Based on Nintendo's financial estimates and the Nintendo Switch's console attach rates, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is well on target to sell over a million units in Japan alone by the end of 2017. Estimates put its total global sales at three million, with the game somehow outselling the console itself. If Breath of the Wild continues on its current trajectory, it will be the fastest selling Zelda game in Japan since Ocarina of Time released 19 years ago!
Although often seen as one of Nintendo's biggest franchises, The Legend of Zelda has been seeing a steady decline in sales over the years, especially in its home region of Japan. Even the immensely popular Wii console couldn't stem this trend, as can be seen in the chart below.
Note that #BreathoftheWild has only been out for four months, and it is already bucking the trend. Combined Wii U and Switch sales total 660,000, with the Switch making up 530,000 of this. This is only slightly behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch, currently the most popular title with 560,000 units sold in Japan.
Furthermore, there is little sign of this game slowing down any time soon. Check out this chart below that shows the attach rate of first party Nintendo Switch titles in Japan (the attach rate being the percentage of Switch owners who also own a copy of a given game). The blue line represents Breath of the Wild, and it looks like it will be maintaining at least a 40% attach rate for the foreseeable future, proving it to be a real evergreen title that new Switch owners will most likely buy with their console.
This chart shows Breath of the Wild is even keeping up with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in attach ratio (shown in red), which is incredibly impressive considering how #MarioKart has historically been a much larger franchise than #Zelda.
When #Nintendo finally gets their supply chain in order, I would expect to see at least 3-4 million Switch consoles sold in Japan by the end of the financial year, based on their financial estimates.
Even a conservative attach rate prediction of 35% would place Breath of the Wild at 1,225,000 copies sold by March 2018, making it the best selling Zelda game in Japan since Ocarina of Time by a significant margin.
What does this mean for the future of Zelda?
Clearly, something has appealed to the Japanese market in a big way with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Perhaps it is the portable nature of the Switch system itself. Handheld Zelda games have always sold better than the console versions in the region. If this is the case, it bodes well for the future of the Switch itself, because the Japanese audience have truly embraced it as the handheld successor to the 3DS.
Or perhaps it's just that Zelda was long overdue a major overhaul. Every Zelda game is different, but Breath of the Wild was something truly special. No Zelda game since the original NES version had captured the sense of adventure quite like it. The thrill of exploration, and the excitement of discovering new secrets and interactions between objects in the game world.
If Breath of the Wild does maintain its strong attach rate, and hits the million mark in Japan by the end of the year, I think it's safe to assume this "open air" style Zelda is to become the norm. Nintendo historically pays close attention to what their home market appreciates (sometimes to the frustration of Western fans!).
I think I speak for all of us when I say I would be very happy to see more Zelda games in the vein of Breath of the Wild!
Are you happy with the success Breath of the Wild has achieved? Let me know in the comments!