There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the recent rumors that Skyward Sword is going to get pushed back to become a Project Café launch title. It’s a topic that really hits home for us longtime Zelda fans, who have already experienced painful delays for two of the most anticipated titles in the series up to this point: Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.
A few weeks ago I tried to argue down the rumor as best as my intuition could take me by talking about how the Wii is starving for software and that Nintendo shouldn’t try to push their first big Wii Motion Plus game that doesn’t have Wii in the title on a brand-new console – but the recent sales performance of the 3DS has pushed my thought process one step further. Could Skyward Sword actually be on the way sooner than we expect?
Let’s face it – while the 3DS got off to a great start, one that had me feeling extremely optimistic for a while there, it didn’t take long for it to fall flat on its face. There’s simply not enough strong software support to carry it at the moment. Yes, I know 3DS remakes of Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64 are on the way – but I honestly don’t think that alone will be enough to launch the 3DS to heaven. Why do I say that?
First of all, since when has any remake outsold the original? Sure, if either of those games sells even half of what the N64 editions did, that by itself will give the 3DS a bit of a boost, but there’s no way either of them is going to become some kind of all-time bestseller. Second of all: with the 3DS userbase still pretty small, there’s an even lower initial sales ceiling for each of these titles – can’t sell software if you haven’t sold hardware!
Now, if these games were made available to the current mega-giant that is the standard DS consumer base? Many millions each easily. On a handheld that has yet to really take off and whose launch titles didn’t even perform that well? Not so much. This isn’t a case like Link’s Awakening DX where the game itself was backwards compatible with previous hardware – all 3DS software is 3DS only, so to play it, people have to buy a 3DS. Since we’re not in the holiday season, it’s pretty easy to imagine that there’s only a relatively small demographic of people who are actually going to do that. (Small compared to the unstoppable mass that is holiday shoppers.)
What does the 3DS have to do with Skyward Sword? It’s really quite simple – if Nintendo wants to appease their investors, who undoubtedly were hoping the 3DS would meet sales forecasts, they’re going to need an ace in the hole. What better to save their skins than a brand-new Zelda for the mega-popular Wii, pulled out for a surprise summer release? With everybody seemingly banking on a fall or winter release date, you can bet that no one would be expecting it, and you can definitely bet that people are going to get excited. Investors love it when consumers get excited about the company they have a stake in, and we consumers love when we have something to get excited about. Win-win for Nintendo.
Besides, it’s not like the game’s far from finished or anything. It was way back in January that Iwata talked about Skyward Sword entering its final production stage and that Ocarina of Time 3D was “expected to hit the market earlier” – “expected” as in “it’s not a sure thing,” meaning that Skyward Sword could probably be released whenever Nintendo darn well pleases.
Of course, I have no real source for this – these are just my own personal thoughts – but unless Nintendo has something really cool to tide us over until fall or winter (New Super Mario Bros. Wii 2, perhaps? nah, they’ll save it for Café), I think this would be a wise course of action for them to take, especially with all the hype for the series’ 25th anniversary this year. Let me know if you like my thinking, or if you think I’m just plain full of it. Leave us a comment!