How Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Perfected the Social Video Playbook

By Henley Worthen · May 19, 2023

How Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Perfected the Social Video Playbook

The Anticipation Game

The Legend of Zelda is a captivating video game series that has garnered a massive following across diverse demographics. The last game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW), made its debut six years ago in 2017 and quickly earned its place amongst the pantheon of greatest video games ever created.

Although the plot varies from game to game, players embark on an adventure alongside the main character, Link, a young elf-like hero, who fights to save the magical Princess Zelda and the land of Hyrule from evil. Along the way, players explore the mystical fantasy world and spend time fighting monsters and solving puzzles. Devoted Zelda fans have been eagerly awaiting a sequel to the iconic BOTW game, enduring six long years of anticipation. 

At E3 2019 (pre-Covid times), the world caught its first glimpse of a BOTW sequel. However, it would be years before they received any further details. It wasn’t until  E3 in 2021 that Nintendo finally unveiled the second edition of the Zelda saga and an official release date set for 2022. But when 2022 rolled around, Zelda fans were in for another unexpected twist— the release date was pushed back an entire year to May of 2023. 

Needless to say… Zelda players were ripe with anticipation.

The first trailer drop:

On September 13th, 2022 the world was finally treated to the first official The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom trailer. It was viewers’ first look at the highly anticipated game. Tubular social video analytics indicate a massive increase in viewership on YouTube, up by 153% from 40.9M views in August to 62.2M in September.

From January 1st and the official May 12 release date, the number of YouTube uploads related to the Zelda games increased by 296.85%

But how were gaming influencers uploading about the new Zelda before it’s been released? 

Despite this game being six years old (which is ancient in video game years), creators were flooding the internet with videos of speed runs (like this hour-long video about beating the entire game in a day that has already racked up 3.8M views) on the latest edition game in anticipation of the next release. This remarkable data is a testament to the unwavering fandemonium this game has nurtured over time and to its ability to captivate audiences and stand the test of time. 

The second trailer drop:

February 8th, 2023, marked a pivotal moment in the lead-up to the Tears of the Kingdom release. Nintendo unveiled an exciting sneak peek of gameplay footage. Eager Zelda fans went wild as views on YouTube and monthly viewership for Zelda-related content went from 88M views in January to 146M in February. 

February 9th saw the most daily views over the month 11.4M.  In fact, this sneak peek’s release generated the highest number of views for Zelda content throughout the entire preceding year… but the journey to a monumental release was only beginning.

The final trailer drop:

Shortly after, Nintendo treated fans to more insight through a series of videos that unveiled new capabilities and a breathtaking new geographical arena, Sky Island. Building upon the excitement, Nintendo released its final game trailer on April 13th, 2023 (a month before the game release). Zelda’s viewership more than quadrupled on Twitch in the month of April compared to the month prior. 

The surges in viewership can be attributed to Nintendo’s deliberate and strategic approach to the release of the new game. The gaming company exercised meticulous control over the information and video footage shared online. Apart from a few pieces of content, Nintendo remained tight-lipped. Early access copies were provided to only very select gaming influencers who withheld posting until the final days before release. After first beginning to tease content way back in 2019, the game creator masterfully built up anticipation for an epic release that would ultimately break records. By carefully managing the flow of information, Nintendo created an aura of excitement around Tears of the Kingdom, ensuring that fan’s excitement would be amplified even more. 

The Release Day

As eager fans formed lines outside game stores across the globe, the pinnacle event unfolded at the New York City Nintendo. The location hosted an extraordinary midnight release attended by Zelda game creator, Eiji Aonuma, and other game producers. The store itself was transformed into a Zelda-themed wonderland, with decorations including a broken master sword, and goodies for the lucky few that were let into the launch party. Along with endless Zelda merch.

Record-Breaking Success

In a whirlwind of monumental success, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom shattered records within its first three days of release, selling a staggering 10 Million worldwide. These numbers cemented the game’s status as the fastest-selling game in the Zelda series and as the fastest-selling Nintendo game ever in the Americas. To put this into perspective, the last edition of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has sold approximately 30 million copies over the span of six years. Tears of the Kingdom managed to sell a third of that in a mere 72 hours. By building up an almost unbearable amount of anticipation, Nintendo was able to skyrocket the game to success.

Considering the basic version is priced at $70 per copy, a rough estimate reveals an income of $700 million! This number excludes additional revenue that would come from the special collector’s edition and the vast array of Zelda merchandise. 

Players wasted no time posting their gameplay content. On the day of release, there were 8.9k uploads to YouTube. Daily uploads on YouTube remained strong through the weekend with 7.5k on Saturday and 6.2k on Sunday. When Monday hit and players were forced to leave the mystical world of Zelda and go back to the real world, uploads slightly decreased and steadied out through the week.

Most of the top 10 most viewed videos of the first week are gameplay videos. This TikTok from @_v4lx_ earned nearly 4M views in the first day of upload and is now at 6.1M and counting. Interestingly enough, this gamer is not an infamous gaming influencer. They hardly have any followers but their content skyrocketed upon posting! Besides game play videos, we’ve seen other videos from players waiting in line at the midnight release and others unboxing their limited edition Zelda Switch.

The new game builds on much of what made fans fall in love with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it features a massive updated map to explore with plenty of updates & twists, new innovative magical abilities, and a highly cinematic story featuring plenty of familiar characters.

The game also allows for endless creativity– players are taking to social and sharing videos of their creative problem-solving using senselessly long bridges, and posting about cruelty inflicted on Karoks (adorable and harmless forest creatures who are seeking help to be reunited with their friend). 

All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is providing content creators and gamers of all levels plenty to share on social. And as more players discover tricks and hacks we expect to see a consistent flow of Zelda content for quite a while. As one of the most beloved video game series of all time, it was exciting to see the newest edition of The Legend of Zelda making history on social video.

If you’re interested in staying on the pulse of culture through social video’s single source of truth, it’s time to request a free demo of Tubular. Click below to unlock social in a whole new way. 

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