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Tears of the Kingdom is already the second-bestselling Zelda game

It sold 18.5M copies in under two months, surpassing Ocarina of Time

A photo of copies of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom lined up for sale in a French shop, with stickers saying “Nouveau” Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Nintendo’s latest quarterly investor report reveals that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom sold 18.51 million copies in the seven weeks between its release on May 12 and June 30. That makes it easily the second-best-selling game in the Zelda series, after its predecessor Breath of the Wild (which now stands at over 30 million copies sold).

In fact, it was never really in doubt that Tears of the Kingdom would reach this milestone. The 10 million copies it sold over its launch weekend put it ahead of every other individual Zelda release. But if you rolled up sales of their various reissues, then Link’s Awakening (12 million copies sold across Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Switch versions) and Ocarina of Time (14 million copies sold across the Nintendo 64 original and the 3DS remaster) were still ahead at that time. No more.

The feat underlines the extent to which Hidemaro Fujibayashi and Eiji Aonuma’s dynamic, open-world redefinition of Zelda games has revolutionized the series’ commercial appeal (helped along by the success of the Nintendo Switch platform). Although a beloved Nintendo property, and a critically revered cornerstone of the video game medium, Zelda was never really a sales juggernaut before Breath of the Wild.

Now, Tears of the Kingdom has joined the list of the top ten best-selling Switch games, and will certainly climb higher than its current ninth position in the coming months — perhaps even eclipsing the sales of the Switch’s mainline Pokémon games, Sword and Shield (25.9 million), and Scarlet and Violet (22.7 million).

The release also did its part to revive flagging sales of the Switch. Nintendo reported that sales of the console were up 14% compared to the same quarter last year, almost all of them of the more expensive OLED models, including the Tears of the Kingdom special edition. Switch has now sold 129.5 million units, cementing its position as the third-bestselling games console ever.

But there’s no escaping that Switch is in its twilight years. Nintendo is predicting it will sell 15 million Switches in its current fiscal year, down 16.5% on the year before. While Nintendo outlined its plans to keep Switch relevant with new releases like Super Mario Bros. Wonder and DLC for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, it looks increasingly likely that Switch’s successor will launch in 2024, with development kits reportedly going out to key partners now.

For now, though, Nintendo finds itself in a place of rude commercial heath: with a huge install base for its second most successful console ever, a smash hit game, and lest we forget, a major financial interest in the biggest movie of the year. Its first quarter profit of 185.4B yen was an all-time record for the company, beating even the period in 2020 when Covid-19 lockdowns turbocharged sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Transitions between console generations are hard, and arguably even tougher when the previous generation has been so successful. But Nintendo could scarcely be in a better place to make its next move.

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