The highest selling Zelda game is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64, totaling out to 7.6 million worldwide. A close follow up is The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Nintendo Wii at 7.16 million globally. Then the third highest selling game is the original Zelda on the NES closing at a total of 6.51 million.
[All sales numbers are from VGChartz.com and although they may not be 100% accurate, they are generally close to the actual sales figures. Also this article is all speculation from using comparisons of other game sales on the Nintendo platforms]
With the Nintendo Switch launching in less than three weeks, a new Nintendo console will launch with a Zelda title for the first time since the Nintendo Wii in 2006. Just like the release of Twilight Princess, it will also be on Nintendo’s predecessor console.
The Nintendo Switch’s launch lineup has often been considered sparse with only having six games available at retailers on the day of it’s release. You have 1-2-Switch, which is a collection of 28 multiplayer mini-games showcasing what the controllers and console can do. Super Bomberman R, which is a game where you are placed in a maze like area and you have to drop bombs strategically to defeat your enemies. Skylanders Imaginators, released last year for other consoles, is a platformer where you can bring your toys to life and use them in your game in unique and fun ways. Just Dance 2017, also released on other consoles as well, is a dancing rhythm game where you dance to the music on screen and get scores based on your accuracy of the moves. Binding Of Isaac Afterbirth+, which is a randomly generated, rogue like shooter. And lastly The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is the latest installment in the Zelda universe, and is one of the most highly anticipated game by a good sum of people. It won a plethora of “Best of Show” at E3 2016 by a number of video game media outlets. Including IGN, Destructiod, and also won at the Game Critics Awards in which “40 global media outlets vote”.
There is no doubt that Breath of The Wild has a ton of hype on it’s shoulders and there’s no doubt it will sell exceptionally, but can it be the highest selling game in the series?
I will not include remasters into the total sales but I will include the combined sales of Twilight Princess on both the Wii and GameCube because they were both released a month apart from each other. Twilight Princess combined sales were a total of 8.75 million worldwide.
Breath of the Wild and Twilight Princess are in a similar position. Both are launching on two consoles at once, and both the Wii and Switch have a large amount of hype behind it. Although the Switch may not have the same effect the Wii had prior to it’s launch, there is still a heavy buzz nonetheless.
During Nintendo’s financial briefing, President Tatsumi Kimishima said that there are an estimated 2 million Nintendo Switch’s that will be shipped to retailers by the end of March. With the Switch being sold out at every retailer you can assume that they will sell through those within the first month of being on store shelves. There are an estimate of 13.56 million Wii U’s sold since it’s release. This means there can be an install base of 15.56 million units out there that can play the new Zelda. Obviously it will not sell this many copies, due to people buying multiple consoles and multiple games.
First let’s talk about the worst case scenario. Within the first six week period of the Wii’s and Twilight Princess‘ launch there was a total of 3.19 Wii’s in consumers hands and a total of 1.81 million of Twilight Princess‘ to go with it. So a little bit over half of Wii owners also decided to purchase Zelda along side it. Keep in mind, the Nintendo Wii was bundled with Wii Sports so not every person bought a game with the console. Since there is no pack in game with the Nintendo Switch, a wide spread of people will buy this with their console because it is the only AAA game at launch, and of course because it is Zelda. The worst case scenario is that the Switch will utterly fail to make sales after the console’s launch. This would leave Nintendo at a 2 million and change install base on the Switch.
Let’s say for every Nintendo Switch sold, 60% of them decide to pick up Breath of the Wild. This means that 1.2 million copies could sell within the first month on only the Nintendo Switch. I do not see a situation where less than 60% of the people who buy the Switch will not buy Zelda simply due to the fact that there is no game bundled with the console. That being said I think 1.2 million sold on the Switch within it’s first six weeks is the worst it can possibly do. With the game also releasing on the Wii U, I believe the worst it can do is similar to way The Wind Waker remaster sold within it’s first six weeks. Six weeks in, it sold just over 420,000. It is worth noting that at the time this remaster was released that the install base of the Wii U was at 3.91 million, which means 1/10th of Wii U owners purchased it. If 10% of Wii U owners buy Breath of The Wild, 1.3 million sales could be made.
Overall I believe that the lowest amount of sales Breath of The Wild can get is around 2.5 million. This game would still be considered to have a successful launch, but if the Switch fails it will not rise much more than that.
Now let’s talk about best case scenario. I personally believe that there will be at most 75% of Switch owners will buy Breath of The Wild. This would place sales at 1.5 million for the Switch right out of the gate mainly due to there being no pack in game. And for the Wii U version, I think the best it can do is similar to the sales figures Mario Kart 8 pulled off when it launched. When Mario Kart 8 released there were a little less than 6.68 million consoles in the wild. Within the first six weeks of the games launch it was able to sell 2.12 million, that is 1/3rd of the people who owned a console. Since the Switch is sold out everywhere, there will be a large amount of people not able to buy the console at launch, this will ultimately force those to buy it on the Wii U. I believe at best the Wii U version can sell 3 million within the first month.
This would leave the total sales in the first six weeks at 4.5 million, thus making it the 8th best selling game in the Zelda franchise. President of Nintendo Tatsumi Kimishima beileves that the Switch can sell just as well as the Nintendo Wii, which sold just over 100 million. If the Switch is even half as successful of that (50 million) I think Breath of The Wild has the chance to outsell Twilight Princess. If you look at the year over year sales of Twilight Princess, you see that there is still a generally high amount of sales for the first three years (over a million). If Breath of The Wild can replicate this then it can easily become the best selling Zelda game, but this can only happen if Nintendo is able to match the demand with more production of their hardware.
But realistically how will this game sell?
Personally I think it will be in the middle, I think it will sell somewhere around 3.5 million in the first six weeks and will end up around double that in the end. This would place third in the best selling Zelda games at around 7 million. This game will be a huge success for Nintendo and I can’t wait to play it on March 3rd!