Posted on January 08 2018 by Andy Spiteri
When I was a kid, I was a giant wrestling fan. I used to watch WWF (as it was known back then), WCW, and anything else I could get my hands on. Guys like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Goldberg… those were my heroes. Although I’m more of a casual read-what-happens-instead-of-watch fan now, one thing I picked up when I was a kid and never let go of was wrestling lingo.
That’s where the term “bury” comes into play.
In wrestling terms, “burying” someone would usually consist of an established star beating a young up-and-comer when perhaps it would have been better long term if the new guy had won. It’s usually a matter of the veteran refusing to ‘put over’ (ie. lose to) the new guy because it would make him look bad.
So now applying this logic to the wonderful world of video games, I ask… did The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Champions’ Ballad DLC bury Xenoblade Chronicles 2?
In my opinion, yeah, kinda.
It’s important to know that of course Breath of the Wild the game bears no responsibility for any shade Xenoblade may have caught as a result of its DLC being released. This was, of course, a Nintendo decision, and the fault is Nintendo’s alone. It’s also important to understand that by no means is Xenoblade Chronicles 2 a failure by any imaginable metric; I’m sure Nintendo wasn’t thinking this game would sell millions of copies, so it’s hard to compare the two, and even harder to quantify the exact impact The Champions’ Ballad had on Xenoblade 2.
Be that as it may though, it seems to me that Nintendo basically shot Xenoblade in the proverbial foot by having The Champions’ Ballad debut just six days after it.
There’s no sales figures for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 yet, and by all accounts it seems to be doing better than it’s predecessors. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much.
Xenoblade was always going to appeal to a niche audience to begin with, but it seems like there’s always been some outside factors bogging each entry down. Xenoblade Chronicles was released on the dying days of the Wii and had to fight to get localized. It was then ported over to the 3DS… but only the New Nintendo 3DS, vastly limiting the amount of people that could play the game. Xenoblade Chronicles X was released on the Wii U, and we all know how much of a disaster that system was. None of these games broke a million units in sales (via vgchartz).
Xenoblade Chronicles 2, however, seemed to be the game poised to break out and finally put this series on the mainstream map. It seemed to have a strong first week too. Things were looking good.
Until the Game Awards.
Look, I know that Zelda was up for a bunch of awards and revealing The Champions’ Ballad there made sense. But looking at it from a Xenoblade-centric point of view, Nintendo opted to promote Zelda, a game already out and bought in the millions, and it’s DLC, which I would imagine a good portion of Breath of the Wild owners had already purchased, and say not a word about Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the game a Nintendo released a week earlier, and that, frankly, needed the promotion way more than Zelda or Super Mario Odyssey did.
It will be interesting to see how the sales figures end up shaking out for Xenoblade. I myself am a big fan of the first two installments of the series, and I can’t wait to dive into this one. It just worries me that Nintendo is backing itself into a chicken-or-the-egg situation with Xenoblade – the series doesn’t sell because Nintendo doesn’t promote it, and Nintendo won’t promote it because the series doesn’t sell (hmmm, where have we seen that before with the Big N?).
If I had been making executive decisions over at Nintendo (dream big or go home), I would have delayed Xenoblade 2 until 2018, giving it a spring release date. I mentioned I love Xenoblade, and this isn’t a criticism of the series, but the Switch didn’t need that title in 2017. Not when you have Zelda. Not when you have Mario and Splatoon and Mario Kart and Skyrim. Releasing Xenoblade at the start of December didn’t give it any time to breathe; it seemed like the hardcore niche audience bought it, and then it got lost in the Christmas shuffle with the rest of games.
Nintendo seems to be fairly behind the Xenoblade series, of which I’m thankful. But it also seems content to let it languish in that “hardcore gamer only” territory. The decision to promote Breath of the Wild and The Champions’ Ballad directly over top of Xenoblade 2 makes sense from a business standpoint, but eventually, just like in wrestling, you need new stars to step up and take over for the older generation. New stars are created by taking risks and chances with unproven commodities. Xenoblade has never really been given it’s chance to prove itself.
It seems like once again, Xenoblade was in a good position to be a breakout star, and instead, it’s found itself squarely back in the mid-card. Such is the nature of the gaming industry, I suppose. Maybe Xenoblade can get a rematch someday on a level playing ground and be a headliner, but for now, Xenoblade’s immediate future looks to be a supporting role – good, but not good enough for the main event.
Andy Spiteri is a Managing Editor at Zelda Dungeon. He really wants Elsa playable in the next Smash Bros. game. Yell at him on Twitter here.
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