Posted on December 20 2014 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
At a site called Zelda Informer, The Legend of Zelda series is a big deal. It’s the reason this website exists, though it’s not the only thing we cover, just the thing we cover most prominently and arguably best, maybe better than anyone else. Still, one thought always crosses my mind when I browse the Internet and talk to people I know are gamers out in the real world: how important is the Zelda series? Not just as a legacy; the series could end tomorrow and it would assuredly cement itself as one of the greatest franchises to have ever existed, maybe even revered 20 years from now like Earthbound, though to a much greater extent due to the popularity this series has.
One reveal trailer, one 4-minute excerpt of gameplay, and suddenly 2 million plus gamers are paying attention. Yes, Zelda franchise has a very strong following, but how important is it? To understand the question we have to have a barometer for what important means. In this case, I am referring to it’s overall impact on us as gamers. As in, does anyone outside of the typical Zelda fan actually care these games are coming out? Is my Call of Duty-playing buddy going to consider giving the next game a shot because it’s Zelda? Even those who don’t play Mario games typically have no problem picking up a controller and trying it out at a friends house, but what about The Legend of Zelda?
Nintendo fans adore the series. We make the Link amiibo the best-selling amiibo across the globe. Every year we serve between 4 to 6 million people, which some may recognize as being higher than the average sales of a given Zelda game. This is understandable, as we cover the entire series and people will come to us for news, editorials, wiki pages, or even walkthroughs of games they enjoy, even if the latest offerings may not peak their interests. How big the Zelda fandom is can’t possibly be known, because we’re spread extremely thin over very different types of Zelda experiences.
This brings me back to gamers who don’t typically know a new Zelda title is coming. A time once existed when everyone knew what Ocarina of Time was. It was a real, tangible thing; even if you didn’t play it, you knew what it was, could admit it was special, and maybe even hoped your favorite series took notes. It impacted the gaming industry, much the same way prior Zelda games had. The legacy of the series wasn’t just some forlong thing that happened years ago, it was happening in the here and now. Gamers the world over cared that Zelda games existed and understood their importance for the medium. Today? I’m not so sure, and that’s why we’re here.
Call of Duty is a popular game franchise, I think we can all recognize that regardless of personal opinions on it or the player base. More importantly, those that may not even play the game, which could include many of us here, know it exists. We know a new game comes out and heck, maybe even we check out a review every time just to see what the big deal is. Beyond that, it has inspired many of today’s games, including new IPs such as Titanfall. The matchmaking has been copied by many franchises too; so like it or not, Call of Duty impacts the whole industry. This impact certainly won’t last forever, just like it didn’t for The Legend of Zelda. It doesn’t inspire like it once did, and I don’t honestly think the average gamer is aware when a new title arrives, it won’t have any impact on the games they enjoy.
Can Zelda get back to that stature? That’s hard to say, especially since the series is popular and will sell decently either way. It can be argued the series doesn’t need to, but I like when I can go into a room full of people talking about various games and the mere mention of a Zelda title by myself makes people go “hey, isn’t there a new one coming out in 2015?” That just doesn’t seem to happen anymore.
This isn’t me voicing my distaste or dissatisfaction. In fact, I highly enjoyed Skyward Sword. I am merely pointing out that I feel the impact this series has on gamers that don’t play it seems lost. Maybe I’m off base entirely, which is why this is today’s debate. What do you think?