Archive for July 16, 2013

Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma is seeing two major “The Legend of Zelda” titles through release in 2013 — “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD” for the WiiU and “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” for the 3DS — but with each project nearing completion, his attention is shifting to a project he hopes will completely reimagine the “Zelda” franchise.

Though early in development, the first original “Zelda”-branded game for the Wii U is proving to be a creative challenge for Aonuma, the longtime overseer of the franchise. The Wii U, with its touchpad-like controller, offers game mechanics unlike any other system on the market — or coming to the market — and Aonuma intends to use them.

“It’s not that anyone is telling me we have to change the formula,” Aonuma said. ”I want to change it. I’m kind of getting tired of it.”

Speaking frankly through an interpreter last week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Aonuma said the production for the Wii U “Zelda” is still in its experimental phase. Yet everything, including game mechanics and how players relate to Link, is up for reconsideration.

Maybe, perhaps, the largely silent protagonist will even have a voice? Probably unlikely, Aonuma said.

“If I’m getting tired of it, then I’m sure other people are getting tired of it,” Aonuma said of “Zelda’s” dungeon-exploration formula. “There is an essential ‘Zelda’ I feel we need to stay true to. We are still testing things, exploring our options. We haven’t landed anywhere at this point. We’re still seeing what we can do.”

I don’t envy developers who are in charge of making major design decisions on long-running franchises like Zelda or Final Fantasy.  These series’ have been around so long now and have such an entrenched fan base that any major change is going to be considered very controversial.  When Wind Waker was first unveiled by Nintendo on the GameCube, Zelda fans went berserk……and not in a good way.  The cartoony, cel-shaded graphical style was considered practically heretical by the Zelda faithful and the initial online reaction was downright riotous.  And then Wind Waker came out, gamers actually played it, and no one was complaining anymore.

Well OK, they still were complaining a little, but not about the graphics or art style.  Today, Wind Waker is remembered as one of the most graphically impressive games of its generation.


Operating on the idea that the market currently runs in a “blockbuster world,” Ubisoft will not develop a game unless they feel they can build a franchise on it, according to a recent interview with senior vice president of sales and marketing Tony Key on A List Daily.

Key said that last fall’s Assassin’s Creed 3 included the largest marketing campaign the company has ever launched, but that it “doesn’t feel so big any more.” The company now sets the game’s campaign as a precedent, and will apply the “blockbuster” approach to upcoming titles Assassin’s Creed 4 and Watch Dogs.

When asked, Key said that the company views Watch Dogs as the foundation of a larger franchise, something the company keeps in mind when deliberating game ideas.

“That’s what all our games are about; we won’t even start if we don’t think we can build a franchise out of it,” he said. “There’s no more fire and forget — it’s too expensive.

Personally, I think this approach is an awful way to inspire new, fresh, creative ideas.  I understand Ubi Soft is a big publisher, but this all or nothing approach is a death knell to creativity.  Not every good idea is going to drive a game that is going to push millions of units and spawn multiple sequels.  Not every game you make needs to be a “summer blockbuster” to be worthy of release in the marketplace.  Thank goodness for the indie scene, the Wild West of the video game industry.