So few game franchises stand the test of time and keep on delivering quality titles over the years. After all, specific interests in the gaming industry may change or new technological advancements might render a strong design foundation obsolete. In spite of that, The Legend of Zelda has persisted in an ever changing market and continues to thrive across many generations of consoles.
So where’s the fanfare for its 35th birthday? Many can argue that The Legend of Zelda series is about as iconic to gamers around the world as Super Mario, with just as much impact on the gaming industry. In much the same way that Super Mario all but invented our modern understanding of 2D and 3D platforming, The Legend of Zelda blended fantastical storytelling, challenging puzzles, and a thrilling spirit of adventure into one cohesive package. Where Nintendo has paid Mario sufficient respect for his anniversary, however, the same cannot be said for poor old Link and Zelda.
For the sake of clarity, let’s look back at what Zelda has received in terms of attention so far.
The Situation Thus Far…
The announcement of a Nintendo Direct in 2021 enticed many eager fans. It would be the first full-fledged Direct since 2019, and after a grueling 2020, Nintendo fans were starving for some good news. Unfortunately, the high expectations placed on the presentation by gamers were inevitably undercut by reality.
The Legend of Zelda was present in the broadcast but not in the way fans of the series had hoped. Skyward Sword, a game locked behind a console generational gap, was finally getting an HD makeover and remapped controls to be suitable for the Switch. Like Wind Waker and Twilight Princess before it, Skyward Sword would be joining the pantheon of Zelda remasters, being the last title before Breath of the Wild to tout the series’ familiar linear design.
Along with this news, fans received an official update from Zelda creator Eiji Aonuma regarding the status of Breath of the Wild’s sequel. Alas, it turned out that there was no substantial news to give, beyond confirmation that it was still being developed. While not unexpected as updates go, this was still a disappointing moment for many folks. Having the Direct coincide with Zelda’s anniversary was just salt in the wound.
Whereas Mario got lots of love for his 35th birthday, Zelda and its beloved elf-like hero Link were barely acknowledged at all. Up until the first 2021 Direct, no remakes, remasters, or ports were announced and no new potential titles were unveiled. While Mario sat content with 3D All-Stars and Bowser’s Fury, all Zelda had was Skyward Sword HD and a lack of news on Breath of the Wild’s follow-up. This apparent snubbing of one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises raised questions of what Nintendo was planning, if anything at all.
What Could Happen for Zelda
Despite the disappointed outcry of fans everywhere, there is no way that Nintendo actually forgot to celebrate one of its most cherished and illustrious series. Though Nintendo is notorious for making bad business calls, it’s impossible to believe they would be blind to the potential gold mine that is Zelda’s 35th anniversary.
Not only would not doing so be a terrible PR move, it would also represent an astounding lost opportunity if missed. Besides 35th anniversaries being something of an uncommon sight, they represent the longevity and enduring appeal of a series, both of which can be said of The Legend of Zelda. Of course, the basic logic at play doesn’t answer the question of why Nintendo seems to be inert on the front.
For insight into what may be happening here, we must look to VentureBeat reporter and industry insider Jeff Grubb, who published an article seeking to make sense of Nintendo’s actions. According to Jeff, the reason for the lack of any big moves from Nintendo is because of the timing; Zelda’s anniversary happened to land in the same window as the celebration for Mario’s 35th anniversary. Having two major celebrations for these franchises would result in significant overlap, bleeding into and taking attention away from one another. To focus its attention and maximise profits, separating the two celebrations may have been a necessity for Nintendo, hence the silence regarding Zelda.
Thus, the quiet approach seems to be part of a marketing scheme by Nintendo, intended to rally as much attention as possible for the start of Zelda-related festivities. Supporting this is Jeff’s claim that the reason why only Skyward Sword was revealed was to not only generate sales for the older title, but also to devote as much attention solely to Skyward Sword as well. Having other remakes and remasters could cannibalize sales that might have gone to Skyward Sword, which already has a reputation as being the black sheep amongst the 3D Zelda games.
The implication behind Jeff’s statement appears to be that Wind Waker and Twilight Princess are on their way later this year, with many other industry journalists agreeing. VGC journalist Andy Robinson was confident in predicting that those aforementioned Zelda titles will be arriving sometime in 2021.
It’s clear that whatever Nintendo has planned, it’s set to start soon. Given that Mario’s anniversary concludes in March and Skyward Sword HD will be released for the Switch on July 16th, that points to summer as a significant period. Furthermore, E3 2021 starts on July 15th and will run until July 17th, the timing of which seems in line with Nintendo’s upcoming endeavours. With other major competitors unveiling their newest and hottest games during this time period, this primes Nintendo to do the same.
In the midst of the kickoff of Zelda’s anniversary celebration, Breath of the Wild’s sequel could finally have its gameplay showcased for all the fans that have been left hungry after the scarcity of the Direct. Unveiling the latest Zelda title during its 35th birthday would be just about the perfect way to celebrate.