Ask anyone that’s planning on purchasing Nintendo’s Switch console when it releases on March 3rd which game they’re most excited about and chances are that many would respond with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While the Switch’s launch line-up appears to offer a little something for every demographic of gamer, including casual titles such as 1, 2, Switch and Just Dance 2017 interspersed with current favorites like I Am Setsuna and The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, it’s probably safe to assume that of the 2 million or so consoles that gamers around the world will be picking up, the majority of those will be accompanied by a copy of the latest Zelda adventure.
Rumblings of a new entry in the long-standing franchise date back to 2013, when it was announced that a Wii U Zelda title was in development. Nintendo would occasionally share a few details or some gameplay footage, even going so as far to dub it Breath of the Wild, but delays would ultimately cause the title to miss planned releases in both 2015 and 2016. Fans would be treated to re-mastered versions of The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, but many would wonder when, and if, a new Zelda would ever make an appearance on the Wii U. Couple this with the fact that Nintendo was beginning to plant the seeds for a new console due to the lackluster sales of the Wii U, and it started to appear as though the door was shut on a new Zelda adventure for the dying platform.
As the Nintendo Switch press conference drew to a close on Jan.12th of this year, Nintendo revealed one final surprise. Breath of the Wild was finally getting a release date, and it would be available at launch alongside the Switch. Also, in keeping to their original promise, the new game would be released for the Wii U, supposedly as one of the last first-party games to ever land on the system.
Now, while there’s no denying that Switch pre-orders have been going rather well, it’s worth noting that even though the Wii U didn’t live up to its commercial expectations (it’s Nintendo’s least-sold home console ever), it did still manage to move a little more than 13 million units. That’s 13 million consoles that are already in the hands of a gaming public that’s ready to head back to Hyrule. 13 million consumers that, should they choose, can sit out and wait for the Switch to deliver before deciding to shell out $300+ for a new console, a decision that could be a tough one to make considering Nintendo’s feelings towards hardcore gamers.
This won’t be the first time Nintendo has released the same Zelda title on two different consoles. Back in 2006, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was initially released on the Wii console in November, and then less than a month later was followed up with a GameCube release (although the maps in that version were mirrored). The title would be the last first-party game released for the GameCube, a proper send-off to a much beloved console, as well as a fitting opening salvo for the Wii, a system that would revolutionize the way players would interact with their favorite games. But, as everyone would come to learn, the Wii would eventually become a dumping ground for min-game compilations geared towards grandmothers and casual gamers, while hardcore fans would only occasionally receive major first-party releases such as Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and Mario Galaxy. Major third-party titles like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed would be reserved for the Xbox and Playstation lines, and the Wii would be forever be known as the console for the casual gamer.
Nintendo has reported that Breath of the Wild will be a far superior experience on the Switch, including crisper visuals and better sounds, but that the actual content of the game itself will be unchanged. Plus, reports are beginning to surface that quantities of the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild may be in short supply (http://bit.ly/2kw0AFh). But for those gun-shy gamers that currently own a Wii U and are in no hurry to purchase a Switch, getting their hands on a last-gen copy of the game may satiate their need for another Hyrulian adventure while waiting to see if Nintendo will fall back into the comfortable rut of conforming to casual fans.