Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Cont’d)

It’s less than a week away from the launch of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (HW: AoC). I reckoned this game will be a commercial success in my previous post but I didn’t give the idea that to what extent it counts as a success for HW: AoC? Of course, everything is comparatively speaking. Depending on the development and marketing budgets (or even broader strategy of developer/publisher), 3M shipment for one game might be a disappointment while 1M shipment for another might worth a celebration artwork and even secure future development.

Let’s do some math. Since HW: AoC is a Nintendo Switch exclusive, the first way to estimate shipment is via attach rate. The idea of attach rate is based on installed base which is distorted by the development of the platform including household penetration, replacement/upgrade of Nintendo Switch, new/additional purchase of Nintendo Switch Lite. But it’s still a good starting point for this exercise. Another way to look at this is from fan base perspective. The lifetime shipment of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) is a proxy of existing fan base of Legend of Zelda on Nintendo Switch so the cumulative shipment of HW: AoC can be estimated as a conversion of BotW fan base.

Another information comes from The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake (2019). As of CY1Q20, Link’s Awakening has sold around 4.4M copies representing an attach rate of 7.9% at that time.

With these information, my predictions for HW: AoC below:

  • The first year attach rate reaches 10% of CY3Q20 installed base (68.3M units). This means HW: AoC will roughly sell 6.8M copies or more by CY3Q21.
  • Lifetime sales exceeds 10M copies making HW: AoC one of the best selling Warriors games.
  • Lifetime conversion from BotW will be around 33% (HW: AoC divided by BotW)
    • This one is to capture the scenario when sales exceeds 10M copies. It might be sooner than my prediction. We will have some color after Black Friday. As HW: AoC counts as Nintendo’s 1P title for this holiday so it’s quite likely Nintendo will mention the sales number (at least for North America) in their press release around Black Friday.

Koei Tecmo will significantly benefit from this collaboration, financially and reputationally. This new title launch will benefit other Zelda games and warm up the sequel to BotW next year.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Background of the Game

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a Hack and Slash (H&S) game for Nintendo Switch. The game is developed by Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force and will be published by Koei Tecmo in Japan and by Nintendo worldwide.

Concept of the Game

The game is a crossover between Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series and Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda (LoZ) series.

In terms of this specific crossover, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (HW: AoC) is the sequel to Hyrule Warriors (HW). However, in terms of IP strategy for LoZ series, the story of HW: AoC is set before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) and inherits the art style of the highly acclaimed open-world game.

Even though I only watched some live streaming during Tokyo Game Show I started writing this post just before the Nintendo Direct Mini so I had the opportunity to try the demo (actually this is my first Warriors game since PS2). I can tell there are many attention to details and integrations that developers (including Nintendo team) want players to feel they’re really in the world of BotW to enjoy a game genre that developers believe better fitting the story setting (a war rather than an adventure).

In this sense, HW: AoC is better to be seen as the prequel to BotW rather than a sequel to HW even though it’s in different genre and developed by third party.

Implication of the Game for Nintendo’s LoZ Series

What we can learn from HW: AoC about Nintendo’s IP strategy for LoZ series?

Nintendo probably plans to use the design theme of BotW going forward to unify logo style (particular) of LoZ games to indicate they are games developed in the BotW era. For example, the logo design of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake (2019) shares the same style with BotW. In addition, while the logo design of HW: AoC follows that of HW, we notice that its logo uses fonts from the BotW. This is even more apparent in it’s Japanese logo which changes English font of “Zelda” to Japanese font of “Zelda” in BotW. We can expect more remakes from original LoZ titles with different gameplay and art style but sharing the same design theme shown on the logo indicating they’re influenced by BotW.

In addition to new elements that BotW introduces into LoZ series, the game also provides “the engine” which serves as a technical and intellectual platform for the series and might be applied to other IP. The engine can shorten the development cycle for similar genre and it can even bring in new ideas to games in different genres. For example, it is relatively easy for Nintendo to make a direct sequel to BotW where they can have more resources to put into story and other enhancement or additions to the game world. In the future, Nintendo can keep iterating on BotW series or it can leverage the engine in other Zelda games or other games. (One noticeable BotW-inspired game might be Genshin Impact. It’s easy to identify elements from BotW and other games but you still quickly realize it’s a different game providing different interactive experience)

There are few things Nintendo can do with LoZ franchise games.
(1) Keep iterating BotW series (Breath of the Wild Universe)
(2) Remake past LoZ games
(3) New BotW-inspired LoZ games with different story line (or parallel universe), genre and gameplay
(4) Last one is least likely but has highest potential: a live game in a LoZ parallel universe built on top of BotW art style and engine

(1) Keep iterating BotW Universe

(1) , (2) & (3) as LoZ Pipeline Category for Nintendo

(1), (2) & (3) are traditional business model for Nintendo’s console games. There’s no noticeable live game developed by Nintendo.

I expect Nintendo to release LoZ games every one to one and a half year. These LoZ games can be categorized in three groups in terms of pipeline sources as shown in the graph above. It’s very likely Nintendo will keep using traditional business model for these games (boxed game in console with some DLCs) in the foreseeable future as long as Nintendo Switch is still relevant.

It seems Nintendo doesn’t have a plan to develop and operate a live game for its IP on Nintendo Switch. Without live game plan, Nintendo will miss some optionality from its IP in gaming. The unwillingness to experiment live game on console in-house indicates the limited upside from mobile gaming. Fire Emblem Heroes is an exception which has apparent product-market-fit. The problem lies in senior management but time will fix this.

Prospect of the Game

Warriors game is in a relatively niche genre. I couldn’t even finish the demo. That said, I believe HW: AoC will be a commercial success supported by Zelda fan base. The game will be easily the best sold Warriors game on Nintendo Switch and probably rank top among the whole Warriors series. Koei Tecmo will reach a new audience base. This is not a Warriors game with BotW skins but a BotW game with Warriors gameplay.

The crossover indicates that Nintendo is more flexible on its IP. Even though Nintendo wants to have a prequel to BotW, that doesn’t mean the game needs to be in the same genre or developed by Nintendo. Depending on what and how the story Nintendo wants to tell, different genre might create better experience and Nintendo might need support from other company for that specific genre. Koei Tecmo has collaborated with Nintendo on other Nintendo IP such as Fire Emblem (Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Fire Emblem Warriors). In the past crossover Warriors games, the Warriors concept/element was used as a platform to host a parallel universe for characters within a franchise (it seems Warriors can easily mix everything together). It’s a little bit different in in HW: AoC, what developers need from Warriors here is its gameplay to support the story setting. I expect Nintendo to use this module approach more often in its franchises.

It’s likely that Koei Tecmo will announce DLCs for this game later. After the success of this game, people will expect more possibilities from BotW and other IP like Fire Emblem.