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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.