With the new Zelda game, Nintendo has created an incredible playground for user-generated content...and it could be the beginning of something interesting for the company.
Gamers are making some really outrageous, elaborate, and often amazing things in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, including airships, gimbal aircraft, and even Tie Fighters straight out of Star Wars. Combined with a world ripe for the picking, the game's new Ultrahand power offers such massive creative freedom and should help extend TotK's overall lifespan for many, many years, but it could also be a magic ticket to a new realm of possibility for Nintendo.
Some of the biggest games on the market rely on what's called user-generated content, or UGC. Both Minecraft and Roblox rely on UGC to promote engagement, sell copies of games, and in Roblox's case, push microtransactions. These games have huge player bases in the millions of users, with 66.1 million people playing Roblox every day.
Nintendo, on the other hand, doesn't seem interested in monetizing this sort of thing outside of game sales--In fact, Nintendo hasn't really employed microtransactions in its games. But it could use Tears of the Kingdom as a means to help springboard wider user engagement in a way that fits with Nintendo's business model.
Tears of the Kingdom isn't the first time Nintendo has tapped the UGC segment. We've seen other games like Mario Maker 1 & 2 offer a unique social-driven webwork of user-generated levels, and those games did very well to help foster this level of creativity for the company.
Nintendo could do something similar with Tears of the Kingdom. We shouldn't expect anything like online multiplayer or for Nintendo to sell schematics, designs, or in-game currency.
One thing that Nintendo could do, however, is create some sort of online feature that would let gamers share their creations and inventions with others on the Nintendo Switch Online framework. Obviously this is speculative and Nintendo has given no indication that this is in the works.
Such a feature could drive adoption of the subscription, tap into UGC in an organic non-disruptive way, and possibly even introduce a separate "sandbox creativity" mode where gamers could check out creations in an environment that's separated from the main game.
Think of this as a training mode for a fighting game. You go in, load up a template or a creation, and tinker around with it until you get an idea of how it works. Then you switch back over to the main Tears of the Kingdom game and start building.
Of course, this kind of feature could take away some of the magic of Tears of the Kingdom. It's an incredible feeling when one of your crazy machinations ends up working after you've been experimenting with it for a long time.
Even still, I think there's plenty of room for Nintendo to do something interesting with Tears of the Kingdom's creations...and at the very least I hope to see some sort of TotK expansion that adds more items/materials and more Autobuild slots to save our creations with.