We all know the famous quote from Shigeru Miyamoto: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” Recently, high-profile misfires such as Cyberpunk 2077 have proven this to be true (myriad present and future patches not withstanding), with many being critical of CD Projekt Red for not delaying the game until it was truly ready for consoles. Further examples of games with underwhelming launches have been unfortunately common as of late, but what about Nintendo’s own releases? The Japanese gaming giant is no stranger to delays either with games like Metroid Prime 4 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yet, as we’ll see from some of the most prominent examples of delayed Nintendo games, Shigeru Miyamoto’s quote has generally worked out well for Nintendo’s delayed games.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – 1 year
After a mesmerizing first appearance at E3 2004, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was turning into everything that Zelda fans could have hoped for. The darker, more serious tone made it the spiritual successor to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that series veterans had wanted after being (arguably unfairly) disappointed with the visual style of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Yet, those fans would have to wait a bit longer as Twilight Princess was delayed almost a full year to November 2006. Nintendo ultimately did this to release the game as the headliner for the Wii’s launch lineup, while also appeasing the GameCube fans that had waited patiently since its initial reveal.
The Wii didn’t take long to become a sales hit, and Twilight Princess might have played a role in this. That said, the delay to create a Wii version of the game resulted in some key differences between the Wii and GameCube versions that weren’t to everyone’s liking. Among other things, sword attacks were faster to use on GameCube due to button inputs being faster than motion controls, and the lack of a second analog stick meant that the Wii version didn’t have an option for free camera control. While the delay was probably the right choice for the success of the Wii’s launch, it created some understandable frustration for the hardcore Zelda audience.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – 3-6 months
Originally due to release in late 2019, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was delayed by a few months to the new release date of March 20, 2020. Animal Crossing fans that had been waiting for the Switch iteration of their favorite series were, of course, disappointed by this, but in actuality, this may have been one of Nintendo’s best -timed (albeit unintentionally) delays.
The unfortunate rise of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that many people began to work from home in March. As a byproduct, much of the global community was stuck at home with little to do outside of remote working. Animal Crossing: New Horizons releasing in March was the perfect answer to the millions of people that wanted to engage with something that could take their minds off the current pandemic.
The cheerful and positive nature of Animal Crossing: New Horizons was exactly the form of escapism that was needed at the time, and the fact that the game was also extremely well received was the icing on the cake. To put this perfect storm into perspective, the game has since sold over 26 million units as of September 2020 and is now the bestselling Switch game ever in Japan. In any other year, a delay of a few months may not have meant much for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but in 2020 it was an indirect masterstroke for the popularity and financial success of this game.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild – 2 years
Of all the examples of games that Nintendo has delayed, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may be the most notable. Back in 2014, the game received a first teaser from Eiji Aonuma featuring now recognizable elements such as a Guardian. It then targeted a release date of 2015 on Wii U. A couple of delays later, Breath of the Wild finally became simultaneously a launch title for Nintendo Switch in March of 2017. Given the poor sales of the Wii U, it’s unlikely Breath of the Wild would do much to change that situation, but it was the perfect game to launch with and entice sales of Switch.
Nintendo had learned its lesson from the delay to Twilight Princess and managed to launch a fully featured new Zelda game as both the headliner of the Switch’s launch and a late Wii U title for fans that had waited. The quality and financial accolades of Breath of the Wild speak for themselves, instantly proving that its delays were the right decision to make the best game possible by its release date. While there were little differences between the Wii U and Switch versions of Breath of the Wild, the portable nature of Switch and the appeal of a brand new Nintendo system meant that Switch was where most people wanted to play Link’s new adventure. Out of every game Nintendo has ever delayed, I’d speculate that Breath of the Wild benefited the most.
Pikmin 3 – 8ish months
Pikmin 3 was originally meant to be a Wii U launch window title, (Wii U launched in November 2012.) but it did not actually release until July of 2013. The latest entry in the Pikmin series launched to positive critical reception, therefore proving Shigeru Miyamoto’s quote once again, and was praised for its charming world, clever new mechanics, and for being technically sound. Beyond the game itself, however, there was the question of whether its delay had any impact on the launch sales of the Wii U. Aside from a variety of ports, the main attraction of the Wii U’s launch was New Super Mario Bros. U, so there’s a chance that the Pikmin 3 delay might have influenced the buying decisions of the Nintendo audience.
That said, the Wii U launch sales numbers weren’t actually poor by any means, and the confusion caused by its strange naming convention had likely done more damage than the delay of Pikmin 3 ever could. There’s no way to know how much of a difference Pikmin 3 could’ve had as a launch title, though I speculate that it would’ve been insignificant. For the game itself, this delay was the best move Nintendo could’ve made. Pikmin 3 has since been regarded by many to be the best game in the series, and the recent port to Switch has only further proven that.
Star Fox Zero – 5 months
While delaying games generally works out well for Nintendo, Star Fox Zero was a notable exception to this rule. Star Fox Zero was set to launch in November 2015 but was delayed out of the holiday period to April 2016. The Star Fox series has generally struggled to achieve consistent success, and more often than not, many of the best Star Fox games have been criticized for sticking too closely to the formula set out by prior entries in the series (or, alternatively, for not sticking close enough). Fans may have hoped that the delay to Star Fox Zero meant that Nintendo and co-developer PlatinumGames were seriously attempting to take the series to new heights, and it seemed like Nintendo was attempting to improve the game based on fan reception of its previous showings.
However, the unfortunate result was a game that underperformed in the eyes of critics. An unintuitive system split the controls for flying between the TV and Wii U GamePad, while inconsistent level design meant that well-made levels were mixed with more dull and drawn-out stealth sections. It wasn’t the revelation that Star Fox fans had been hoping for, and the delay only rubbed more salt in the wound for the Star Fox faithful. Shigeru Miyamoto generally had the right idea when it comes to delaying games for the better, but Star Fox Zero was seemingly the rare exception to this.
How well do you think delaying games has turned out for Nintendo?