No, Zelda Isn’t Dead In Japan… But It Could Do Better

By Ishaan . January 10, 2014 . 9:31am

On December 26th, 2013, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was released in Japan. The game sold 224,143 copies in its first week, and sales tracker Media Create have shared with Siliconera that launch sales represented an 83.47% sell-through of the game’s initial shipment.


By the game’s second week on store shelves, A Link Between World’s total sales were at 297,215 copies, with sell-through at 96.84% (as of January 5th, 2014). Presumably, Nintendo have sent a second shipment out to retailers since, and judging by the sell-through percentages, the game appears to be doing well, relative to expectations.


Once again, A Link Between Worlds demonstrates the lesson Nintendo and retailers learnt from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, which was released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS. Spirit Tracks received a shipment of over 600,000 copies, but only went on to sell through half that amount at launch.


Due to the number of unsold copies sitting on store shelves, over the next few weeks, the game’s price dropped considerably, going as low as 2,000 yen in less than two months at some stores.


For their next portable Zelda, Nintendo were much more careful with their shipments. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, released in 2011, saw a shipment of just over 182,000 copies, and sold through 90.02% of that amount. Despite selling less out the gate than Spirit Tracks, this was a much more enviable position to be in, since retailers weren’t quite as keen to toss the game in bargain bins.


Zelda games in Japan may never replicate the success of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass again. That game went on to sell over 900,000 copies in under two years. That said, there is still a fairly large and healthy Japanese market for these titles nonetheless. For instance, by the end of 2012, Ocarina of Time 3D had sold nearly 560,000 copies at retail in Japan.


Is there room for more? Yes, potentially. But just how that growth will come about (if it ever does) remains to be seen. A multiplayer mode a la Monster Hunter, perhaps? Streetpass treasure maps like in Dragon Quest IX? Making Princess Zelda herself a bigger part of the game? It may be a while before we find out.


Sales data sourced from Media Create.

  • I adored Link Between Worlds as a *perfect* throwback to the the series’ SNES days: It was a perfect blend of old and nostalgic, and new and inventive. And I hope we see it again, cuz it was awesome!

    Nevertheless, I’m keen to see what the WiiU Zelda has in store, and I do hope for some unique if not some radical change-ups to the series. I trust in the team to decide whatever extent they do so, but I do think keeping up the “same ol’ Zelda” style will make the series stagnant and leave it in the dust.

    • My only problem with link between worlds were the dungeons were a bit too short.

      • brostar

        They were quite short but I honestly found the game a perfect length. Just a little over 20 hours. A lot of people claimed it was too short but I strongly disagree 20 hours is not too short. Especially seeing as most AAA games have 12 hour long storylines. I felt like A Link Between Worlds was so good and it didn’t overstay it’s welcome.

        • GH56734

          Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass (not counting cutscenes) have 25 hours each, and were for a time considered the weaker entries and in the case of ST, too few dungeons. (Not that I share the same viewpoint, I loved those for what they are)
          So, it’s too short by Zelda standards.

          • brostar

            How long was A Link to the past?

          • alfare

            Around 30? There weren’t any timers back then, so it may be kinda hard to tell.

            But regardless of the exact number of hours, A Link to the Past in my memory felt very, very, very, very long.

        • Well put! I have over 20hrs on both my playthroughs.

      • Bec66

        Well you could argue that ALBW was a bit on the experimental side so maybe in the future we’ll see them doing what they did in that game only with longer dungeons.

        Edit: Although thinking about it that doesn’t really mean that aspect should be overlooked when looking at the game subjectively

    • TheGioG

      If the whole open world exploration, multiple ways to solve puzzles, and minimal hand-holding didn’t do the series justice, I don’t know what did. The game was on the short side, but good Christ, that was one heck of an adventure.

    • Josh

      Agreed. Those were my same thoughts regarding ALBW.

      Concerned Zelda U, Aonuma has stated that he understands the sentiment regarding the series getting “stale,” and also said he shares that view. So hopefully we’ll get something a little refreshing whenever it sees the light of day.

    • Mike G. Moran

      At the core level Zelda has not taken any serious risks since Majora’s Mask. I’d rather Nintendo create a new series they can actually play with.

  • Zelda games sell better over time as oppose to selling a huge bulk within the first few weeks or so. 200k is still impressive.

    • Nanashrew

      That’s mostly the western side. In Japan, the Zelda sales differ, some do well and others just do okay while in the western side of the world it’s much more consistent highs.

      • John Diamond

        Does this chart even count digital sales?
        or any zelda bundles?

  • Lilith

    Make Princess Zelda ecchi = profit. //don’t take me seriously

    • Learii

      but how by make her dress up in a swing suite?

    • Nanashrew

      You’re getting a Musou and you’ll like it! (actually would like to see Zelda playable in Hyrule Warriors)

      • J_Joestar

        Senran Kagura SV her up in it then i guess? some bounce physics and clothing destruction with i’d imagine a more lacy designed undergarments (or boob wrap if she is in Shiek form) should work.

  • Tre W

    And that’s likely part of the reason Zelda Musou (“Hyrule Warriors”) was greenlit, along with Link/Zelda-themed apparel popping up in the likes of MonHun 4.

    Nintendo is looking for ways to try and reinvigorate the Zelda franchise’s appeal in Japan. And there’s few better means of accomplishing that than by doing a little cross-promotion in brands that have a bit more in the way of mind share amongst Japanese audiences now than Zelda does, at the moment.

    It’s yet another reason that I hope Zelda Musou does especially well over there.

    • I fear that Zelda Musou’s sales will be sabotaged by the Wii U, unfortunately.

      • subsamuel01

        I slated for the end of the year, lets hope by then they can at least sell some more Wii U’s especially in Japan sales have been growing lately.

      • miyamoto

        100% agree.

      • But the reason why Zelda Musou was greenlit at all was to draw more Japanese gamers to the Wii U in the first place. The Wii U is clearly lacking in interest because of a lack of games, so interesting games should be enough to remedy the problem.

        The sheer irony of that feels like a slap in the face.

        • Oh, of course. I’m not complaining that they’re doing it. For a console that’s clearly not going to be one of Nintendo’s bigger success stories, Wii U has some amazing Japanese exclusives coming to it. X, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, Bayonetta 2, Zelda Musou, The Wonderful 101.

          I’m just saying all of those games are probably going to suffer in terms of sales because Wii U hardware sales won’t be very high by the time those titles come out. And none of these games are going to escalate Wii U hardware sales to significantly higher numbers either, IMO.

      • Lucky Dan

        I think they’ll be sabotaged from the outer company remember how Metroid:Other M done? I hope T-K doesn’t have the same developers that done Metroid:Other M on Hyrule Warriors the only thing they’re good are female breasts as demonstrated by DOA 5.

        • Metroid: Other M was entirely Nintendo’s fault. Team Ninja were following orders, and given the constraints they were asked to work within, they did a great job. Any shortcomings that Other M has were a result of design decisions made at the Nintendo level.

          As for Hyrule Warriors… I dunno. I think, just because of Nintendo’s involvement, it could “accidentally” end up being the best Warriors game ever made. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that were the case, frankly.

          Just… sales-wise, I think Wii U’s low userbase will prevent the game from seeing as much exposure as it could potentially have gotten.

          • Lucky Dan

            but but everyone said it was Team Ninja’s fault !!!! Actually I’m wrong on that account I definitely believe you having 2 different companies, one being the director of what to put in the game and the other one creating the game from 2 different perspectives is a no-no.If Rare could do it without any interference than Team Ninja should of done the same thing.

            I don’t the Wii U, PS4 or Xbox One would reach a high user base like the generation before a price drop, I mean it’s great to own the latest piece of console tech but when an equivalent computer with just a bit extra can out do all 3 consoles you know something seriously is wrong, before when the Xbox 360 and PS3 was out computers were expensive but now since technology power cannot double every 2 years cause we almost hit a threshold (close to the speed of light) the computers that cost 2000 today would be a minor improvement over those costing 800.

            Sorry for ranting a bit there.

          • 80% of people on the Internet don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m not surprised people are pointing fingers at Team Ninja, especially since Ninja Gaiden 3 (which was entirely their own project) had issues, but Metroid: Other M was certainly not their fault.

            I definitely believe you having 2 different companies, one being the director of what to put in the game and the other one creating the game from 2 different perspectives is a no-no.If Rare could do it without any interference than Team Ninja should of done the same thing.

            I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily true. It is true that a lot of developers aren’t good at working with external companies, but at the same time, a lot are. For example, after Nintendo acquired Monolith Soft, the quality of Monolith’s games went through the roof. Xenoblade and Soma Bringer (which was sadly never localized) are the most polished games Monolith Soft have made to date.

          • Lucky Dan

            True, same with Platinum and Nintendo!

            Though with Metroid: Other M but I wouldn’t exactly give Team Ninja a free pass, they could of dropped the project or stood up and said something instead of being willing obident dogs it is their rep on the line as well as Nintendo’s.

          • Tyler Carraway

            Hey, I understand if you just don’t have time, but do you have a link to something where I could read about Nintendo making the mistakes with Metroid: Other M?

          • Lucky Dan

            Try this link


            but you’ll have to play it Super Metroid then play Metroid Other M to see the real mistakes.

          • Tyler Carraway

            Well, I have played both games. I was okay with the gameplay of Other M, myself. It was their handling of Samus that bothered me.
            For example: SPOILER ALERT: in the Ridley fight (which was awesome), I felt like I was playing a completely different character than the one that was cowering in the cutscene just twenty seconds ago.

    • k.b.a.

      so in short, they’ve got to seller outer? because nostalgia means nothing to the man children and other gamers of japan. it’s about that otaku life and the repeat gameplay titles that come with it. no offense

      • Lucky Dan

        I could be wrong but PC’s are becoming more popular rather than Consoles in the East demonstrated by massive amounts of smart phones (which are essentially PCs in a nutshell) and realize they offer much more value than just playing games (and games gone by) and you don’t need a 2000 dollar computer to play games, 500- 800 is sufficient enough unless you want 100 terabytes of HDD space for other stuff.

      • SeventhEvening

        Repeat gameplay titles? I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Zelda has barely changed it’s formula since the N64 days. It’s nearly the same game every time.

        • k.b.a.

          I was talking about the likes of dynasty warriors by which I meant not so much each game in a series is wash rinse repeat, but the game play in each game is wash rinse repeat. I’ve never played dynasty warriors so I can only speak from what I’ve seen over these years but looks like mash mash mash win. Apply that game design to a long running franchise like one piece or fist of the north star, sit back and call it a day, whatever amount of money that’s left will print itself

  • domonkun

    I honestly don’t understand how Zelda doesn’t sell as well in Japan. Is it because the game doesn’t target itself toward otaku culture as much? ‘Cause if that’s the case, those who shy away from the series for that reason are missing out.

    • Grape Monet

      Most of the “otaku culture” games don’t sell as well as the portable Zelda games have. Even though Zelda isn’t as popular in Japan as it is in the West those numbers are still pretty big. Maybe the answer is that Japanese gamers have just grown tired of the series.

      • John Diamond

        yes… but again I’d like ot comment once i know if this counts digital sales and bundles sold due to legend of zelda. for all we know, ocarina of time and this one could’ve sold more than we accounted for

        • It does account for bundles, yes. It doesn’t account for digital sales, but Ocarina of Time wasn’t available as an eShop download until late 2012, so even if you were to take those into account, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

          As for digital sales of LBW… Japan’s market isn’t big on digital sales. Certain kinds of games do well digitally, but not all. The ones that do well as digital downloads are the ones that consumers tend to want to have on them at all times. Games with a major social aspect like Pokémon or Monster Hunter or Animal Crossing. Zelda isn’t one of those.

          • John Diamond

            would it be possible to like, iunno check out e-shop sales or something?

          • For Ocarina, probably not. For LBW… maybe. Nintendo’s third quarter financial results (which are out later this month) will probably provide a regional breakdown of recent releases, including LBW, so we’ll probably get total figures at least for week 1, including eShop sales, since Nintendo always includes those.

            Long story short… maybe for LBW in a week or so. :P

    • Nana

      Zelda games routinely outsell otaku games by a WIDE margin, you know.

      You (and people talking like you) have a big perception problem.
      Sales are actually very, very good – just for NINTENDO standards, they aren’t as good as they could be. But the numbers are absolutely file on a selling standpoint. The game series isn’t in trouble.

      The one series Nintendo has that is in trouble is Metroid.

      • Metroid has actually never been popular. The only time it was actually selling well was during the days of Metroid Prime 1. After that, it’s sort of all been downhill. I’m afraid Metroid might just be too niche for its own good. I don’t think it’s the fault of the games themselves. They’re just very niche in concept/setting.

        (I mean that in terms of worldwide sales, by the way. In Japan, I don’t think it’s ever taken off, period.)

  • Nate

    I think it’s time to lay link and his world to rest. I don’t like the games. Its time for a new action adventure. Preferably one with out “goddesses” in it.

    • Nanashrew

      Why though? The series does well, it’s just that Japan is their weakest territory with the franchise.

    • Wait what

      “I don’t like these games so they should stop making them.”

      No. You don’t like them, then you don’t play them. Hundreds of thousands of people clearly do like them, so they will continue to be made for them. Your personal tastes do not dictate what every franchise does.

      • J_Joestar

        seriously, gaming would be dead if they killed a franchise whenever a single person shows up and says they don’t like it.

    • Yan Zhao

      This Nate guy must think the earth revolves around him.

    • TrevHead

      I’ve not nothing against Zelda but yes Nintendo should make an adventure game that isn’t about Link.

      • Ferrick
        • Theob Vious Choice

          Great example! A game from the same franchise from around 20 years ago made by a developer that is not Nintendo, on a non-Nintendo system. Your point is so incredibly valid I am beside myself.

          • @Ferrick:disqus @theobviouschoice:disqus All right, that’s enough. Let’s stop derailing the discussion with mud-slinging now.

          • Theob Vious Choice

            Finished several hours ago; thanks for deleting the argument though, it’s nice that this site has moderators who actually clean up the site.

          • Ferrick

            it wasn’t really a discussion per se, but yeah, it’s already over

    • Slayven19

      I don’t usually thumbs down, but when I do its for a good reason. Stay loose my friend.

  • Freud_Hater

    Well, except for Spirit Tracks, those numbers aren’t too bad at all…

    • Anewme…Again

      Yep, but when you compare it to the west, sales are quite low.
      That’s like how lot of peoples say some games sales are low in the west, because sales are much higher in Japan, even though the sales in the west are decent.
      Dragon Quest and Monster Hunter are 2 good example of that.

    • Nana

      Stop that, we need to be hysterical about Zelda doing totally terrible, even though in reality, it’s not.

  • MaximDualBlade

    I know Zelda is a famous franchise, but this is an exaggeration of everyone who wants each game to sell in the million. The franchise has done a lot of different kind of games, some sell more, others don’t. LBW was more of a tribute(with new stuff) to all of those who played A Link To The Past and even various Zelda games.

    We see games like COD, Fifa and GTA selling millions of copies and I understand thats what makes the fans worry, but everyone who thinks Zelda is dead may be becoming too paranoid(spelling?)

    What could this franchise do to get those sales that worry everyone? Absolutely no idea, because the current fanbase is really fragmented and they either want or don’t wnat change, so with this specific fanbase you will never but never make the majority happy.

    But in my opinion for all you insecure Zelda fans, Zelda will never die

    • Napalnman1231

      There is a HUGE difference between Zelda and new generation games like GTA and CoD, in america those games can try much as they can to compete with a 25+ years old Saga.

      The point is, that Zelda is too good for being removed by some -10 years old games like you mention. It is an instant classic and it will continue as Japanese put his part on the game too, but taking that consideration and reading the charts, it leads to 2 conclusions:
      1. The Saga needs to renovate or 2. We are worring for nothing.

      • Anewme…Again

        Nintendo is really in a bind with Zelda right now.
        They need to find a way to make Zelda games more attractive for Japanese without making too much big change and risk losing west fans.
        Which is something really hard to do.

  • Göran Isacson

    I do wonder what the final sales for A Link Between Worlds will end up. Judging from this here chart, considering that Spirit Tracks was a direct sequel with similar mechanics and OoT3D was a straight up remake, they seemed to have sold about as well as one can expect for a “I’ve already played this” title.

    While LBW is a new game and not a remake, it’s also a sequel… but also a sequel to a really old game, so to a whole bunch o’ consumers it might as well be something completely new. Then again again, it may primarily attract the people old enough to have played it back in the day, soo yeah. Curious what audience it will draw.

  • NimbusStev

    I’d be very interested to see a similar write-up for the past 4 Zelda console games.

  • Warboss Aohd

    it’s almost as if ‘gasp’ It’s not a bad thing to make games that do better outside your country of origin!

    • Bec66

      When has selling Zelda ever been a problem outside of Japan? I mean its not that I disagree with you or anything its just were is that coming from?

      • Warboss Aohd

        i was referring to companies other than Nintendo actually.

  • LustEnvy

    I just think nowadays, more and more people are into the more adult-like character designs, and not so much the cartoony ones.

    Nothing wrong with either, just calling it like I see it.

    Bring on another Twilight Princess styled Zelda game… watch the sales go through the roof.

  • Lucius

    Strange Wind Waker HD isn’t on the chart even though it was released in Japan in 2013.

    • Quizler

      This is only the more recent handheld Zelda titles.

  • Aspenharls

    I’m afraid I have to say this but, they need to put Princess Zelda on the cover, with bigger breasts >.> It’s the only way for Sales in Japan to increase, whether or not you view me as a troll.

    • I don’t know how I should feel, that you suggested that Nintendo should resort to sex to sell their products, or that you may have stereotyped the entire Japanese gamer base. It’s clearly not that sort of problem.

    • You’re really overestimating the power of games like that. How many fanservice games sell even close to 200k, forget crossing the 500k mark?

      • buddyluv324

        There’s Dragon’s Crown and the Disgaea games just to name a few, but certain games with fanservice can only go so far. But to stick to the topic, I dont agree what Aspenharls said about the Zelda series should have more fanservice just to up their sales. But I think that the series needs to grow more with their adult fanbase and make it more releatable to those who grew up with the series that are now adults.

        • I don’t think Disgaea sells because of fanservice, it sells because it’s it’s a long-running series that has amassed enough fans over the years. Look at Nippon Ichi’s other games… those don’t sell anywhere near the amount Disgaea does, and they’re similar in nature to that game, in terms of fanservice.

          As for Dragon’s Crown… while fanservice definitely played a role in the sales of that game, the 4-player multiplayer aspect was equally important. Fanservice alone has rarely done anything for a game.

    • buddyluv324

      You do realize what Nintendo did censoring one of Fire Emblem DLCs and some of the characters in Bravely Default ( Well I think it was actually Saqure Enix if im not mistaken) when releasing them here in the states. I doubt Nintendo would fully go for something like that with one of their key franchises at least without resorting to some sort of censoring.

  • NabucaCPM

    Out of curiosity, where did you happen to obtain ALBW’s sell-through rate?
    I haven’t been able to come across this info anywhere.

    Just to be sure, didn’t the issue with Spirit Track’s (same thing happened to TP) price reduction have more to do with the additional 140,000 units that were shipped to retailers one week after it’s release and less to do with it’s initial 620,000 shipment.

    • LBW’s sell-through rate is from Media Create. We got in touch with them to ask if they would send us data for the week they were on vacation, and they were kind enough to do so after I explained what Siliconera is, and what we do.

      As for Spirit Tracks, historical data from Media Create says initial (first-week) sell-through was 47.11%, which is what I used to calculate the initial shipment.

      • DanielGearSolid

        Wow, nice

        Sharing info that your readers otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Now that’s journalism

        • Haha, you’re too kind. I just love sales and trying to understand the Japanese market. It’s fascinating how predictable it can be sometimes.

          • DanielGearSolid

            Im with you on that.

      • NabucaCPM

        I had a hunch that you may have contacted Media Create in this instance.

  • SeventhEvening

    I think my taste more alines with Japanese games these days. I enjoy playing Zelda games, sure, but I’ve never understood how rabid the fanbase is for the games. In my opinion, the best zelda game to come out since the N64 days was Okami. I wish Nintendo could take note of that.

  • Lumi

    Just wondering… Do we have any sales figures of ALBW in NA/Europe?

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