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Five years. That’s the amount of time that the development of Skyward Sword took Nintendo until its release. That’s pretty long especially if you take a look at other huge franchises where the game developers manage to release one new title each year! Shack News sat down with Eiji Aonuma and dug for the answer to the burning question all of us might have asked themselves at least once: why doesn’t Zelda follow an annual schedule like most popular franchises do?

The Zelda franchise is huge and covers not just the home console market but also has a significant presence on the handheld  scene. That’s a big field to cover, but wouldn’t it be nice to actually see annual releases of it?

Back in November 1998, Miyamoto had that idea as well: the next Zelda was supposed to be a 3D N64 game and should be developed within a short time after the release of its successor, Ocarina of Time. That was when Miyamoto challenged Aonuma with a difficult task:

 “The challenge he gave to me: to try and make a sequel to Ocarina of Time in just one year.”

Ocarina of Time had been the first 3D Zelda game, and the team had the 3D models of it ready at hand. It’s different from when you make a sequel to a 2D game, where you have to draw every single image. If you want to recycle an image out of a 2D game and plan to change the background, you have to re-draw everything again. For the 3D models, all you need to do is place them in a new environment and animate them. This is what Miyamoto thought would make it easier to do a sequel within a year and the reason why Majora’s Mask is mainly using recycled models from Ocarina of Time.

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Left you can see Anju from Majora’s Mask, and right the Cucco Lady from Ocarina of Time 3D.

By now we know that it didn’t work out. Majora’s Mask launched less than two years after the release of Ocarina of Time, which is indeed a significantly shorter time period than any of the following games would require.

Ever since then, the development time didn’t really decrease. The Wind Waker took two years for the GameCube version, and for Twilight Princess the development time doubled. Skyward Sword was in development for about five years. Eiji Aonuma thinks that the amount of time fans are kept waiting for a new core game is an essential factor in developing a good game that satisfies the targeted audience. Nintendo tried to release Zelda games really quickly in the past but the fans’ expectation has grown significantly ever since.

“I think before, we did maybe try to make Zelda games come out faster. But there’s so much expected of Zelda titles now, so you have to reach a certain level of quality, so that’s why we started to take a bit more time now, I don’t think it’s necessary that development needs to be longer. But to reach a certain level of quality, there’s just a certain amount of time that’s needed.”

He tries to keep up with the expectations of the fans, while at the same time the company tells him that he needs to produce games as quickly as possible. Most remarkable is, that Nintendo still manages that the Zelda franchise remains a hot topic within the gaming community. The trick is, that Nintendo currently has two teams working on Zelda projects.

“Right now, we’re able to split ourselves between the handheld and console games and have two teams. I think we’re pretty efficient in getting games out on a regular interval.”

Nintendo doesn’t aim for releasing one Zelda game a year, but thanks to the fact that they are covering the gaps between the releases of core games very well with handheld games and remakes, they manage to come up with new releases in regular intervals. Whether the new games really live up the fanbase’s expectations remains to be seen.

Source: Shack News
Via: Nintendo Everything
  • I don't mind if it takes a few years for a new Zelda to come out. This way, I know I will get the highest quality game possible, without any sense of rushing. Plus, there are plenty of other series of games that I like to play that can tide me over until the new Zelda comes out.

    • Dark Triforce

      My sentiments exactly.

    • Joshua

      Agreed. It's worth the wait.

  • Eldritch

    What about Metroid? Why does that take so long?

  • Nonelse

    It seems to me with every release people in general are getting bored with Zelda games. After all Skyward sword was the sixth major 3D game release. I personally notice people got tired of Skyward Sword very quickly and started playing something else.

    • TheRadiantWreck

      You may be correct in a general standpoint, however, I as well as many of my friends thoroughly enjoyed the game, and didn't once feel bored with it. And we're all eagerly awaiting the next Zelda game. I suppose I can't speak for everyone else though.

      • Philip Akkerman

        Agreed, Zelda never gets old!

    • Ryano

      I understand exactly what you mean.

      Twice as many people bought and played Twilight Princess compared to Skyward Sword, and that's because it appealed to more than just hard core Zelda fans. TP was a call back to Ocarina of Time, a game that everyone holds in high regard. Skyward Sword tried too many new things and, just like Wind Waker, tried very hard to be different. If Nintendo released Zelda games more often and maybe switched between these styles, maybe a larger group of gamers would be loyal fans because there would always be something in their taste on the horizon. But 5 years development and all we got was Skyward Sword… I wasn't very impressed and I'm a hard core Zelda fan.

      • MikeL

        Twilight Princess sold that much because it was released for two consoles and was a launch game for one of them while Skyward sword was released for a soon to be obsolete console. I think Nintendo missed a great opportunity by not making SS forward compatible with the Wii U in an HD edition. Now of course, TP also sold a lot because it was a rehash of Ocarina of Time with realistic graphics which appealed to all the kids out there who believe they're "mature gamers".
        I agree there was a lot more that could've been done with SS and that we should've gotten with a five year development time but I still consider it a big improvement over TP.
        If they don't try different things there is no point in making new games. I'd rather see them end the franchise than starting to simply rehash existing games.
        LoZ gets routinely bashed for being too similar and that Nintendo is "milking" the franchise, even though it has games so vastly different like Majora's Mask and Wind Waker and there is at least two years between games. What do you think would happen if Nintendo started shoveling out games more frequently that ACTUALLY WERE too similar to each other?

  • Trance

    Link to the Past has been out for how many years now.. I never get bored of it.
    Hell, every LoZ game I play never gets boring.

  • Baker1000

    Games with annual releases are generally poor quality or just more of the same from the previous game. FIFA is a prime example of this. I'd rather they put some time into Zelda (and all games) to make it enjoyable and not just a cash grab. Plus, it's always far more exciting when you have to wait a few years for the next Zelda on a home console. It's like if your birthday happened every month, you'd soon get bored of it fast.

    • Ryano

      Except my birthday comes once a year, and I would be very happy to experience a new Zelda every birthday. It should be a consistent cycle of handheld one year and console the next. Keep us hungry fans fed, otherwise we lose interest. Kind of like what happened with Skyward Sword…. and before you go and thumb me down, consider that Twilight Princess outsold Skyward Sword 2-to-1. Games in general (not just hardcore Zelda fans) were still hungry for Zelda back then, but waiting 5 years and getting something as linear and simple as Skyward Sword… it's no surprise that it didn't generate as much interest.

  • Reask

    The 3D Zelda games are special and mostly tend to age like fine wine, and it's because there is such a huge gap in between games. But we still generally have one Zelda game every two years with the handheld titles, which I'm thankful for because they expand upon the series instead of cashing in on popularity, such as a certain FPS series. I'm grateful that we have to wait for the very best every five years or so, each game ends up memorable because of it.

    We may derail the Mario series for recently coming out with a new main game yearly, but those still manage to have something new in them too.

  • THE_DUDE_xD

    There are two simple ideologies when it comes to making video games: Quality over Quantity, or Quantity over Quality. Nintendo, unlike most companies focuses on the former of the two, at least where it's main, non-Mario series are concerned. However, companies like EA, focus on putting out as many half-assed games in a short amount of time. Their games are relatively low quality, and as many people here would agree they are 'more of the same'.

    And it's obvious which ideology works the best for both the consumer and the company by looking at the profits each company receives. Nintendo's is in the black, whereas EA's is in the red, so it's self evident that quality games sell more units, and are better received by fans than games put out every year.

  • ijuinkun

    Better to have high quality than lots of rushed but un-memorable games. Wasn't it Miyamoto himself who said "A rushed game is bad forever, but a delayed game can be made better"? I would rather have a top-quality Zelda game every three or four years than lots of mostly-the-same ones every year (Mario Party series, any one?).

  • DarkOwl

    I like it when the gap between titles is large. I like it when they drip-feed the fan-base with teasers and trailers, as it builds hype and excitement for the game. This is what they did for Twilight Princess, and so as the release date approached I couldn't wait to get it. (OK, maybe they built the hype up a bit too much, considering the general consensus of disappointment with the game, but I didn't mind.) Conversely, it really annoys me when a trailer for a new Zelda game appears out of nowhere, with an approximate release quarter already being advertised, (like with A Link Between Worlds). All the possible excitement / mystique that could have been driven by teaser after teaser gets instantly lost. Although I'm sure it will be fun, I'm not so much 'looking forward to it' as 'I'll play it when I find the time'.

  • genjgenj

    Nintendo needs to have some restraint and release one really high quality Zelda game per system… sort of like what the Animal Crossing and Mario Kart series have been doing.

    Nintendo has plenty of franchises it can milk. Zelda should be not be Nintendo's Megaman or even Dynasty Warriors.