Zelda: Breath of the Wild's first playtests failed miserably

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a failure for Nintendo when it was in the playtest phase.

Nintendo's developers rarely give interviews or presentations, but the latter happened a few years ago at the Computer Entertainment Developer's Conference in Japan. Unfortunately, the presentation on Breath of the Wild's development was never put online, or translated out of Japanese for a worldwide audience, but now Game Maker's Toolkit on YouTube has successfully pulled new information from that talk, right before The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom's launch.

You can see the fruits of the channel's labor just below, as they've spent months cultivating and translating documents and writeups from the event. Game Maker's Toolkit can now reveal Breath of the Wild actually flopped in its playtesting phase at first, when Nintendo was prototyping its open-world design to take the series in a new direction.

The playtests were a disaster because the vast majority of players stuck to a rigid route. Around 80% of players saw a Sheikah Tower in the distance, and stuck to a road leading directly to the destination, never veering away from the well-trodden path. Nintendo was aiming for the exact opposite of this - an open world that encouraged exploration and experimentation.

Nintendo deemed this a serious problem, and set about fixing it. What they came up with was the 'triangles' theory - blocking the player's line of sight to the horizon with smaller barriers and obstacles like hills or trees, to entice the player to explore around the obstacles to see what they were hiding, gradually getting a better view of what they were obscuring.

The playtesting results from this ideology were fantastic, and Breath of the Wild's open-world formula was born. It's fascinating to know that Breath of the Wild, arguably one of the most influential games from the past decade, completely fell flat during its first phase of playtesting, and forced its development team to adapt and come up with a workaround that would end up making it beloved for millions.

As for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the sequel finally launches tomorrow on May 12 around the world.

You can head over to our The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom pre-order guide if you're looking to put down a last-minute reservation for Nintendo's latest.

Hirun Cryer

Hirun Cryer is a freelance reporter and writer with Gamesradar+ based out of U.K. After earning a degree in American History specializing in journalism, cinema, literature, and history, he stepped into the games writing world, with a focus on shooters, indie games, and RPGs, and has since been the recipient of the MCV 30 Under 30 award for 2021. In his spare time he freelances with other outlets around the industry, practices Japanese, and enjoys contemporary manga and anime.