Will The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Release Affect Horizon Zero Dawn’s Sales?

Two hugely anticipated exclusive open world adventure games releasing in the same week- which one prevails?

Posted By | On 25th, Feb. 2017 Under Article, Editorials | Follow This Author @Pramath1605

Next week is going to be legendary for us as fans of this medium- not only do we have an exciting new system launching with the Nintendo Switch, but two highly ambitious games in Sony and Guerrilla’s Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are launching in the same week, And this isn’t just a case of two major titles releasing together, either- Horizon and Zelda actually share a lot in common, from their open world action RPG inspired gameplay to their focus on a mysterious setting that the player must unravel, to each game’s attempt to evolve the open world game template further.

horizon zero dawn

"Reviews for Horizon are already out, and it is one of the most critically acclaimed games of this generation."

Reviews for Horizon are already out, and it is one of the most critically acclaimed games of this generation. Zelda reviews don’t go live until next week, but yesterday, the embargo on pre-release previews and impressions lifted, with gaming media being universally, overwhelmingly positive, and several sources outright proclaiming Breath of the Wild to be a superior game to Horizon. In fact the first ever review of the game has already awarded it a perfect 10/10 score.

Take a look at what Gamespot’s Peter Brown, who just last week awarded Horizon a glowing 9/10, had to say. “…I really liked it [referring to Horizon Zero Dawn]. But playing Zelda is really making me question- jeez. Horizon is a great game, it’s a fantastic game. But next to this, it’s like, shoot! If I was to make a list about what I like about both these games, the Zelda one would be as twice as long, I think.”

Brown isn’t the only one pointing how Zelda appears to already have made Horizon obsolete, either. “Having just completed it, we couldn’t help but think of Horizon Zero Dawn while playing Breath Of The Wild, and how simplistic it now seems compared to Zelda,” said GameCentral in its overwhelmingly enthusiastic preview of the game.

"Zelda reviews don’t go live until next week, but today, the embargo on pre-release previews and impressions lifted, with gaming media being universally, overwhelmingly positive, and several sources outright proclaiming Breath of the Wild to be a superior game to Horizon. "

I could go on, and produce more such quotes from my fellows in this industry who think Zelda is a better open world game than Horizon, but I think I have made the point- regardless of where we stand in terms of our fanboy allegiances and our own preferences and dislikes, the fact of the matter remains that the only people who have had a chance to play through Horizon and Zelda both, extensively, seem to prefer ZeldaHorizon is therefore caught in the rather awkward position and this is after receiving accolades and applause from the entire industry.

The question, then, is, can this percolate down to the commercial market, too? Is there a possibility that the release of Zelda (and the Nintendo Switch) puts a bump in Horizon‘s sales? Realistically, the answer is- no. While I am currently going to make no judgements or statements about which of the two games is better, the fact of the matter remains that currently, they are going after two very different audiences. PlayStation 4 has achieved full mass market penetration, and is owned even by extended, ‘casual’ gamers, so to speak- these are people who may have bought a PS4 to play some FIFA or Call of Duty with their friends, but will absolutely look into a high profile release for the console that they find interesting. These people are likely to purchase Horizon, especially after Sony’s relentlessly aggressive marketing for it over the past month.

Zelda, on the other hand, is launching for the Nintendo Switch, a system that, in spite of its potential for full mass market success later on in life, is initially selling to a very devoted audience of Nintendo, technology, and gaming fans and enthusiasts, and only in very limited numbers- only 2 million consoles are produced for the month of March. It is also launching on the Wii U, a system that sold in dismal numbers to begin with, is now discontinued and impossible to purchase, and now has an entirely disengaged audience that is looking to transition on to Nintendo’s next system.

"The question, then, is, can this percolate down to the commercial market, too? Is there a possibility that the release of Zelda (and the Nintendo Switch) puts a bump in Horizon‘s sales?"

None of this is to say that Zelda will sell less than Horizon– in fact, given the absurd attach rates that Zelda is likely to enjoy in March (what other reason is there for you to pick up a Nintendo Switch right now if not to play Zelda?), it is almost certainly going to be the highest selling game worldwide next month, even accounting for the PS4’s bigger by magnitudes of order install base. But this is pointing out a very important fact- at some point in the nebulous future, the PS4 and the Switch may be catering to the same customers, and thus, their releases may be directly competing with each other. As of right now, that is not the case. The people who are buying the Switch right now were largely never going to purchase Horizon at launch- the people who are buying Horizon now were probably never going to pick up a Switch right away. Which is to say- each of these games exists, for now, in its own bubble. The sales of one are not going to reflect on the sales of the other much at all. If this were a Venn diagram, the overlap would be pretty minor.

But that minor overlap does exist- and what of it? What about the gaming enthusiasts who own a PS4, and are eagerly anticipating Zelda and Nintendo’s next machine? Among them, what is more likely to win? To answer that question- who knows? Anecdotally, I know several people (myself included), who have decided to pass on Horizon for the time being to be able to focus on Switch and Zelda. But I won’t claim that my experience in this regard is universal- anecdotes are anecdotes, with no factual basis in reality (which means, please spare me the angry comments about how none of your friends are interested in getting a Switch because they would rather play Horizon).

But there is no larger way to know which game will sell better to the gaming enthusiast audience, in large part because we don’t even know what that audience is, or how big it is. You might be tempted to say Zelda will do better- after all, it’s the next entry in gaming’s most prestigious series, and has a ton of goodwill and hype surrounding it. At the same time, you might be tempted to say Horizon will do better- after all, it is a technologically stunning achievement, and a lot of gamers may not want to put up with Nintendo’s primitive tech even for Zelda‘s sake. But again, both those arguments cancel each other out- we have no empirical evidence.

"The sales of one are not going to reflect on the sales of the other much at all."

What we know right now is that both games have been marketed aggressively by Sony and Nintendo. Both are likely to be the biggest game releases of this year. Both are hugely anticipated, and well received by critics. For now, it looks like Zelda will end up doing better in terms of reviews and critic scores, but previews should never be taken as an absolute indicator of final success.

Will Horizon be affected by Zelda‘s launch? If Zelda does as well critically as it looks like it will, I can see all buzz and chatter around the game slow down a bit. But in terms of tangible metrics like sales? I think both games will be fine, and that both will do exceptionally well. More than anything else, I think that we are, as gamers, in for a hell of a treat come March, with two such exceptional exclusives to play.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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  • The truth-ier

    what a dumb article… no nintendo game is a huge day 1 seller like a halo, or a naughty dog game.
    And lets see…. PS4 has a userbase of 50 plus million potential buys, two radically different games, for 2 different groups of people…lazy article.

    • chaz

      *looks at Pokemon, Smash Bros., Mario Kart*


  • Kasparius

    I have a PS4 and I’m getting the Switch and Zelda at launch. I will probably get Horizon a few months from now. But for now, Zelda is a vastly higher priority.

  • I like that the article isn’t taking a hard stance on possible market impact (and counter impacts from one game to the other) while still making it clear that this is an editorial/opinionated piece with a real person behind it.

    I haven’t gotten into a Zelda game in any major fashion since Majora’s Mask for the N64. BotW, I can only say that, for me, it is a system seller. I own neither a WiiU or a Switch at the moment. I’m actually kind of pulling my hair over this because I was beaten to the pre-order punch. My only hope is to try a place that doesn’t do pre-orders and sales-reservation… As expected, I’m anxious about how that’ll go.

  • Marc Grierson

    In short… No.

  • SonyCeasarPS4





  • It’s important to also note that Zelda has a self imposed cap — the total number of Switch units manufactured for launch, where as Horizon has a potentially larger market: the PS4 install base…

  • AllDayIPlay B

    Personally I have Horizon and Zelda preordered because I know they both will be amazing experiences. And while it’ll take me awhile to beat either one of them due to having a family and full time job, I think supporting the industry as a whole is majorly important. I think we get caught up too much in the competition between either console manufactures, publishers, and developers, forgetting to experience everything because we’re gamers at the end of the day and if a game is exceptional, it should be our mission to play it regardless of platform.

  • Direct-XbotMK1 Elite

    I think as professional critics who feel the need to jump on social media to make one seem better than the other are being incredibly idiotic or they’re just trying to get attention. To be honest, these could just be a few statements from critics who could be Nintendo fans or just shilling for an underperforming platform right now.

    Let Zelda stand on its own merits just as Horizon. The main thing to remember is that Horizon and Zelda are going to be very different games. Aside from open world exploration and some RPG elements, Horizon has you fighting robot dinos in a post apocalyptic setting while Zelda is a fantasy setting and will probably have more puzzles.

    Zelda won’t appeal to some people as much as Horizon and vice versa.

    • StefaniJAGermanotta

      Thank you! My thoughts exactly. The other issue is that by lambasting a new IP, it may prevent other developers from establishing new franchises, which will lead to us getting the same old sequels. I don’t think that’s good for the video gaming community.

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  • Gamez Rule

    Being able to play Breath of the Wild on Wii U or Nintendo Switch will give the game an advantage in sales due to being a network exclusive title so to speak, while Horizon Zero Dawn is only playable on PS4 systems as a full exclusive title, but getting back to effecting sales IMO the answer is no.

    I no longer own a Wii U and there is no way I’m buying a N-Switch, so I will be passing on buying Breath of the Wild, but I will be getting H-Z-Dawn. Like most games nowadays there are pros n cons to each title, like Switch titles can be played on the go and at home when docked, and when at home it will run at 900p while portable it drops to 720p, while Horizon Zero Dawn is not portable but runs for full 1080p with options of checkerboard 4K gaming with full HDR using the *Decima engine* making this one of the best looking open-world games made.

    Zelda is a well known series while Horizon is a new IP for PS4 gamers so looking at that Zelda should sell more BUT people also wanted new IPs and after seeing in-depth reviews on H-Z-Dawn I think the new IP will sell just fine as will Zelda.


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  • guttenor

    The question is: Will Nier Automata sell anything at all? I’m a little worried considering how hyped (by all rights) the other two games are.

  • MiamiBeachMedMan

    Personally I’m buying Horizon, and not buying Zelda, at least not initially. Also picking up Nier and Mass Effect in the coming weeks.

    In the Zelda videos I’ve seen, the framerate really chugs when Link is running. It will be interesting to see the technical vids on Zelda, and whether the seemingly compromised framerate (if in fact it is a problem) might affect reviews. My guess is that Nintendo fans (and reviewers) would forgive and overlook that issue for Zelda where they take a more critical approach with other games, the same way Bethesda fans ignore or even embrace technical issues in Fallout or Elder Scrolls.

  • Flying Goat

    I’m surprised Zelda seems like it will be getting better reviews than Horizon – I’ve watched footage of both of them (Admittedly, Zelda footage may be an earlier build), and Horizon just looks like it’s a much better game. Zelda looks to have vast regions of uninteresting flat-ish ground with a single texture (+grass) between isolated points of interest, which just seems rather uninspired, combat looks pretty much the same (With more weapons, sure, but basically the same as the last two Zelda games, neither of which I cared for much).

    And most importantly, it doesn’t have robot dinosaurs (Or at least none in the footage I’ve seen). Since I have a Wii U (Bought just for two Xenoblade games – tried some other games, none really seemed that great), I’ll probably buy it at some point – after I work through my RPG backlog (Mass Effect Andromeda, Bloodborne, and a couple other games).

    Of course, impressions from just watching a game can be quite wrong – the footage I watched of Ratchet and Clank looked really dull. I bought it anyways, and it’s an amazing game, so we’ll see.

    • Nikko Thomas

      The 20min demo Nintendo has been showing at presentations has had most of the world stripped to hide away potential spoilers. Just as well, most gameplay footage has been in one very small portion of the map. The AI is incredibly smart in this game making battle much more difficult, and there are multiple ways to engage opponents as well as new mechanics such as flurry rush. Also, Zelda does have robots. They’re more like spiders, though. That said there are also ample amounts of wildlife and you can even ride them, like deer and bison.

  • jlenoconel

    Here it comes lol, the articles that make excuses for Horizon Zero Dawn not selling as much as anticipated. I think Zelda probably will impact this game’s sales. A major console being released the same week as any game is bound to.

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