Forums - Nintendo Discussion - Should Zelda sacrifice its artistic integrity for the sake of greater sales?

Is greater sales potential alone justification enough to determine the artistic style of the next Zelda game?

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I have a friend who just loves gaming of all kinds. He's not a huge Zelda fan (he's played some, but has never finished one), while his favorite series are the likes of Metroid, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, and Halo -- maybe you can see a pattern here, visually. Lately he's been playing Dark Souls a lot, and considers it one of the best games of its generation.

Last week while watching someone else play through Wind Waker HD, he said to me, "I just wish Dark Souls looked this good." Considering this is the opposite sentiment many gamers share, and probably the opposite of what you may have been expecting given that first paragraph, this really stuck with me.

Zelda has been given a large variety of visual styles by its developers throughout its over 25 years and more than a dozen major titles. They seem to enjoy creating visually appealing games of all flavors. Most of the games are vibrant and whimsical, and are almost always praised for excellent art direction. Wind Waker in particular is remembered as one of the most visually stunning games ever made.

However, in the wake of Wind Waker HD's release, some are beginning to point to its less-than-stellar sales as proof that more "realistically" styled Zelda games are more popular, especially since the best-selling Zelda game in the past 15 years is Twilight Princess, perhaps the most visually muted title in the series. Some have criticized Nintendo for remaking Wind Waker considering a Twilight Princess remake would almost certainly sell more, and furthermore, many use this argument to support their opinion that the next new Zelda game should definitely aim for a more realistic art style.

To me, this stands in stark contrast to fan reactions to other series. When From Software said they wanted to make Dark Souls II more accessible to appeal to a wider audience, their fans revolted and said the series should stick to its roots. The developer yielded to their demands, opting to continue to appeal to their somewhat niche audience rather than let their fans down for the sake of increasing sales. Gamers lambast Capcom for trying to appeal to the "Call of Duty" audience with modern Resident Evil titles, begging them to return the series to its true survival horror gameplay, even if it means a smaller potential audience and fewer sales. Yet gamers will use greater sales as justification for a "realistic, mature" art style for the Zelda series, regardless of what the developer feels will deliver the best experience. This is particularly baffling, as "realistic"-styled games are already a dime a dozen, while the more stylized visuals of Wind Waker and Skyward Sword are both unique and highly acclaimed.

Mind you, I'm aware that Nintendo could very well make a visual style that is both more "realistic" and unique, satisfying both demands, or that they may CHOOSE to use such a style. But I'm not asking what kind of style you think they should use for their next game. What I'm asking is whether greater sales alone are justification enough to determine the artistic direction of the next Zelda game. If the director and his team want to make something vibrant and whimsical, should Iwata call them and say, "NO. Make it visually darker and grittier and more realistic," just because that would probably sell better?

Also bear in mind that the visual style has NO connection to the maturity of the themes in the game. Wind Waker is as thematically mature as any other title in the series. This is purely about the visual style of the game, not the story or themes.



Even a bluff would suit me just fine...

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If you want to sacrifice the saga itself just for the sake of greater sales, just put the games from now on in your handhelds, or even mobiles.



The game came out today in EU and NA and people are already bashing the game's sales? That's a tad premature.

wfz said:
The game came out today in EU and NA and people are already bashing the game's sales? That's a tad premature.

Unfortunately, yes. It is now acceptable to declare a game a flop based on its first-week physical sales in a single region.

Regardless of Wind Waker HD's sales, though, I saw this same argument a lot when Skyward Sword was released. It sold relatively weakly compared to Twilight Princess.



Even a bluff would suit me just fine...

Well I like the not Wind Waker style better, and I like Twilight Princess more than wind waker gameplay wise as well. so I wouldn't say it would be sacrificing integrity to make a game like those. I like Skywards Sword Watercolor Palette though too, though I think some of the character designs could have used a bit of work (Majora's Mask could have benefited from not reusing so many assets from OoT :P). I think discrediting TP, OoT, and and Majora's Mask artstyle as CoD like is dumb, it's more realistic, but it's still heavily stylized.

You could argue that they sacrificed artistic integrity from their traditional zelda style to make games like WW and Skyward Sword appeal to nintendo's stereotypical fanbase and that idea failed if you want to play devil's advocate (not what I believe, they just wanted do do things imo).

As for using sales as a justification to choose between two artistic paths all things else considered equal meaning people want one more than the other. I don't think I have to answer that. What would you do? The assumption that I think is wrong here is that WW is artistically better and they want to do it that way more than a realistic take on Fantasy like LoTR, or the 3 zelda's I mentioned.




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This is an excellent question and here is my take on it.

Nintendo is balling

Nintendo currently is balling with most of the titles they make.They are in no rush for cash after they fix the profits issue that bothered them minorly in the past few quarters. When everything is back to normal, they will be balling again.

Flagships they should not touch

It is my belief that there are certain games Nintendo should not harm or touch when it comes to artistic depth, and mainline console Zelda is one of those games. Galaxy (e.g. 3D Mario) was one of those games, but I can make an exception for 3D world, which looks amazing. Prime is the last of those games. F-zero and Starfox as well, but to a lesser degree.

With all the money Nintendo makes from their more casual and sales-inducing games, these are the 3 games they should not touch.

Sales versus Artistic integrity, the heart of the question

In your OP you argue that TP had better sales due to a more realistic style. You will argue that going for a more artistic style is to go for higher sales, but I believe that that thinking is flawed and here is why. It is my understanding that when Nintendo made TP, they put as much artistic heart as they did with WW. The only difference is that they veered toward a more mature direction. The sales that followed were a result of people connecting with that choice. It's a matter of causality from TP to sales, and not from sales to TP. However, the paradox of the observer comes in. Now that we know that a realistic style garners more sales, could we argue that going for that style is compromising artistic integrity? I believe nobody knows... In the end, we can best judge not by the style chosen, but by the depth. For contrast, there are many games with a realistic style but severely lack artistic integrity. Could you name one? I know I could. So long as that does not happen to Zelda, then can you really bash the direction because it sells well? Think about it.

Why sales can matter

When following the documentary on the MN9 kickstarter project, one thing I learned is that Keiji Inafune is always on the lookout to see what connects with his fans. Does it mean he's compromising on artistic integrity? What if I told you that he can stay true to his vision, all the while molding it to the pleas of the fans, so as to make what connects with them too? Can both be possible? I think so. Do you really want to make something that doesn't resonate with your fans simply to dwelve into asepticized art? I think art is always a bit of both how can I make this great, and how can I make it enjoyable, especially when it comes to art in entertainment. That's my two cents. Great thread.



the_dengle said:
wfz said:
The game came out today in EU and NA and people are already bashing the game's sales? That's a tad premature.

Unfortunately, yes. It is now acceptable to declare a game a flop based on its first-week physical sales in a single region.

Regardless of Wind Waker HD's sales, though, I saw this same argument a lot when Skyward Sword was released. It sold relatively weakly compared to Twilight Princess.

Required peripheral + Late in console's life. The only sales target Skyward Sword had to look out for was Majora's Mask.



Coming 2015

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Going after whats popular now instead of creating something popular for the future and garnering that revenue is something that'll come within due time.

People with their realistic tastes are niche you know?

Why is Call of Duty popular and the games that copy it not?

There isn't anything wrong with Zelda in it's current state.

 

I had a blast playing 2010 Zelda.



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the_dengle said:

I have a friend who just loves gaming of all kinds. He's not a huge Zelda fan (he's played some, but has never finished one), while his favorite series are the likes of Metroid, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, and Halo -- maybe you can see a pattern here, visually. Lately he's been playing Dark Souls a lot, and considers it one of the best games of its generation.

Last week while watching someone else play through Wind Waker HD, he said to me, "I just wish Dark Souls looked this good." Considering this is the opposite sentiment many gamers share, and probably the opposite of what you may have been expecting given that first paragraph, this really stuck with me.

Zelda has been given a large variety of visual styles by its developers throughout its over 25 years and more than a dozen major titles. They seem to enjoy creating visually appealing games of all flavors. Most of the games are vibrant and whimsical, and are almost always praised for excellent art direction. Wind Waker in particular is remembered as one of the most visually stunning games ever made.

However, in the wake of Wind Waker HD's release, some are beginning to point to its less-than-stellar sales as proof that more "realistically" styled Zelda games are more popular, especially since the best-selling Zelda game in the past 15 years is Twilight Princess, perhaps the most visually muted title in the series. Some have criticized Nintendo for remaking Wind Waker considering a Twilight Princess remake would almost certainly sell more, and furthermore, many use this argument to support their opinion that the next new Zelda game should definitely aim for a more realistic art style.

To me, this stands in stark contrast to fan reactions to other series. When From Software said they wanted to make Dark Souls II more accessible to appeal to a wider audience, their fans revolted and said the series should stick to its roots. The developer yielded to their demands, opting to continue to appeal to their somewhat niche audience rather than let their fans down for the sake of increasing sales. Gamers lambast Capcom for trying to appeal to the "Call of Duty" audience with modern Resident Evil titles, begging them to return the series to its true survival horror gameplay, even if it means a smaller potential audience and fewer sales. Yet gamers will use greater sales as justification for a "realistic, mature" art style for the Zelda series, regardless of what the developer feels will deliver the best experience. This is particularly baffling, as "realistic"-styled games are already a dime a dozen, while the more stylized visuals of Wind Waker and Skyward Sword are both unique and highly acclaimed.

Mind you, I'm aware that Nintendo could very well make a visual style that is both more "realistic" and unique, satisfying both demands, or that they may CHOOSE to use such a style. But I'm not asking what kind of style you think they should use for their next game. What I'm asking is whether greater sales alone are justification enough to determine the artistic direction of the next Zelda game. If the director and his team want to make something vibrant and whimsical, should Iwata call them and say, "NO. Make it visually darker and grittier and more realistic," just because that would probably sell better?

Also bear in mind that the visual style has NO connection to the maturity of the themes in the game. Wind Waker is as thematically mature as any other title in the series. This is purely about the visual style of the game, not the story or themes.

WindWaker's themes do fit the art style. You cannot have one without the other. It comes together organically from the same space.

Just because its cartoony doesnt mean it has kiddy themes.