What Can Make Zelda Mainstream Again?

Was Zelda ever mainstream? Well, at least as far as the gaming world is concerned, a strong case can be made that it was. I’d never even heard of The Legend of Zelda before the hype leading up to Ocarina of Time, but that game was met with so much hype from so many circles even months before its release that it’s hard to argue with its relative importance in the gaming world.

Recently, however, there seems to be a significant decline in the popularity of the Zelda series. To my knowledge, popular retailers like GameStop didn’t have midnight launches for Skyward Sword. While I don’t have the data, I’ve noticed that the industry has made an unfortunate turn away from Japanese games–and I suspect Zelda may be caught up in this.

After Ocarina of Time was released, I assumed the series could only gain popularity from there. After all, it was lauded as one of the greatest games of all time, and is still widely respected. But it’s restricted to, at most, two platforms at a time, reserved for a specific subset of gamers on that platform. And while its advancement shows no signs of slowing down, with Hyrule Historia fleshing out the lore and rereleases constantly introducing new generations of gamers to the merits of the classics, I wonder why it is not talked about in the mainstream as much as it could be.

Obviously, the core merits of the series should never be compromised. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was arguably the greatest Prince of Persia game to date, and its unfortunate sequel, Warrior Within, saw far more success in light of the disappointing sales of the first, but also had an M rating and a boring “gritty” atmosphere. Nintendo should not, and most likely will not, make this sort of compromise to appeal to the “hardcore” crowd. That said, these games have so many merits that they deserve a more mainstream audience. They deserve to be at the forefront of the industry.

What do you think can bolster the series’ image? Do you even believe that is necessary, or are satisfactory sales enough? How do you think it can be done without compromising the sense of adventure at the heart of Zelda games?