Nintendo 3DS

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


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.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.