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
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?
Maybe, I have some points which can explain this data.
First and foremost, Atlus fanbase. As I said before, Catherine is not a jRPG, while Atlus fans are obviously jRPG-lovers; but this game was developed around some recognizable features: Shigenori Shoejima, behind the last two Persona games, has been responsible for the characters design; Shoji Meguro, the main composer of the Megami Tensei series, has worked on the soundtrack; the overall look of Catherine is slightly dark, with cartoonish cast and situations, and a particular humor which all remind the typical Atlus production, in particular Persona series. No wonder Vincent, the protagonist, appeared in Persona 3 Portable as non playable character: a clever gimmick knowing how Atlus fans are careful to details.
Moreover, Atlus played a lot on the sexual contents of the game since the girl who gives her name to it. Naughtiness fills her behaviours throughout the adventure and most of the events; it’s an out-and-out adult game concerning the plot and the cut-scenes which can ben seen during the different phases. Hence, the advertising material was moved in this direction: Catherine had been represented in ambiguous positions, both on the cover art and in magazines. This is quite unusual in video gaming industry, especially the Japanese one, where the contents are over-controlled, otherwise the rating is rigorous.
Anyway, I think this interesting atmosphere has perfectly matched with the video gamers I cited before: adult men with a particular love for niche games and Atlus productions, to not say otaku and people interested in something fresh and new on home console within a particular range. Moreover, Vincent is certainly a good virtual representation of these people, not particularly outgoing and about thirty years old. I don’t think Catherine was able to move video gamers who were not interested in something similar before, but it had the great merit to wake up those ones more focused on contents than the gameplay in itself, perhaps already present on the consoles and willing to play an out-of -the-ordinary experience than the nth Dinasy Warriors or Yakuza; this userbase is very well identified on the PS3 and receptive as well, at least on a niche basis, given the success of Gust titles or games as Valkyria Chronicles and Demon’s Souls. Then again, home consoles are not receiving so much love from third party developers, and when a quality and hard-hitting game is released, video gamers show interest.
In any case, Catherine’s opening placed it as the second best debut ever for Atlus, just behind Persona 4, which sold over 200.000 units in the first week on PS2, two years and a half ago (Famitsu data).
It will be interesting to see how the game will perform in the next weeks. Usually, video games purchased by this users have short legs and exhauste their commercial life suddenly after the launch; the supply problems may help Catherine to remain on the wave of success a bit more than usual so let’s see!