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What's going on with Zelda: Breath of the Wild's release date?

March on.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks like it's back on for a March release, alongside the launch of Nintendo Switch - at least in Japan and North America.

But what about Europe? The situation here is less clear.

Last year, sources close to Nintendo told Eurogamer that Zelda was content complete but "still four-to-six months" from launch and would miss the Nintendo Switch's March release. Since then, things have changed.

At this point, the game was still to go through a lengthy period of quality assurance testing and localisation - necessary due to the game's vast size, scope and sandbox nature, plus the need for Nintendo of Europe to perform its customary translation into multiple languages.

Also key was the desire within Nintendo for the game - first announced for Wii U back in 2013 - to launch in as perfect condition as possible. The lack of Zelda at the Switch's launch could also be mitigated by Nintendo's new 3D Mario, development of which was effectively complete and ready for a March arrival.

So, what changed? Multiple sources close to Nintendo have now told Eurogamer that, at the end of last year, Japan finalised its plans and had a change of heart: Switch needed the strongest possible launch lineup. In short, Zelda will release in March in North America and Japan. Zelda's launch timing in Europe is still unclear.

Nintendo of Europe, which will be impacted most by this change, had previously pushed for as long a period of testing and localisation as could be allowed and had been working to the proposed schedule of a global launch after the Switch itself.

One source tells Eurogamer that Japan had always wanted the game to launch in March, and had been uncomfortable waiting until later. Another source says the decision to move ahead with March regardless of Europe was only finalised by committee at the end of last year.

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Vociferous discussions within Nintendo on launch timings are not unprecedented. Last year, a similar conversation between Nintendo of Europe and Japan took place regarding the release of Wii U game Star Fox Zero, which the latter ultimately elected not to delay for further polishing.

It remains to be seen how the new March timing will affect Zelda in Europe. The best case scenario is, of course, that Nintendo moves whatever resources it has available onto the game to ensure it is ready in March in all European territories. Zelda's positioning as a key launch title suggests this is likely.

Another option would be to patch other languages into the game's European version at a later date, as happened last year with the North American version of Xenoblade Chronicles X. French and Spanish language options were added to that game in late January 2016, via an update released over a month after its initial December 2015 release.

The last, and surely the least welcome option for European fans? That we'll simply be playing Zelda later than in other regions.

Zelda's path to release has been fascinating to follow - and it continues to be. All eyes are now on Nintendo and its Switch reveal event on 13th January, when we'll certainly hear more.

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