There’s a new phenomenon in the Japanese charts. First clue: it has been charting for 38 weeks and it’s still there. Second clue: it’s a new IP. Third clue: it’s Nintendo. Well, reading the title, the solution is quite easy: I’m referring to Tomodachi Collection (i.e. トモダチコレクション or Friend Collection as I prefer), a sales monster that is showing us how a simple and smart idea could win over huge investment and famous brands.
Nintendo has collected a lot of cases like this. Most of its games have a similar chart history in Japan, becoming sleeper hits with million copies sold; Pokémon Green, Red and Blue, Brain Training, Rhythm Tengoku Gold, Wii Sports, Animal Crossing are all games that had started with moderate sales and had sold constantly every week an amount of copies to the point that they reached the “million seller” status and some of them sold over 3 or 4 million copies.
Tomodachi Collection is ready to cross the 3 million mark and this might happen the next week.
It was released on June 18, 2009 and the first week went to sell 100,373 copies; a good start for a game that was announced on the back foot by Nintendo during its October conference and that had been developed by a small team at Nintendo SPD Group N.1 (although it took over three years to be develop) producing by Yoshio Sakamoto… But the first week wasn’t the best week the game; Tomodachi Collection had a strong momentum during Christmas holiday: from mid-December until the end of the month, it was able to sell over 600,000 copies!
The average sales per week are 76,202 copies and this shows how the game has had legs during all the time. The best week for the game was the 28th week (December 21, 2009) with 246,925 copies sold while the worst week was the last one with ‘only’ 37,144 copies sold; the sales are declining but this might be due to the period: February and March are usually slow months for video games sales in Japan. In fact Tomodachi Collection is pretty steady in the Top 10 despite lowest sales over time.
Speaking about the Top 10, the curious thing is that the game has never fallen below the 8th position of the chart. It has been on position number 1 three times, and the average position through this 38 week is number 4. The total amount of copies sold is 2,930,498 and this allows the game to be the 9th best selling game of Nintendo DS in Japan; it’s likely that it will overcome Mario Kart DS and its 3,588,643 copies sold.
Now, it’s obvious to wonder what kind of game is because hasn’t arrived yet in Europa and North America even though the trademark “Friend Collection” was registered.
Tomodachi Collection could be placed in the life simulation genre; it’s a crossover between The Sims and Animal Crossing. The gamer uses Miis to interact in the game, both transferring them from Wii and creating with the DS and is setted on an island with a town on it where 100 Miis could live. The mechanism behind the game is similar to a Tamagotchi: Miis must be fed, worn and the gamer can make them interact with each other (it’s also possible to take other players’ Miis via wireless); but he can interact with Miis themselves as well, tapping the bubble that sometimes appears on their head (the so-called ‘Dream’). It is not wrong to call Tomodachi Collection “Mii Communication Game“. There are also a night and day cycle, some daily events and yearly occasion to purchase some special items.
So, taking care of Miis and making them live their life furnishing their rooms and filling their demands are the main quests in Tomodachi Collection… Nothing special at a glance.
So why has it achieved so much success in Japan?
I think Tomodachi Collection is a really catchy game that fits very well to a part of users on the console; it has caught Animal Crossing fans and people who begin to play video games with Brain Training and Nintendogs thanks of its unique and colorful style (the orange and yellow interface is so bright) and its ease of use. The low price might have helped: 3,800 yen is the price of games such as English Training, Tetrid DS and Common Sense Training. Actually, the Nintendo marketing really aided the growth in popularity of this game: after the initial sales, the software house promoted Tomodachi Collection with numerous demonstration spots in Japanese retailers and with TV ads as well.
Another motive might reside in the connection between Wii and DS, with the Miis transfer; it should be curious to see how our Miis behave in another context and play with them on another console.
It seems that the game was the right game in the right place at the right time and it seems even more that Nintendo can find product like that yearly or half-yearly. 2010 has just begun, which game will be the next?