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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.

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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.

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!

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.

It tooks more than one year (383 days to be precise) but finally one of the best episode in the acclaimed Yuji Horii’s series is arriving in the West! Dragon Quest VI, renamed Realms of Revelation for the occasion, will be out on February 14th, 2011 in North America, making the month very busy for the american jRPG fans (Tactics Ogre and Y’s I&II for PSP are coming just the day after).
Actually, the big news is not the arrival of the game itself (which was roughly announced by Square-Enix two years ago when the remakes were presented in a row for DS) but the publisher, that is Nintendo, as the press release on its website has announced.

This seems to strengthen the relationship between Nintendo and Square Enix after the successful Dragon Quest IX operation of the last summer; the latest entry in the series has indeed topped all the European charts: 5 weeks at number 1 in France, 5 weeks in the Top 10 in UK and Ireland, 4 weeks in the Top 5 in Germany (source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Exact data for the game are not known in PAL countries yet, but it’s reasonable to think that it performed better than Dragon Quest VIII which didn’t have such a constant presence in the charts and ended up with about 600.000 copies sold in these territories.
In North America, Dragon Quest IX behaved very good as well: it debuted with more than 133.000 copies in the first weeks (doubling the predecessor first month) and stayed in Top 20 the month after the release.
The results presented above show how Nintendo touch helped this jRPG in the West, where the other entries has never sold at par with Final Fantasy (always overcome by the former in Japan).

As follower of Dragon Quest saga, this news made me really happy; having Nintendo as publisher means a lot of advertisement and better places on the shelves so it will be more likely to reach a wide audience which Square Enix couldn’t obtain with Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen and Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (just 260.000 and 130.000 copies respectively outside Japan).

The reapproaching between Nintendo and Square Enix can explain the fact and may lead to future collaboration both in publication and development of games; Dragon Quest X has been set for a Wii release and 3DS has already this brand in its line-up; meanwhile, Dragon Quest VI appears to be quite waited from the fanbase grown on DS during the past months and it will surely show great sales than the other two remakes as it did in Japan (even though by a very small margin): 1.293.916 units sold compared to IV’s 1.214.610 units and V’s 1.190.404 units (source: Famitsu).

Here the debut trailer for the game:

A picture

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