content woes also could lure in new players as well. Adding additional, and hopefully more enjoyable, mini-games would make the game a more complete package, as would extra single-player content. Any sort of story mode would be a huge welcome.
Splatoon constantly received updates that changed the game. New stages were released monthly for the first six months of the game’s lifecycle, adding new challenges for players to master. Additional weapons released weekly for a time, before turning into large bi-monthly updates after the first six months. This type of content added to the existing game in a big way and kept people talking about the game. Balance patches were made as well, but ultimately it was the release of new weapons and stages that made Splatoon feel like one of the deepest experiences on Wii U.
Most importantly, ARMS needs to host events that appeal to its player base. I hate to use Splatfests as an example again, but there’s just no understating how critical they were in making Splatoon the sensation it has become. The ARMS team has proven to be creative, so they certainly could come up with a similar contest that brings the game’s community together.
Despite a different audience, Splatoon was able to cater its events toward its existing player base. Splatfests possess a casual appeal that truly felt like an event players couldn’t miss. It captured the friendly competition the game strove for brilliantly, and ARMS needs to follow suit. Like all fighting games, at the end of the day ARMS players want to compete against one another, and events that emphasize competition would add to that primary appeal.
Ultimately, the amount of staying power ARMS has depends on the direction the team chooses to follow in the coming months. While Splatoon 2 may be all the rage currently, there’s no reason that ARMS can’t enjoy the long term sustainable sales as Splatoon did. It’s hard to imagine the game capturing just as many hearts as the quirky shooter, but by creating relevant updates it could thrive for years to come.