Game Eaters

Thursday, March 15, 2007

After GDC: Reflections on Eiji Aonuma

At GDC, Eiji Aonuma gave a talk entitled Reflections on Zelda that could be briefly summarized as "Nintendo's special brand of development hell." I found it an insightful examination of the various different market and internal forces that shaped the creation of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Aonuma explained each creative decision made for each major change to the series since Wind Waker, including the handheld iterations. In some ways, Aonuma's generally humble tone seemed to me to be an apology to all the Zelda fans who disapprove of various changes to the series.

The Game-Eaters met up at GDC and voiced our opinions about Aonuma's and Nintendo's decision making process, not least being the decision to make Twilight Princess "120% Ocarina of Time" instead of continuing the trend of giant innovative steps in Wind Waker, Four Swords, and Majora's Mask. As always, our GDC discussions get pretty spirited and our dinners get pretty Mexican.

The comments following 4 Color Rebellion article about Wii Sports and Wii Play going platinum reminded me that Aonuma claimed that Wind Waker did extremely poorly in the market, despite breaking a million preorders in North America. A little digging in Wikipedia, that resource of oh-so-reliable information, indicates that Wind Waker was the poorest-selling home-console Zelda thus far. Some of the handheld versions sold fewer copies. It sold slightly less than Majora's Mask, which in turn only sold half as well as Ocarina of Time. Sales-wise, the latter is the champ for the entire series.

Twilight Princess worldwide numbers appear to be about 300k copies away from catching up to Wind Waker, which is coincidentally the difference between the Japanese sales numbers for Twilight Princess and Wind Waker. So, despite the change to Aonuma's "US-focused" graphics by moving away from cel-shading, it sold about the same in the US. The game has been on the shelves for a while, but Wiis are still in short supply, so it's possible for Twilight Princess to perform well in the long-tail and sell more copies to prove Aonuma right. As of this moment, though, Wind Waker is still doing better than Twilight Princess.

Seeing the marked downward trend since Ocarina, I'm not at all surprised that Nintendo wanted to keep their their game development low by throwing out hi-def from their Wii strategy. It also reinforced the doom-and-gloom pronouncements of the Japanese "Gamer Drift" that drew every major Japanese game publisher's eyes to the US market in the past two years, until Nintendo stemmed the tide with the DS. Japanese speakers at GDC gave a lot insight into the various alternative strategies from Konami, Capcom, Nintendo, and Square-Enix, the results of which are only just beginning to hit the shelves.


  • NPD figures for US sales of Twilight Princess are looking great for February: 130k copies sold. It's looking like Twilight Princess has the velocity to take Wind Waker to the cleaners.

    By Blogger Philip, at 11:54 PM  

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