Posted on February 09 2017 by Andy Spiteri
It’s almost cliche at this point to talk about the odyssey that has been The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s development history. We all know the story and thankfully, finally, mercifully, it’s almost over. We are less than a month away from Nintendo launching their most important title ever on the Wii U and the upcoming Nintendo Switch.
But wait – something about that last sentence doesn’t make sense. Perhaps it should read like this instead: Why is Nintendo less than a month away from launching it’s most important title ever on the upcoming Nintendo Switch and the Wii U? Before we jump in and try and answer that, let’s get some context to that sentence, and figure out just exactly why Breath of the Wild should not be launching on Wii U (yet).
“… the upcoming Nintendo Switch.” The NX was the elephant in the room that loomed as largely over most of 2016 as Breath of the Wild hung over Wii U owners in 2015. It’s no secret to anybody that the Wii U was a complete flop – from womb to tomb, this thing struggled to be relevant, have consistent content, and establish a reason why gamers should choose Nintendo’s quirky device over it’s higher-powered competition. The Wii U sold less units than the Playstation Vita, and only outsold the Sega Dreamcast by a modest amount of 5 million units (sales numbers via vgchartz). That’s the console that put Sega out of the console making business. To call the Switch a do-or-die console is not unreasonable – in fact, it’s likely. So why is Nintendo kneecapping it’s biggest release for the console on day one?
“… it’s most important title ever.” To this extent, Breath of the Wild has become the most important title Nintendo’s ever released. It’s not unreasonable to say their hardware making future depends on the early success of this title. Zelda needs to not only sell magnificently to try and justify the cost of making it these last 4+ years, but it also needs to move Switches out the door by the truckload. To this end, having the game launch simultaneously on Wii U and Switch just doesn’t make sense.
13 million units sold is pretty awful for a home console, but pretty stellar for a video game. Of the 13 million people that bought a Wii U, I’m gonna venture a guess that many of them (let’s say half, or 6 million, just for conservatism’s sake) are diehard Nintendo fans that were going to buy Breath of the Wild no matter what. If this game only launches on the Switch, then you have a instant 6 million or so people buying a Switch just to play Breath of the Wild on day one. And if they don’t, or can’t afford it, they can still play Breath of the Wild when it’s eventual Wii U release date comes (Holiday 2017 makes sense to me).
The point is, Nintendo seems to have made a bad call in leveraging Breath of the Wild’s sales numbers against the Switch’s launch. People are going to buy Zelda no matter what, no matter when. The jilted Wii U owner though, the one who’s not part of the 6 million diehard Nintendo fans, a fan who may have been waiting to play Zelda, might not want to give a Nintendo console another shot if he doesn’t have to. I realize Nintendo might lose some face by delaying the Wii U version after saying they wouldn’t, but when the potential future of your company is on the line, tough calls have to be made.
Which brings us to,
“Why is Nintendo less than a month away from launching it’s most important title ever on the upcoming Nintendo Switch and the Wii U?”
I still don’t have a good answer…
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