Zelda's Eiji Aonuma on annualization, and why the series needs 'a bit more time'

By Andrew Yoon, Oct 16, 2013 12:00pm PDT

Annualization. Activision is able to push out a new Call of Duty game every year. Ubisoft can make a new Assassin's Creed game every year. And lately, Nintendo has been able to get new Mario games out on an annual basis. But what about Zelda? We spoke to series director Eiji Aonuma about his take on annualization.

The Zelda series is actually no stranger to the one year turnaround. Majora's Mask was intended to come out just one year after Ocarina of Time. "This was an idea that came from Mr. Miyamoto," Aonuma explained. "The challenge he gave to me: to try and make a sequel to Ocarina of Time in just one year."

At the time, Nintendo thought that it would be possible to make a new game every year. "Ocarina of Time was the first 3D Zelda game. When you make a 3D game, you have all these 3D models. But in a 2D game, you're drawing all these 2D images. Even if you wanted to make another game right away, if the background is different, you actually end up having to re-draw everything. But in a 3D game, you can put those 3D models in different backgrounds and animate them," Aonuma told Shacknews. "So Mr. Miyamoto thought 'well, actually shouldn't this make it easier for us to make a sequel?'"

After many long nights, Majora's Mask launched less than two years after the release of Ocarina of Time. The Wind Waker followed two years later, on Gamecube. However, releases between the console games have slowed down considerably since then: four years for Twilight Princess, five years for Skyward Sword. According to Aonuma, the pace is intentional. "I think before, we did maybe try to make Zelda games come out faster. But there's so much expected of Zelda titles now, so you have to reach a certain level of quality, so that's why we started to take a bit more time now," he told us.

"I don't think it's necessary that development needs to be longer. But to reach a certain level of quality, there's just a certain amount of time that's needed," he explained. "Obviously, the company is telling me that I need to put games out as quickly as possible."

While Aonuma and his team are currently working on a Zelda game for Wii U, Nintendo has done a remarkable job of keeping the franchise in the spotlight thanks to its handheld games. "It's not like we feel like we have a duty to get one out a year," Aonuma said. "Right now, we're able to split ourselves between the handheld and console games and have two teams. I think we're pretty efficient in getting games out on a regular interval."

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is now available on Wii U, and A Link Between Worlds will be on 3DS this holiday.


This is the final part of our interview with Eiji Aonuma. Also check out part one and two, if you missed them.

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