Let’s take a look at what we know about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s release date and the drama surrounding it. The game has had many release timeframes over the years. First it was coming out in 2015 for the Wii U. Then it got delayed to 2016, with the hint that it could even come out before Star Fox Zero. Obviously that didn’t happen, and then it was delayed to the current nebulous 2017 release window.
Immediately after the delay to 2017, the Nintendo press site listed the Wii U game as releasing in March of 2017. At the same time, Nintendo had just announced that its upcoming system, the Switch (then known by its codename, the NX) would miss the holiday 2016 shopping season and come out in March of 2017. When pressed on why it would be missing the Christmas rush, the president of Nintendo, Mr. Kimishima, said it was due to software not being ready for the launch. Many people put two and two together and assumed that Zelda wasn’t going to be finished in time for November 2016 and so both it and the Switch would launch on the same day in March of 2017.
Soon after, Nintendo yanked the March 2017 release date off of its press site for Breath of the Wild, leading some to think that perhaps it’s wouldn’t release at the same time as the Switch after all. These rumors really began taking root on November 15, 2016 when Emily Rogers posted to her blog:
More sources have now come forward and corroborated my information. They’ve told me that localization for Breath of the Wild might not be finished until the end of December. After localization is completed, this game will require between (at least) four-to-six months of testing. As I mentioned earlier, this is one of Nintendo’s largest and most ambitious games ever. The amount of testing required for a huge open-world game like this is enormous. Nintendo’s intention is to have the game as bug free as possible.
Based on what I’ve heard, I have no reason to believe that Breath of the Wild will be a March title. There’s a much higher chance of Breath of the Wild being a summer 2017 game.
Leading more credence to that rumor was that Eurogamer had heard that the new 3D Mario game shown in the Nintendo Switch preview trailer may be further along and thus could be a launch game instead of Zelda. The main issue that I had (and continue to have) with this supposed rumor is that we had heard that the new mainline Mario game would most likely be showcased at the 2017 E3 show from Mr. Miyamoto. In addition, there is a supposed Mario RPG crossover game with Ubisoft’s Rabbids franchise being readied for launch day. It never made sense to me that Nintendo would release two brand new Mario games on the same day.
About a week later, on November 23, 2016, Laura Kate Dale from Let’s Play Video Games went one step further with the rumored Zelda delay by saying she had heard that it wouldn’t be released until June 0f 2017. In fact, she had heard that the release date for Europe would be June 16, 2017 and that the Switch version would release a week before the Wii U version. At this point all signs pointed to Zelda missing the Switch launch.
However, as the days and weeks went by, many people following Zelda and Switch closely began to notice something strange – Nintendo kept using Zelda to show off its Switch and in fact accelerated the Zelda news cycle. Not only was Reggie on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon showing the game off on national TV, but Nintendo’s social media channels continued to put out new screens and artwork for the game. If the game had truly been delayed, it really seemed odd that Nintendo would continue to put such an emphasis on Breath of the Wild.
Equally puzzling are the recent marketing materials sent out to retailers. Places like GameStop are now putting up signs in stores for the Nintendo Switch, advertising its March 2017 release. All of the ads show the Switch running Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Now, I completely understand that the pictures and logos being used are the stock images that Nintendo released back in October. However, one would think that Nintendo would have stepped in and removed Zelda from the advertising pieces if it were in fact not making launch. To anyone not following the situation, these ads make it appear as if both the Switch and Zelda will be releasing in March. Below is a picture from Reddit:
That brings us to today, when Laura Kate Dale went to Twitter to clarify the Zelda release date situation. She wrote:
So, I know for months I have been saying BOTW is not going to be out in March, heard from two NOE sources. Seems to clash with marketing. To those asking, I can’t explain why there’s a disparity between marketing and what I heard on release window. Recently reached out to a NOA source who I have not used before saying launch. Not sure why the disparity. Basically, going to be transparent about it. Unsure what’s up, messaging on BOTW is weird.
Also, Emily Rogers had tweeted that she had some new information to share on Zelda later this week, but has since deleted that tweet. Perhaps her sources are now telling her to expect it at Switch launch as well?
Obviously, only Nintendo truly knows what’s going on with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s release date. It could very well be that they were running behind schedule at one point and thought about pushing it to summer, but have since caught up and can get it out in time for launch this March. It could also be that all of this means nothing and that the game won’t be out until holiday 2017. Luckily we should know one way or the other in just eleven days, when Nintendo hosts its official Switch event! We will keep you updated, but for now we’re hoping Zelda makes it out in March for both the Nintendo Switch and the Wii U.