Zelda Mobile? The Sheikah Slate Come to Life!

By Tyler Brooks

Nintendo announced the other day that the company plans to bring its classic franchise, The Legend of Zelda, to mobile stores, according to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal.

The move doesn’t really come as a surprise, considering Nintendo’s increasing involvement in the mobile market over recent years. After already releasing mobile versions of Mario and Fire Emblem, and of course Pokemon, adding Zelda to the list certainly seems like a natural fit. It’s uncertain how Nintendo plans to monetize the title, but it has been suggested that they may employ a similar model to the premium structure seen with Super Mario Run, as opposed to the more “freemium”-centric model employed in Fire Emblem. The company has already stated that it prefers an up-front price tag on its games, and that the freemium model seen in ‘Heroes will not be the norm. Still, it’s fair to hope that the game won’t cost ten dollars like Super Mario Run. If fairly priced for a mobile game, Zelda on smart phones could be a spectacular idea.

Unfortunately, it’s currently unknown what kind of game play or mechanics the game will consist of, but given Nintendo’s previous mobile releases, it will likely have an emphasis on paid rewards. Regardless, it will be interesting to see a Breath of The Wild tie-in of some sort. A Legend of Zelda mobile game done in a more retro style, calling back to old hand-held classics like Four Swords and Minish Cap, with a top-down perspective and emphasis on dungeon-crawling would certainly be refreshing to see. Procedurally-generated dungeons and emphasis on re-playability could make the game a perfect fit for the mobile market while remaining true to the classic Zelda formula. Even still, we won’t know anything for sure until Nintendo (hopefully) reveals the game at this year’s E3.

While many of the details concerning the development and release of the title are unknown, The Journal claims that it will shortly follow the release of Animal Crossing on mobile devices in the second half of 2017. Even though most the information available so far isn’t much more than rumours, it would not be at all surprising to see Nintendo take this route. With Breath of The Wild shipping 2.76 million copies on the Switch in its first month alone, it seems likely that Nintendo will capitalize on of the Zelda intellectual property as much as possible.

Nintendo’s previous foray into the mobile market with Super Mario Run wasn’t quite as lucrative as the company had hoped. They may have caught lightning in a bottle with Pokemon: GO, but the hype was short lived, and recreating such an event is next to impossible. Regardless, Nintendo stands to make serious money if they can avoid the poor monetization decisions that bogged down Super Mario Run. The best decision would be to offer up “Zelda Super Mobile Cell phone Edition Extreme” for a flat price tag that would be directly communicated to the consumer.

The problem with Mario’s pay structure was both its price and its implementation. Ten dollars is unheard of when it comes to mobile games, and when was the last time you saw a game slap you with a legitimate pay-wall? Nintendo needs to adapt in this area, and grow with the rest of the market. Releasing Zelda for a comfortable three to five dollars, even with the micro-transactions we all know will be found somewhere, the average consumer may feel more inclined to purchase the game out-right, as opposed to playing ten free minutes then deleting it.

There also remains the question of demographics. Zelda fans have phones, yes, but non-Zelda fans have phones, too. Believe it or not, even Zelda haters have phones. Nintendo will have to find a way to draw in the average parent, teacher, and road-worker like it did with Pokemon GO’s simple, and accessible style of game play. If they can’t, they run the risk of releasing mediocre mobile game number one million and one; if, however, they do learn from past victories and failures alike, we may have something truly special here. Please don’t screw it up Nintendo.

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