In 1999 with the Nintendo 64 approaching the end of its troubled road and "Project Dolphin" on the horizon, Nintendo finally accepted that Metroid wasn't going to sell in Japan and started planning a fully Western-orientated installment. The next game in the series would be for Dolphin, eventually renamed to GameCube, but there wasn't any room internally to get to work on the first 3D instalment.
Enter Retro Studios, the upstart developer founded by Jeff Spangenberg, former boss of Iguana Entertainment, the creators of the first (and only decent) Turok games. Retro was an attractive candidate for the Metroid project; it had a list of talented names among its staff, an up-to-date development building with motion capture studio and thralls of impressive technology. Spangenberg's reputation sealed the deal.