Catherine. Last February I tried to figure out the reason why Catherine had been so successful in Japan, the first Atlus HD title, far from the role-playing game genre thanks to which the company has built a solid reputation throughout the years. Last numbers from Japan say that the game went to sell 186.086 units on PS3 and 21.571 on 360, even if the latter are just data of the first week. Anyway, as expected, Catherine sold almost the entire LTD in the first period, because of its otaku-oriented nature (this target typically buys on day one). Time had passed soon and the game made its debut in North America reaching an important goal: it’s been Atlus USA biggest launch title ever, as IGN reported some days ago, surpassing the opening of titles as Demon’s Souls (150.000 copies during the first month), Trauma Center: Under the Knife and Trauma Center: Second Opinion (225.000 units sold for both as of January 2009) and Persona 4 (125.000 units sold in its first two months). Apparently, the weird puzzle-game featuring mature relationship with a hot chick who likes eating pizza has sold 200.000 copies in the first 7 days. To retailers, obviously. We’ll have the chance to see in the next NPD data how this number is effective. Sex sells, who knew?

The Idolm@ster 2. The raising simulation game developed by Namco Bandai was released on February 24, 2011 exclusively on 360, even if a PS3 porting has been announced to be on the way, coming in October (so I’ll have another chance to talk about the series). I put my sales expectations within the 50-100.000 range, since the brand had grown a lot and preorders were quite good at the time. Well, I was totally wrong: the idol game failed to surprise and debuted with just 34.621 copies in the Media Creat chart, slipping outside the top 30 the week after and then disappearing forever. It doesn’t appear in the top 100 of the first half of 2011 so it’s quite impossible it has topped the 100.000 mark. I’m sure that The Idolm@ster 2 will find more success on PS3, but I do still think that a PSP version could save the boat better…

Ni no Kuni. Level-5 x Studio Ghibli awesome goddess continued to sell quite well after the the 4th week which I reported along with the LTD until that time. Its last appearance in Media Create chart dates back to the end of March, weird for a role-playing game, even if a lot of price discounts were applied by retailers. Famitsu has recently reported that Ni no Kuni ends to sell 550.158 copies as of June 2011, close to the initial shipment of 600.000 units. Hence, it’s possible that the game has reached this mark so far. By the way, shops have been more reluctant to ask huge shipments from Level-5 when it came to big packages: Little Battlers Xperience, a new thin-mech jRPG targeted to a young audience released with a robot model, suffered shortages during the first weeks, but now it seems the demand has been matched and the game is on the way to reach the 300.000 copies sold. Good game Level-5!

999. I smelt the success of this very niche point-and-click adventure game in the United States more than 7 months ago, and recently Aksys confirmed my feeling. First, it had been almost impossible to find the Chunsoft title immediately after the release, so its price peaked absurd levels on Amazon and other websites, then the publisher overseas stated comforting fans who were worrying about it:

Haha, no, not discontinued, just sold out. We should be receiving our re-order any day now and retailers, such as Amazon, should receive their replenished copies sometime next week, if everything goes according to plan ;) Our online store will be restocked as well, so we’ll be offering the 999 bundle (game + watch) again on it :)

This clearly proves a good of performance of such a great game, praised by the critics and loved by videogamers.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 Professional. Square Enix failed again to provide a fair shipment for one of its most important 2011  game (about which I was able to figure out a likely LTD), as what exactly happened with the first episode of this series on DS. Professional is just an expansion of the Joker 2, therefore the company didn’t believe in a great performance but the younger audience of the console has been happy to prove again the strength of own team of monsters, and the game went to sell almost 500.000 copies (again, Famitsu data of the first half of 2011, even if Media Create has the game at more than 550.000 copies as of the last track) starting from roughly 150.000 copies in the first week, and beahving particularly well during the Golden Week, even if some sold-outs were reported in April. The last effort of Square Enix on DS exceeds all expectations, now let’s how Rocket Slime 3 will perform on 3DS this Winter.

Nintendo did it again. There’s no other video game company that can take people by surprise through good times and bad as the historic Japanese corporation which gave birth to Mario and Samus Aran (and a thousand of other memorable characters). Unexpected announcements concerning both economic decisions and gaming ideas have always been a kind of particularity of Nintendo, and also today it lives up to its name: 3DS price has been enormously cut and video gamers communities are literally exploding in several directions, from the unqualified pessimistic attitude which wants Nintendo to present a new handheld device next year to the huge upbeat wave ensuring much higher sales and changes in third parties strategies.

But let’s explain this in an orderly fashion. The news came out along the 2011 Q1 financial report released early this morning; at first, Japan was informed about the price decrease with a PR stating that Nintendo had decided to change the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the console starting from August 11, 2011: a cut of ¥10.000, down from ¥25.000 to ¥15.000, the price by which the original DS was released back in 2004; ¥15.000 means that from the next month 3DS will be one of the cheapest console on the market, below PSP (¥17.800), PS2 (¥16.000), Wii (¥20.000) and DSi XL (¥18.000) and on par with DSi. It’s also clear why Super Pokémon Scramble, original planned for today in Japan, has been moved on August 11.
Then North America got its reduction too; one day after the Japanese cut, 3DS will shift to $169.99, down from the original $249.99 price, for a $80 decrease, less than the other territory (¥10.000 are roughly $130) but still an important amount. Nintendo press tried to have a warm tone by citing the arrival of Super Mario Bros. 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 during the holiday season and the reward in terms of 20 free NES and Game Boy Advance games available on the console eShop for the early adopters.
As usual, PAL countries came at last; Australians will be able to buy a 3DS for AU$249.95 down from the previous AU$349.95 thanks to a consistent $110 decrease, while in Europe there is not an official recommended retail price yet. Nintendo of Europe has confirmed the initiative and the compensation program, but even if rumors want the new price around €169 (and £130 in UK), it’s still not possible to quantify the actual drop.

Hence, a question obviously arises: why do Nintendo decide for such an aggressive price in all of its territories just few months after the launch? This cut is unprecedented in some way; Sony adjusted PS3 price many times but always introducing a new model or new retail configurations (e.g Slim, 80GB) and Nintendo did as well, but later within the console life cycle or, following the other companies, by introducing new versions of the same console as occured with DS and its 3 revisions. It seems also that with this decision, Nintendo will make a loss on 3DS hardware as Bloomberg Japan as reported, which probably falls in a safe range to allow the company to have a leeway, since this is the first time that it undercuts a console.

As a matter of fact, many factors brought to astonishing price slash, but it’s important to think objectively about the matter without being affected by the negative feeling people appears to have in the last weeks; in particular I’m talking about the game cancellation affaire, exaggerated in many Internet communities since just few titles has been scrapped indeed, and not because the sales of the system but for other reasons: Mega Man Legends 3 has been adandoned because of the lack of fans participation (while someone would be willing to wager that it’s because Inafune-san has left the project) considering the fact it has never been greenlighting; Assassin’s Creed: Lost Legacy had never entered in production and some of its concepts were channeled into Revelations, the new episode for PS3 and 360; DJ Hero suffered the reassessment of the Hero brand due to Activision following the low sales of the last entries (on home consoles, not on DS, where Guitar Hero games have always sold quite well); Hudson titles, such as Omega Five and Kororinpa, instead, felt the acquisition of the company by Konami which now totally owns it. Read up is not costly nowadays, therefore ascribing this events to a presumed low performance by 3DS is specious, especially when people play delays off as oddities that never happened in the history of the video game industry: guys, wake up, this has always occured! Software houses might have many projects under active consideration, but not all of them see store shelves, in particular for young products.

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Within the video game sector, few surprises came out this generation outside Nintendo’s touch; in particular, looking at the Japanese games released in the West, the situation is a bit depressing: some brands have confirmed their popularity or grew a bit, such as Resident Evil and Final Fantasy, while others simply lost ground because of too old gameplays or production values put together in the wrong way. Anyway, it’s still possible to pick out some unexpected successful gem from Japan, and Demon’s Souls is clearly one of those.

Exclusively developed by From Software for PS3, that drew a lot from its famous Playstation series King’s Field, Demon’s Souls was distributed by three different software house depending on the territory, and this immediately shows how the project had been underestimated at first: Sony had dealt in the Japanese version, which first came out on February 5, 2009; Atlus published the game in North America instead, some months later, while Europe had to wait until 2010 to see it on the shelves, thanks to Namco Bandai Games.

To begin with, let’s talk about the performance in Japan; Demon’s Souls is something that might be called “sleeper hit“, released on the back foot, with few copies available at the beginning and little advertisement, but over time it gained popularity thanks to word of mouth, online-based community and impressive quality. It started with just 36.794 units sold, but it seems Sony had not shipped enough copies to satisfy the demand, in fact sold-outs were reported in many stores. Anyway, after a normal 50%-drop in the second week, the game maintained its sales quite stable, while comments and responses on the Amazon page literally exploded. At the end of the year, it went to sell about 160.000 units (from Garaph, which has also sales on a weekly basis and a graph)… Almost 5 times the first week performance! Now, its LTD (i.e. Life Total Date) is 168.816 (from Japan Game Charts), not too bad considering all the facts. One year later, Demon’s Souls saw its budget release, and PS3 userbase allowed again the title to have a good result: about 50.000 units were sold in the first 4 months (from Garaph), and 68.000 at the end of 2010 (from 2010 Famitsu Top 1000). Adding this edition to the original one, From Software action-RPG sold more than 230.000 copies in Japan alone, one of the best result for a totally new IP on PS3, just behind White Knight Chronicles and similar to Valkyria Chronicles (which had also the same sales pattern).

Even if the game had shown a strong commercial appeal, Sony decided to deny an international release, leaving the honour to release it in North America to Atlus, which has always been a niche-focused company. Surprisingly, the game debuted just outside the Top 10 according to NPD surveys: 150.000 copies sold the first month, and expectations already doubled, since they were posed at 75.000, as an Atlus financial report states. More incredibly, thanks to the fact that the game was actually amazing (its average mark on Metacritics is currently 89 on 100), to receptive PS3 video gamers and to a Greatest Hits entry, Demon’s Souls went to sell 500.000 copies in the United States (from Escapist Magazine). This result is on par with a medium-size first-party project, as Infamous, to remain in range PS3.

Unfortunately, data for Europe are M.I.A. as usual. It’s possible to check that it had a fairly good debut in the UK Top 40 which is drawn up by Chart Track (7th position), but it felt out from the chart quite rapidly.

As a matter of fact, even if numbers in PAL countries were not decent, the performance worldwide can be considered satisfactory (at least 740.000 copies sold are reported by trackers!), especially for From Software, which had the desperate need to find a successful IP in recent times; the Japanese company is now developing an obvious, but highly awaited, sequel, named Dark Souls and out later this year; pre-orders are already particularly high in Japan, as Amazon shows, and with the gained popularity, it will have the chance to storm the charts since the beginning.

Summer has almost come in Italy; maybe it’s too early, but the thermometer cannot lie and reads about 30°, a perfect temperature to enjoy the sun and the beach. Therefore, it’s the right moment to talk about a delightful series made in Japan, which has put the Summer as the absolute protagonist of the affair. I’m obviously referring to Boku no Natsuyasumi, literally My Summer Vacation, developed by Millenium Kitchen and published by Sony on each one of its consoles.

The series started 11 years ago on Playstation; as a tradition the subsequent releases maintained, the first chapter was released in Summer, on June 22, 2000, in order to fit better its atmosphere with the period when videogamers should have played it. The game simulated a Japanese boy experience during his Summer holidays in late 70s; players had to organize his days and activities, such as make friends, collect bugs and explore the countryside, while observing the rules of the uncle where the boy was a guest. I’ve played this game later on with the remake on PSP and I can assure that the feeling created is very special and the reproduction of the Japanese culture is perfect within an experience which makes the players remember the childhood in every of its aspects.
At that time, the game was a sleeper hit: it starts with just 27.757 copies the first week but it ends with slightly over the 200.000 mark (Famitsu data), becoming a cult game among Japanese videogamers; the result is particularly meaningful since My Summer Vacation was out almost 5 months after the PS2 launch so it should have been overcome by the new console and its line-up but this didn’t happen, also because PS1 still run well with important releases (Final Fantasy IX, Dragon Quest VII). But surely something had caught the audience in their hearts, in fact the following episode showed a great performance on the market.

Exactly two years later, Boku no Natsuyasumi 2 was released for PS2; this game acted as a sort of reboot: the same structure of the prequel (the same protagonist as well, Boku) but a different setting, an island town instead of a farm in the country. By the way, the story was deeper, with more characters to manage with and more locations to visit; obviously, there were also more situations, such as the swimming, and new daily events.
Starting with approximately 130.000 copies (a way bigger debut than the first one, thanks to the reputation gained over time), the game ended with almost 380.000 units sold, becoming one of the best selling SCEJ games at that time, just behind Gran Turismo and Hot Shot Golf; this result was reached by selling until late September, showing how the series has been seen as a typical Summer appointment.

For the continuum of the series, the platform chosen was PS3; but before the third chapter, a remake of the first one had been released on PSP during 2006 Summer and it went to sold almost 100.000 copies, by debuting with just 25.000 units; not too bad, considering the small PSP installed base presented 5 years ago.
Finally, on June 2, 2007, Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 came out on PS3; with enhanced graphics and a lot of mini-games to play (even with cows!), this entry delighted videogamers in the first years of the new Sony home console. Unfortunately, the sales showed a decline from the previous episode: about 80.000 copies of the game were sold but there were also kind of legs because it began with just 27.000 copies.

To bring the series back to its brightness, Sony thought to shift console and then PSP became the referring platform of the series, supported by the good sales of the remake. Two years later, the fourth Boku no Natsuyasumi made its debut on PSP; events were placed in a costal village during the 80s and some interesting features were introduced, such as a taiko drum mini-game and tai-chi classes. Was the choice of the platform right? Aboslutely yes, in fact almost 140.000 copies of the game were sold, starting from 56.680 units in the first week and almost doubling the LTD (i.e. Lifetime Total Date) of the previous episode. After that, another remake was developed by Millenium Kitchen, always for PSP, and this is the latest entry in the series. The PS2 chapter was remade to exploit the handheld console features and appeared in the chart on late June; as far as we know, the game sold roughly 45.000 copies, but this is the result after just three weeks so considering the usual pattern of the series, it’s plausible to think of a higher actual number (BREAK NEW: the Media Create Top500 just published says that the game has sold throughout the 2010 almost 64.000 copies).

Here, a recap of the series sales throughout the years (first week / LTD):

  • 22/06/2000, Boku no Natsuyasumi (PS1) 27.757 / 209.083
  • 11/07/2002, Boku no Natsuyasumi 2 (PS2) 132.978 / 379.653
  • 29/06/2006, Boku no Natsuyasumi Portable (PSP) 24.866 / 96.651
  • 05/07/2007, Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 (PS3) 27.208 / 75.869
  • 02/07/2009, Boku no Natsuyasumi 4(PSP) 56.858 / 137.785

Along the main entries, there were also some re-edition at budget price: the first one on PS2 which sold 57.634 copies; the second one always on PS2, with 8.713 copies as the second week and the remake on PSP with 38.016 units.

The series had a momentum during the PS2-era, and it lost something with the following entries; the more modest success of the latest Sony platforms had surely some effect, but I think that My Summer Vacation had already expressed its true spirit with the PS2 episode; anyway, the decision to put the series on a handheld console revealed to be good, and maybe this is the dimension the game fits better, due to its nature which doesn’t rely on graphics or online gaming but on memories, not only concerning the youth but only a particular way of thinking video games during the 90s, a key factor which brought to the leadership handheld consoles in Japan.

Following the announcement of Xenoblade in the PAL regions (and it’s not an April Fool since a page for the game has been created on UK Nintendo website with also the first European trailer), renamed for the situation Xenoblade Chronicles, I will briefly explore the sales of the game in Japan, where it came out almost one year ago, on June 10, 2010.

The numbers: 141.059 units as the last week of the year for Famitsu, around 160.000 for Media Create, reasonably about 150.000 copies sold in Japan in 2010. Certainly, not astonishing but not too bad: a decent result in my opinion for several reasons.

First, it’s the best selling game from Monolith Soft. in Japan after Nintendo purchasing (except for Dragon Ball licensed titles for Namco Bandai). In fact, Xenoblade went to sell more than the two Baten Kaitos on GameCube (108,615 copies for the first one and just 44.297 for Origins), Disaster: Day of Crisis on Wii (27.896 copies) and the acclaimed Some Bringer on DS (barely above the 100.000 units); aside from tie-in games, it also sold more than the two Super Robot Taisen OG Saga always on DS.

Second, everybody knows the particular situation of the Wii userbase, unwilling to explore new fields, namely genres, outside the classic Nintendo proposition; almost all jRPGs on Wii have tanked, and the most niche games failed to expand their little boundaries. Therefore, Xenoblade showed nice numbers against an average advertising campaigne and very little interest from Nintendo compared to its other big jRPG production, The Last Story, which received bundles, special TV presentation and more.

Third, despite the different scenario and gameplay, Xenoblade is aligned with the Xenosaga sales decline, and assuming it has reached the 180.000 mark (not very unlikely after all) it sold at par with the last title of the former series, Xenosaga Episode III, which saw 181,297 units by being released in 2006, on a platform, PS2, with a huge jRPG-fanbase.

Finally, the sales pattern is good compared to the typical path of its genre, which usually exploites its commerciale life in a few weeks, by selling the 70% and more of the LTD in the first days. Instead, it seems that Xenoblade was able to catch attentions after the release, with word-of-mouth and a high response from magazines and website. It has also one of the best rating on the japanese Amazon within the Wii category (where it is still at the same launch price and keeps holding on in the best-sellers chart).

For these reasons, I strongly believe the relationship between Nintendo and Monolith Soft. is going to continue with a good amount of productions, maybe with a sequel of this game; surely, the announcement of Xenoblade Chronicles shows a certain interest of the company to introduce it to a wider audience (demonstrated also by the translation which will span five languages plus the dual voices, English and Japanese), hoping for a start of a new franchise; the bases which have been built are pretty solid and for this time, Nintendo has worked well in one of its most unexplored ground.

Atlus has been quite reluctant to jump over the present generation of home consoles, in particular PS3 and 360, relying on more confortable environments, such as the handheld consoles and PS2.
Did it get wrong? Watching the result of its first HD game, I would say so.
Catherine topped 160.000 units in the first week across the two console where it had been released, Ps3 and 360.
In particular, sales are split as following (Media Create data):
141.826 – PS3 version
21.936 – 360 version
Total: 163.762

According to the numbers Atlus expected, 150.000 units to be precise, that’s an incredible result and strange as well. Catherine is not a jRPG, it doesn’t properly fit in the classical Atlus line, consisting of series as Shin Megami Tensei, Persona and Etrian Odyssey, and it’s not even resembling stand-alone games like the Vanillaware titles. The game has some adventure components but as a matter of fact it’s composed of two different systems: during a portion of the day, the protagonist will be immersed in a novel, with dialogue to handle and relationship to cultivate, while during the night, a sort of puzzle game will take place; here he must climb up a huge staircases, made with blocks to push and pull and strange characters who impede the ascent. That is, not a conventional game.

But it sold as hell during the first days: why?

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I must admit, this generation of console is having an absolute weird behaviour: every region seems to have its own particular trends, and more units sold doesn’t mean having the great support from third parties anymore. Microsoft failed another time to reach the mainstream audience with its last home console in Japan, but attributable to the strange happenings of the past few years in the gaming industry, it’s possible to acknowledge some kind of success to Xbox 360. As a matter of fact, its installed base grew up slowly but steadily, and it already more than doubled the previous console result (1.437.244 against 700.000 units sold approximately); then, also thanks to the shared developers interest with PS3 and the good numbers put in the West, 360 is receiving a lot of Japanese titles which have helped to gain attention in the unfriendly land. But it’s not due to Lost Planet or Dead or Alive 4 if niche video gamers, to not called them otaku, arrived on the console in a constant flow during the last 5 years.
Exclusive jRPG from Microsoft itself (through Mistwalker anyway), Square Enix and Bandai Namco set the stage, and a high numbers of visual novels, 2D shoot’em ups and arcade porting addressed to a particular audience have permitted the console to build a strong and loyal userbase who also buy western games and allow some multiplatform games to not sink against the PS3 version.

The Idolm@ster is certainly the best example of the situations described above. Bandai Namco idol simulator where players assume the role of a music producer was initially developed for the arcades and two years later ported on 360; this version was immediately very well received and made Xbox Live sign-ups explode during the first weeks after the release.

As software houses know well, spanning a brand over different kind of formats is always a good strategy, and so Bandai Namco did with this series. An exclusive chapter, Live For You, more focused on concert coordination instead of the managerial aspects, had headed Microsoft console in 2008 while a porting of the original game was out on the PSP in early 2009 split into three versions each featuring different idols. Moreover, a Nintendo DS version of the game was released on the same year, under the name Dearly Stars, which has been talked about because one of the idol protagonists was actually a boy in disguise. An anime (i.e. Idolmaster: XENOGLOSSIA) was loosely ispired by the game, and obviously tons of merchandise of any kind dedicated to these teen idols invaded Japanese shops.
For a proper sequel, fans will have to wait until the end of February, when The Idolm@ster 2 is set for a release.  Meanwhile, let’s check how the game performed in every appearance:

The Idolm@ster (Xbox 360) 48.695
The Idolm@ster Platinum Collection (Xbox 360) 47.344
The Idolm@ster: Live for You! (Xbox 360) 75.272
The Idolm@ster: Twins (Xbox 360) 6.621

The Idolm@ster SP: Perfect Sun / Missing Moon / Wandering Star (PSP) 189.568

The Idolm@ster: Dearly Stars (DS) 50.170

(courtesy of Japan Game Charts)

According to these numbers, PSP was the most suitable choice for the series; indeed, on the Sony handheld console it’s possible to find a lot of similar games, such as Project Diva, and titles addressed to a kindred userbase, such as Tales of and Final Fantasy fan-services; it also recently got AKB 1/48, the eponymous game dedicated to the most famous idol band nowadays in Japan.
On 360, anyway, the game saw strong sales, while the DS version can ben considered the weakest entry in the series.

Given these data, The Idolm@star 2 should easily top the 50.000 mark, and it might sell in the range 75-100.000 units. But if I were Bandai Namco, I would port this new chapter to the PSP as soon as possible, and exploiting the live contents to earn more money and expanding the franchise while the new generation of consoles is on the pipeline.

As is common knowledge, creativeness has not recently been Square Enix strong point; the abuse of its most popular brands has been quite aggressive while the efforts to develop something more fresh seems to be sadly inconclusive. So where did a flash of genius as The World Ends With You come from?

This wonderful game (no surprise the original name is すばらしきこのせかい, i.e. It’s a Wonderful World) was the first attempt of Kingdom Hearts team on the DS, and the desire to exploit every features of the console seems to be the common denominator which had supported the works of the creative unit, consisting of Tetsuya Nomura among others. The brilliant gameplay is just one of the characteristics that makes The World Ends With You innovative and memorable: the soundtrack is a great piece of art (buy it on iTunes!), while the scenario combines real locations with manga-style characters drawing its inspiration from metropolitan trends and underground culture.

By the way, without breaking any record, the game has been very well received by the video gamers all around the world; considering its niche nature and some supply problems in Europe, The World Ends With You went to sold at least 400.000 copies worldwide:

Japan: 192.955 (Famitsu data)
North America: 140.000 (as of September 30, 2008, Square Enix financial reports); 172.000 (as of January, 2009, NPD data)
Europe: 20.000 (as of September 30, 2008, Square Enix financial reports)

The poor result in PAL countries suggests a wrong strategy in promoting and distributing the game; the unoccured translation in other languages than the English, the low advertising and the little by little distribution had strongly affected The World Ends With You but a small and faithful group of fans supported this new IP by creating a lively community and keeping the interest up throughout the years. Considered a cult game by the critics, the waiting for a still not announced sequel is fitful; I’m sure the sales of The World Ends With You had been satisfying even though it deserved a lot more attention and the interesting battle mechanism tailored on the dual screen may be further exploited by Square Enix in some way in the future.

Nintendo financial results for the past 9 months have just been out and some interesting data are in. For me the most important number is the million mark reached by Dragon Quest IX in North America and Europe combined (1,02 million copies to be precise).
Few people betted such a great success for this game outside Japan (where it’s around 4,3 million units sold as Square Enix reported recently), because of the change of platform typology, the strange (to not say casual-oriented) userbase of the Nintendo DS, the assumed decline of the entire genre (even though I think the opposite for this deal), the piracy and so on.

Hence the game has gone to sell over 5,3 million copies worldwide, becoming the second best entry in Dragon Quest series in terms of sales in the West. The VIII chapter sold a lot more in foreign countries: 6,88 million units worldwide are reported on the Level-5 site; an odd number as a matter of fact, taking as granted the 433.000 units from the North American release and the approximately 3,6 million units sold in Japan (Famitsu data). Probably, they are referring to distributed copies, and they’ve added all the further versions came out in Japan like the one in the Ultimate Hits series.

For more information on Dragon Quest IX sales, check the article “Thanks Nintendo: Dragon Quest VI is coming!” on this blog!

A short break from video games sales: let’s talk about music album sales!
As many of you surely know, Daft Punk have recorded Tron Legacy soundtrack; their work is absolutely astonishing, easily the best thing about the movie: it is phenomenal both within the movie and as stand-alone album. Actually, Tron Legacy isn’t performing so well in the international box-office, but what about the soundtrack? MediaTraffic collects data about music sales on a weekly basis so we can compute how many copies the album has sold until the last week (the release date was December, 6th 2010):

1st week: 109.000
2nd week: 101.000
3rd week: 118.000
4th week: 87.000
5th week: 57.000
6th week: 42.000
7th week: 36.000
8th week: 30.000
9th week: 32.000
10th week: 29.000
11th week: 25.000
Total: 666.000

These numbers put the duo’s work quite above the standard for soundtracks, also considering the caliber of the Tron Legacy project, which has spanned over different levels of the entertainment industry thanks of Disney Pictures means. Moreover, this album is selling pretty steadily while usually soundtracks expire from the charts once the movie has been out for a month or so.

About the album itself, Daft Punk have created a great mixture of orchestral and electronic tracks: “End Titles” sounds like a fighting game theme (more like Tekken than Street Fighter anyway) while “Derezzed” seems a justification to their fans to have done a soundtrack and not a proper album after 5 years of break (i.e. 1.44 minutes of pure dance sound according to best Discovery compositions); “Adagio for TRON” is perfectly tailored on the movie, so epic and regal, while dance beats and fuzzy vibe gives us “Arena” and “The Game Has Changed“. One of the best tracks in my opinion is “Solar Sailer“, always synth-driven but more relaxing.

I’m very happy this masterful score is receiving a good confirmation in the market, in particular after the skepticism around the announcement of this strange collaboration;  then, Human After All, the last album of the French duo, had been pretty demolished by the critics (and fans as well) at the time of release and it didn’t sell well as the previous works did. So the Tron Legacy soundtrack has been an occasion to redeem themselves, now we’ll see whether a new proper album follows immediately or not.

PS: I will keep updated this post until this album won’t disappear from the chart so let’s take a look here sometimes!

The Japanese one, of course. It’s always exciting when a new console enters the market, especially for a sales-addicted like me.
During his dedicated conference one week ago, Nintendo spread a lot of info for 3DS related to Japan: this portable platform will be out on February 26th, 2011 there and it will be accompanied with 8 games during the launch days and more to follow in next weeks (also big as Zelda and Resident Evil).

Today Amazon has opened preorders for 3DS launch software, so let’s see how it debuted in the chart! Moreover, I will link to you some nice pages where you can see trend and positions in the Amazon chart.

1. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (¥5,980)

2. Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition (¥4,800)

3. Ridge Racer 3D (¥6,090)

4. Nintendogs + Cats: Shiba and new friends (¥4,800)

5. Samurai Warriors Chronicle (¥6,090)
graph – preorder

6. Nintendogs + Cats: Toy poddle and new friends (¥4,800)

7. Winning Eleven 3DSoccer (¥5,800)

8. Nintendogs + Cats: French bull and new friends (¥4,800)
graph – preorder

These are the data available until now; Combat of Giants Dinosaur 3D (¥5,040) and Puzzle Bobble 3D (¥4,980) are missing in action. Plus Steel Diver, (out on March, 17th) and Gundam the 3D Battle (out on March, 24th) are available.

As expected, strongest titles have started strongly: Professor Layton is at the top of the 3DS chart (and also of the global chart), followed by Super Street Fighter, the usual Ridge Racer which has become a constant launch release and Nintendogs versions, which summed surely have the 4th position by themselves.
I’m looking forward to seeing how these games will perform once out; meanwhile, we can check Amazon preorders chart to have an idea.

I’ve always thought Norse mythology was a great theme to use in video games, but it seems developers have never shared my opinion. Just few games were based on the Scandinavian folklore and among others there is one of the most eccentric jRPG of the PS1-era: Valkyrie Profile.
Tri-Ace, under Enix direction, developed this game in the late 90s for the Playstation; a later version, which made the game arrive also in Europe where it didn’t originally come out, was released for the PSP about 4 years ago.

The unique style of Valkyrie Profile makes it really intriguing: the exploration phase reminds both a 2D platform (within cities and dungeons) and a classical jRPG (in the worldmap); against enemies, every character in the party has a button associated in a semi-realtime fast and engaging battle system. Moreover, the story of the game doesn’t follow the usual pattern of the vast majority of jRPGs, being made by missions and a non-linear structure which causes players to finish the game more than just one time.

Valkyrie Profile was a great success at the time, both critically and commercially. Let’s see how it sold in the two versions.

Japan: the original version came out when jRPGs sold like hot pancakes; in fact, even though it was a new IP, it was able to move more than 400.000 units in the first weeks ending with 636.000 units (Famitsu and Tri-Ace data). At the time, it was one of the biggest success on the Playstation for a new IP concerning the genre; only Xenogears and Parasite Eve, published by the then Enix rival, Squaresoft.
PSP version achieved moderate success considering how early came out on the platform. According to Famitsu, Lenneth (as the game was subtitled) sold 168.515 copies.

North America: in the Western countries, Valkyrie Profile sold much less; while the original one had had 73.000 copies sold (Tri-Ace data), the new version moved 60.000 copies (Square-Enix FY2007 Briefing Session), which is actually not so bad comparing to the first result. But in North America Valkyrie Profile was a niche game and treated how it is by the publisher (no advertisement, weak marketing strategy).

We don’t have data for the sales in Europe; anyway, I do think European data are quite small, maybe in par with the American.
Worldwide, Valkyrie Profile has roughly sold 700.000 copies, while Valkyrie Profile Lenneth has sold 230.000 copies approximately. The second result should be adjusted with the sales in PAL countries so Lenneth might have reached 270-280.000 copies worldwide.
Tri-Ace game got a sequel for PS2 and a spin-off for the DS, which both tried to strenghten the popularity of the brand among jRPG player all around the world.  Soon I will explore how these games went so stay tuned!

Almost 2 years ago Atlus released a new title within Megami Ibunroku series (a Megami Tensei spin-off started on with the first Persona) for DS, Devil Survivor, in Japan; some months later the game arrived in North America under the Shin Megami Tensei name. The game was well received by both critics (currently it has 84% on Metacritic) and video gamers. And it’s a novelty its enhanced version for 3DS, Devil Survivor Over Clock, just announced by Atlus on the latest Famitsu; maybe it will be one of the launch titles because its completion is presently at 90% and the additions are supposed to be not so hard to implement: full voice acting, an extra chapter, more demons and partially renewed graphics.
Back to the original game for DS, let’s check it out how the game performed and try to understand whether the porting will be fairly big somewhere or not.

Japan: Devil Survivor debuted with 56.689 units sold on January 15th, 2009, ending with a LTD of 106.997 units (Famitsu data), which wasn’t bad at all considering that all major Atlus games were on Sony platforms (in particular PS2 and PSP at the time… Well, still now). The good result was confirmed by Atlus financial report: the game company had expected 100.000 units and the game easily sold more.

North America: June 2009 NPD leaked data tell us that the game debuted with 24.997 copies in the first month (the game was out on June 23rd, so actually this number refers to just a week) and the same financial report states that Devil Survivor ended to sell at least 40.000 units, over and above the 25.000 units expected.

In conclusion, the game sold quite well in every region where it was released; we can expect Devil Survivor has actually exceeded a bit this numbers, ending with 200.000 copies worldwide.
So does Devil Survivor Over Clock make sense commercially speaking? This game doesn’t show much effort from Atlus on the new Nintendo platform, but just a quick dealing to be a part of the big thing. But a lot of video gamers haven’t played the original one and they might be interested in this new version, also because the field will be free and no games of the same genre are planned so early for 3DS. I do think Over Clock will overcome the first one results: the answer is a matter of months.

Level-5 has grown a lot in the course of the last 3 years; it had created a series which was able to sell million of units all around the world (Professor Layton); another series has recently reach the million mark exclusively in Japan (Inazuma Eleven); its collaboration with Sony has carried on with the development of a new IP, White Knight Chronicles, out on PS3 and soon on PSP; moreover, it was behind the best selling Dragon Quest ever, the ninth chapter and it’s preparing a lot of title for 2011 among which a ton of games for 3DS (Time Travelers, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright).

Some weeks ago, one of its most promising game has been out in Japan: Ni no Kuni (i.e. 二ノ国 which means “Second Land” and it can be expressed as “Another World”) is a jRPG for DS with the artistic direction assigned to Studio Ghibli that will be followed by another version in 2011 for PS3.
Cutting to the chase, Level-5 has shipped 600.000 copies of the game but it seems it’s not performing so well: in fact its price has decreased almost everywhere which is not a good sign at all. The game will almost surely arrive at least in North America: Akihiro Hino hinted something during the GDC  in 2009, where the game had been shown.

Here are Ni no Kuni sales in the first weeks (Media Create data: 1, 2, 3):
1st week:   170.548 (December 6-12)
2nd week: 74.329 (December 13-19)
3rd week:  84.115 (December 20-26)
4th week:  53.295 (December 27 – January 2)
Total sales are 382.287, which is roughly the 63,7% of the initial shipment.
Ni no Kuni debut is very good considering the fact that it’s a new IP; it’s one of the best start for a new-brand jRPG, only behind the first White Knight Chronicles debut (203.033 copies, Famitsu data). It also showed unusual legs for the genre, surely thanks of Christmas holidays.
I do hope the game will continue to sell well, but I wonder if it can reach the first stock ordered by retailers. Actually, it’s not an impossible goal but the time needed to arrive might be dangerous for future Level-5 games.

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Konami has always been skilful in doing good and appreciated dating simulations; indeed, Tokimeki Memorial, one of its most famous productions, has often be associated with the entire genre, representing it for at least a decade in Japan. During the mid-90s, the first chapter (i.e. Tokimeki Memorial: Forever With You) in the series stormed the charts by selling more than 800.000 units both on PS1 and on Saturn (473.795 and 374.936 units respectively) and certainly reaching the million mark counting the other platforms where it came out (PC Engine, Super Famicom and PC, and later also on mobile phones and PSP): an incredible result for such a niche genre, usually confined to the personal computer market. This was enough to entitle Konami the queen of dating sims and to begin a very extensive brand exploitation, between anime TV series, spin-offs (bound to girls as well) and merchandising of any kind.

But it seems Konami has recently found another brand to milk properly among otaku audience.
A dating sim which was able in its first appearance to more than double the latest entry in Tokimeki Memorial series; a game that has made Japanese video gamers a bit crazier than usual when digital girls were around… An out-and-out mania which started slowly and grew over time becoming one of the most popular and wanted game of the past two years.
A very simple title, LovePlus (or Love+), and not so many expectations at first, even though the DS was chosen for the release; the game was introduced as a more interactive dating-sim than Tokimeki Memorial, which is actually more novel-oriented, and focused on the relationship to establish day by day with one of the three girls the player has to choose (for the record, Manaka, Rinko and Nene); in order to have a more realistic approach, the internal DS clock would have helped the days to flow as it did in Animal Crossing Wild World. But concerning the genre Konami had published just some Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side on DS (which had a remarkable success) so the outcome of the project wasn’t so obvious
In fact, LovePlus debut was modest: 47.854 units sold within the first 4 days in the market, in early September 2009; actually, the game had been sold-out straight after but continued to sell well for months and it eventually ended up with more than 240.000 units sold . This unforeseen result is even more important when we consider the usual commercial life of similar products: otaku games almost always run out of their market potential within the first weeks after the launch, being more front-loaded than every other game; dating sims are in the group, with tie-in of certain manga or anime (e.g. Suzumiya Haruhi) or particular title with digital idols (e.g. Project Diva), and they usually tend to sell the majority of their LTD in a very short lapse of time. LovePlus, instead, kept selling from September to Christmas holidays and even in the first months of the new year, with a small but constant amount of copies weekly. As stated before, neither Tokimeki Memorial 4, released on PSP in December, 2009, could sell so much, stopping at about 70.000 copies, less than one third of LovePlus total sales.

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