After the massive success that was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, fans have been eagerly awaiting its grand follow-up. First teased at E3 2019, the sequel to Breath of the Wild (BOTW 2) was stated to be in development at that time. The teaser trailer’s darker tone and cryptic nature captured the attention of gamers everywhere, leading to widespread discussion and fan theories regarding the direction the sequel was taking. Apart from its initial reveal, though, news concerning Breath of the Wild’s sequel has become scarce.
Adding to the frustration, the February 2021 Nintendo Direct did little to assuage fans’ growing sense of worry over the sequel’s release or provide any substantial information about the game itself. Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma stated only that the game’s development was proceeding smoothly and that the team working on it would have details to share in the future. As with the rest of the Direct, this brief update was a profound disappointment.
Since then, no official news regarding Breath of the Wild’s sequel has been shared by Nintendo, leaving fans to once again head to online forums to discuss, rant, and contemplate the pace at which the sequel is being developed. However, those paying close attention to Nintendo and the developers beneath its umbrella noticed some noteworthy information in the past week.
BOTW 2 Update (Kind of)
Monolith Soft, the studio behind Xenoblade Chronicles and the co-developer of Breath of the Wild, announced a “large expansion” of its staff that saw them seeking to fill various positions that suggest interesting developments ahead. Out of over 50 open positions, Monolith Soft dedicated five to working on the Zelda series. This hiring spree and its apparent focus are all the more fascinating considering how the roles are divided by region.
Hirees are split between the Tokyo and Kyoto regions, for reasons unknown. Tokyo carries the bulk of the job positions, whereas Kyoto is primarily seeking 2D and 3D CG designers. Since both regions assisted in the development of the original Breath of the Wild, it is not entirely clear which roles are dedicated for Zelda-related work.
What does this all mean?
Given that Monolith Soft seems to still be seeking out positions related to a Zelda project, it seems reasonable to assume that Breath of the Wild’s sequel is nowhere close to completion. Such effort put into hiring a large number of people all at once to help with a game’s production has historically occurred as a result of companies trying to mitigate the possibility of a tumultuous or premature launch. This seems especially plausible given the sheer acclaim and impact of Breath of the Wild; one can imagine Nintendo EPD and Monolith wanting to do everything in their power to guarantee the sequel matches its predecessor’s quality. Nintendo’s attempts to grapple with a complicated production and high expectations does make sense of their silence regarding the Zelda franchise, as of late.
That having been said, we can still deduce certain information from Monolith Soft’s job postings when comparing them to the positions Nintendo was looking to fill in past years. In 2019, Nintendo was recruiting for Zelda-specific positions relating to dungeon and 3D CG design. Both of these positions were situated at Nintendo’s head office in Kyoto, and remained posted until September of that year. Since Nintendo itself has not posted any new job openings for such specific positions, it can be inferred that these areas of the sequel to Breath of the Wild are proceeding smoothly.
Then there’s the possibility that the work in distinguishing the sequel’s game world from that of the previous game is a key factor in the slow pace of development. After all, the original Breath of the Wild needed over 100 of Monolith Soft’s developers during production. The studio’s latest expansion, coupled with the knowledge that their main contributions to the previous game related to topography and map layouts, lends credence to the notion that Monolith is preparing for a significant amount of labor. If true, this has fascinating implications for the setting and narrative of Breath of the Wild’s sequel.
What cannot be denied at this point is that this next Legend of Zelda game is far from ready for a 2021 release, or indeed any release date in the near-future. Based on Nintendo’s own limited update and what information can be gleaned at present, Breath of the Wild’s sequel still needs a lot of work before it’s ready to release. That said, an extended development cycle doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing.
As Zelda’s own creator Shigeru Miyamoto once said, “A delayed game is eventually good. A rushed game is forever bad.” One can only hope that this philosophy applies to Breath of the Wild’s successor.